The Origins and History of Massage


What does the word 'massage' mean?

  • The word massage originates from many different languages. For example, in latin, 'massa' means 'that which forms a lump' and massage could be said to be a technique for removing the 'lumpiness' of the body, making it smooth. In greek, 'massein' means 'to knead' and kneading is one of the fundamental movements used in this therapy. In french, 'masser' means 'to rub' and the basis of all massage is rubbing the skin and tissues. In Arabic, 'mass' means 'to touch or feel' which are both fundamental in massage. 

The Ancients and Massage

The use of massage has been recorded in China from 3000BC. The ancient Chinese call their technique 'amma', and used specific movements on particular points of the body. It was used for the promotion and restoration of health as well as for relaxation. The Japanese also used the amma technique with similar pressure points but they call the points tsubo. Shiatsu - the application of pressure to certain points of the body in order to improve circulation, neural efficiency and general health - uses similar points and is a direct descendant of this ancient Japanese massage practice. In India, massage has always been used as part of traditional, Ayurvedic medicine. The Ayurveda is an ancient medical text about the arts of healing and of prolonging life and it still forms the basis of much medical knowledge in India today. All of these countries, both in the past and present, are renowned for their holistic, or whole body, mind and spirit approach to medicine. Massage is still used as a holistic treatment, considering the whole person, not just the symptom or condition. 

The Greeks

For the ancient Greeks, massage formed part of everyday exercise and fitness. Herodicus, fifth-century physician and teacher of Hippocrates, wrote about the benefits of massage and his student Hippocrates, known as…


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