The History of Massage Therapy, Dating Back Over 5,000 Years

The practice of using touch as a healing method derives from customs and techniques rooted in ancient history. Civilizations in the East and West found that natural healing and massage could heal injuries, relieve pain, and prevent and cure illnesses. What’s more, it helped reduce stress and produce deep relaxation. Massage therapy began as a sacred system of natural healing. However, cultural shifts rendered it a disreputable form of indulgence for extensive periods of history. Enduring these turns, massage has experienced resurgence in modern times. Today, massage therapy stands as a highly respected holistic healing method practiced across the world. Massage therapy history is probably as ancient as the history of humanity.

India – Started practicing massage in approximately 3000 BCE*, possibly earlier

Believed to be of divine origin and passed down orally through generations, Ayurveda is the traditional holistic medical system in India. Ancient seers and natural scientists developed this system based on centuries of studies, experiments and meditations. Texts detailing Ayurvedic principles and practices were written some time between 1500 and 500 BCE. Based on these texts, Ayurveda was widely adopted throughout India and Southeast Asia.

Ayurveda views that individuals incur illnesses and diseases when they live out of harmony with their environment. To treat their conditions, individuals must restore their natural mental and physical balance by re-establishing harmony between themselves and the world around them, at this point they can begin to heal naturally. Based on the patient’s health imbalances, constitution and the time of year, Ayurveda recommends how to use the five senses to interact with the environment in order to create balance. Treatments in Ayurveda include diet and herbalism, aromatherapy, colour therapy, sound therapy and touch therapy.

One of the greatest physicians in the history of medicine was Avicenna, also known as Ibn Sina, who lived in Persia from 980 AD to 1037 AD. He was a great philosopher, logician and medic. One of his books, al-Quanun fi at-tibb (The Canon of Medicine) has been called the most famous single book in the history of medicine in both East and West. In it, he describes massage as one of the methods of relieving pain.