Massage therapy involves the rubbing and kneading of soft tissues and muscles in the human body. This helps promote healing and enhances a person's health and well-being.
It is thought the term 'massage' originates from the Greek word 'Massein'. This means 'to knead'. It is also linked to the Arabic word 'mash', which means to 'press softly'. Both aptly describe the treatment, which is now used in healthcare, beauty therapy and sports.
There are many variations of massage and bodywork therapies used today. Despite the differences between each all of them involve touch and manipulation techniques to move muscles and body tissue. The aim is to relieve stress, tension, pain and a whole host of other ailments.
The history of massage is vast, as the therapy has been used for thousands of years with it's origins lying in the East. Thousands of years ago communities believed the body's energy needs balance in order to maintain good health. Techniques such as acupressure were developed based on energy meridian points. These are stimulated during treatment to restore energy flow.
The earliest known reference to massage dates back to 2700 BC. A Chinese medical text details its use for therapeutic purposes. Since then numerous cultures have built upon those foundations to create their own types of massage. This has resulted in a range of styles and approaches.
The west was introduced to massage therapy during the Greek empire. The 'father of medicine', Hippocrates, wrote about the therapy in his memoirs. He referred to it as 'rubbing' for the loosening and softening of muscles. During the Roman period, Galen - one of the greatest medical physicians of the time - used the therapy to treat diseases and physical injuries. This contributed to developments in knowledge of anatomy and physiology. Galen is considered the original innovator of sports massage.
Between 1450 and 1600, massage therapy reached Europe and was established in medical schools. During the sixteenth century, French doctor and founder of modern surgery, Ambroise Para, started using massage. He found it effective for treating stiff and injured joints and soon other European physicians followed suit by integrating the treatment into their practice to be used alongside conventional medicine.
In the nineteenth century one of the most famous types of massage emerged, The Swedish massage. This was developed from techniques used in Swedish gymnastics by Henrik Ling. Ling dedicated his life to teaching the practice and prior to his death a pupil established a clinic in St Petersburg. This continued to promote awareness of the treatment.
During the 1840s, Dr Mathia Roth, another former student of Ling's, brought massage therapy to Britain while two other students, brothers Charles Taylor and George R Taylor MD introduced the therapy to the United States around 1856 and the next 30 years saw the popularity of massage soar.
Today massage therapy is widely available and in recent decades massage has become more popular in the sports and beauty industry. It is now commonly used alongside conventional medicine as part of palliative care plans. It has proven beneficial for tackling the pain, discomfort and emotional distress associated with a terminal illness.
Holistic means Care for the whole person, mind, body and spirit.
The holistic approach to health differs from the conventional medical approach in that it takes into account the whole patient rather than just focusing on the symptom or the part that has the problem. Holistic therapists believe that the body has a vital force or life energy. It is this force that protects the body from disease and allows it to heal. We often refer to it as the “immune system”.
When the balance of the immune system is disturbed we then see the various symptoms of disease. Holistic therapies aim to help the patient restore the balance, thus allowing the body to heal itself naturally.