History of Massage


~Massage comes from an Arabic word meaning “stroke” and dates back 3000 years to China.

~Hippocrates wrote “The physician must be experienced in many things, but more assuredly in rubbing.”

3000 BC – Chinese: Cong-Fu of the Toa-Tse. Oldest known book written about massage.  Translated to French in 1700’s.

2500 BC – Egyptians created reflexology.

2000 BC- First Writings about Massage.

1800 BC – Ayurvedic. Art of Life book that included massage techniques.  In India, the focus was on sensual massage aspects.  Ayur-Veda is a code of life and it deals with rebirth, renunciation, salvation, soul, purpose of life, maintenance of mental health, prevention and treatment of diseases.

1555 BC – A medical papyri contains remedies for all types of illnesses and the methods of application are similar to the ones used in Aromatherapy and Herbal medicine today.

1000 BC – Homer wrote about an oily medium used for massage

776 BC –   Olympic Games.  Athletes massaged prior to their events.

500 BC –  Herodicus– prescribed gymnastics to heal. Considered to be the founder of medical Gymnastics.

460-380 BCHippocrates was taught by Herodicus.  He used Friction to treat sprains and dislocations (called anatripsis-Greek for friction).  He thought that disease resulted from natural causes and the body has the power to heal itself and wrote code of ethics that became the Hippocratic Oath.

Hippocrates said: hard rubbing binds…much rubbing causes parts to waste…and moderate rubbing makes them grow.

200 BC – The Huangdi Nei Jing (Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classic) is the earliest surviving canonical text of traditional Chinese medicine. Anmo is referred to in 30 different chapters of the Nei Jing.

100-44 BC – Romans.  Julius Caesar used Massage Therapy to relieve his neuralgia and epileptic seizures.  He was thought to have been “Pinched” every day.

130 AD- 201 AD – Galen. Originally from Greece.  Physician for the school of gladiators who were rubbed before fighting.  Wrote book on manual medicine.

90 BC – Chinese created acupuncture.

25 BC- 50 AD –  Aulus Cornelius Celsius. Roman Physician.  Wrote De Medicina (8 textbooks with a lot of information on massage).

600’s – Japanese developed shiatsu (finger pressure or acupressure), amma is massage in Japanese.

980 AD-1037 AD –  Avicenna, Persian medic, wrote the Canon of Medicine during the crusades

1300-1368 – Guy deChauliac  wrote a book on surgery mentioning bodywork as an adjunct to surgery.

1368-1644 In the Ming Dynasty, pediatric massage (which, for the first time, was referred to as “tuina”) evolved into a highly systematic treatment modality which is still popular today.

1569 – Girolamo Mercuriale wrote the first sports medicine book.

1564-1626- Lord Francis Bacon observed that massage had benefits enhancing circulation.

1776-1839 – Per Henrik Ling- fencing master and gymnast studied massage after he cured himself of rheumatism in his arm.   He developed a system of  Medical Gymnastics and is considered the father of Swedish Gymnastics.

1800’s -Reiki is believed to date back to early Tibetan healing practices. Discovered in the 1800’s by a Japanese philosopher and Christian seminary educator, Dr. Mikao Usui, Reiki is a  technique for stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing. It is administered by “laying on hands” and is based on the idea that an unseen “life force energy” flows through us and is what causes us to be alive.

1839-1909 – Johann Mezger. Holland.  Brought medical massage to scientific community.  Started using the terms effleurage, petrissage and tapotement.

1850s – Scientific massage therapy was introduced in the United States by two New York physicians, brothers George and Charles Taylor, who had studied in Sweden.

1852-1943 –John Harvey Kellogg, Battle Creek Sanitarium used massage and hydrotherapy.  Published magazine called “Good Health”.

1879 – Douglas Graham-described Lomi Lomi (The distinctive movement of traditional Lomilomi is a kneading motion towards the heart, with thumbs, palms, or forearms). Massage and wrote a history of massage.

1880 Mary Putnam Jacobi and Victoria A White in New York City.  Medical Doctors and professors who researched the benefits of massage and ice packs in the management of anemia.

1884 – Massage Scandals in Europe.  Physicians became skeptical of claims made by massage therapist and accused practitioners of stealing patients.

