The History of Massage Therapy

Posted by MassageTools Staff on Nov 11th 2016

Massage has a long history in the world with the first traces dating back more than 5,000 years. Massage has history in India, Japan, Egypt and China, but the Swedish are considered the founders of modern massage, along with the practice of massage therapy.

Despite its early roots in many different cultures, massage was rarely used in western civilizations until about the year 1,600. Scientific breakthroughs for the time were changing the foundation of modern medicine and healing methods.

Between 1,600 and 1,800, physicians and scientists began to document the benefits of massage, although little was done to advance the practice.

That was until the early 1,800s when Swedish physician Per Henrik Ling developed the Swedish Gymnastic Movement System. It incorporated massage with medical gymnastic and physiology with techniques such as stroking, press and squeezing to treat physical issues.

Further Development

While many believe Ling invented Swedish massage that is simply not true. However, his advancements have him recognized as the "Father of Massage" thanks to the advancements he made in massage and bringing it to western culture.

Ling's techniques were still used in the 1930s and 1940s when massage became more popular in the United States. Two New York physicians used Ling's techniques to open a practice in New York that led to a boom in the 1970s. Today, consumers in the United States spend more than $9 billion on massage.

Many cultures have contributed to the growth of massage over time. The ancient techniques created in China and India helped inform Ling's early work that practitioners have further developed over time. Massage today is as popular as it's ever been, whether as a way to relax or as a way to help injured muscles. There is a reason it has been practiced as long as it has, but the true exciting part is that new techniques are always being developed. The future of massage is almost endless.