1894 – Society of Trained Masseuses formed in Britain. Set up study of massage along with prerequisites for education and criteria for school recognition.

1895 – Sigmund Freud.  Used Massage Therapy to treat hysteria. Studies in Hysteria.  Postulated that what we did not or will not confront in our lives would be buried in the body in the unconscious mind.

1895 -Harvey Kellogg wrote The Art of Massage -Full text available online at

The Meridian Institute.

1899 – Sir William Bennet- Started a massage department at St. George’s Hospital in London.

1800’s -Canadian Deep Muscle. This technique addresses specific muscles and muscle groups. The practitioners are trained to fix specific problems. It is a fundamental technique that offers fast results for both pain and stress. This form of cross fiber massage was first written about in the late 1800’s in New York City.

1900 – Albert Hoffa- wrote book “Technike der Massage”.

1900s early- Jin Shin Jyutsu, the “art of circulation awakening,” was developed in Japan by Jiro Murai and brought to the United States in the 1960s by Mary Iino Burmeister.

1900’s early- The Alexander Technique was developed by an Australian actor F.M. Alexander. It is a practical method developed by FM Alexander (1869-1955) for changing the way we ‘use’ ourselves in the activities of everyday life

1907 Edgar Ferdinand Cyriax–  Used Ling’s Swedish Movement Cure and Mechanotherapeutics.

1907 -Naprapathy was created by a chiropractor in Chicago. It is a branch of medicine, (manual medicine) that focuses on the evaluation and treatment of neuro-musculoskeletal conditions. Doctors of Naprapathy are connective tissue specialists.

1913 – Dr. William Fitzgerald rediscovered Reflexology and called it Zone Therapy.

1927 – Beginning of New York State Society of Medical Massage Therapists (first massage association)

1929 Elizabeth Dicke, German physical therapist created “Bindgewebs massage” or connective tissue massage.

1930Neuromuscular Therapy created  by Stanley Leif.

1930 – Rolfing was invented by Ida Rolf. Rolfing is designed to lengthen and release the connecting fibers in places where stress to the muscles has become apparent.

1932 Emil Voder. Danish physiologist created Manual Lymph Drainage.

1937 -A French chemist, Rene Maurice Gattefosse, began his research into the healing powers of essential oils after burning his hand in his laboratory and immersing in it in lavender oil and being impressed by how quickly the burn healed. He published a book about the anti -microbial effects of the oils and coined the word Aromatherapy.

1939 – The Florida State Massage Therapy Association Inc. (FSMTA) was first organized on June 15, 1939 one of the oldest massage organization, with 85 charter members. The first Massage Act was passed by the Florida Legislature in 1943.

1940James Cyriax, son of Edgar Ferdinand Cyriax, and British Osteopath, created deep transverse friction, technique used extensively in the treatment of trigger points.

1943 Chicago American Association of Masseurs and Masseuses formed.  Later to become American Massage Therapy Association. (AMTA)

1952 Janet Travell researches Trigger points.

1952 -Hoshino Therapy developed by Tomezo Hoshino, is an official medical therapy in Argentina.

1960’s – Albert Baumgartner used Massage in Athletics.

1960’sEsalen became a center to explore human potential.  Ida Rolf did her first trainings there.

1964 – Applied Kinesiology was founded by Chiropractor George Goodheart

1960′ s late- John Barnes,developed Myofascial Release Therapy

1972 –  Moshe Feldenkrais, writes “Awareness Through Movement” which follows up to his 1949 publication “The Body and Mature Behavior”.  Studies of sensory awareness and movement re-education somewhat based on F.M. Alexander’s work.

1978 -Soma Neuromuscular Integration developed by Bill Williams, PhD, one of the first students of Ida Rolf.

1980’s Association of Bodywork and Massage Practitioners formed. (ABMP)

1980s -Watsu (Massage in water therapy) was developed by Harold Dull.

1981 –  Lawrence H. Jones identifies tenderpoints and develops “Strain- Counter strain” techniques of treating points.

1983Janet Travell writes book. with David Simons.  “Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction:  The Triggerpoint Manual : Volumes I & 2.

1990’s –  David Palmer creates and markets On Site Massage.

1992 – The National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB) was created with a focus of protecting the public, as well as upholding a national standard for the industry that, until that time, did not exist.