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Massage: A 5000 Year Old Fad?

#Massage #Health #Wellbeing

Massage has been used as a form of therapy to treat illness and injury for thousands of years, with the earliest written texts from Egypt and China documenting that this tactual medium has been used for healing since around 3000BC.

The development of Sports Massage in its own right can be attributed (rather unsurprisingly) to the ancient Greeks who believed that massage prior to physical exertion would help to prepare the muscles of their champions and a post-event rub down would help to ease muscle tension and aid recovery. Even old Hippocrates, the Father of modern medicine, raved about the benefits of massage so, despite the leaps and bounds in medical science throughout the modern age why is Massage still considered a relatively young therapy within the western World?

 My research suggests that we can blame the dark ages for that – thanks Dark Ages – however mercifully, in the early 1800’s, an athletic and go-getting Swede by the name of Pehr Henrik Ling* developed the Swedish Gymnastic Movement System, a series of active and passive movements to improve range of motion, as well as the precursor to Swedish Massage.


In the latter half of the 19th century, a Dutch physician with a can do attitude and an excellent beard, Johann Georg Mezger (aka “golden thumbs”), applied the French names to the massage techniques of stroking (effleurage), kneading (petrissage), striking (tapotement) and rubbing (frictions), laying the foundation for massage in its modern form.


Over the past 100 years, massage in all forms has been adopted into Western culture and is recognised for its benefits on both body and mind. Whether you are looking to maintain muscle health, prepare for a sporting event, improve your range of movement, reduce niggling muscle pain or just simply need an hour of relaxation to gather your thoughts and perhaps realign a skew whiff chakra (it happens), then there is a massage therapy out there for you.

Massage is the physically and mentally stimulating health fad with some serious longevity so what’s stopping you making use of it?

*Pehr Henrik Ling appears to be a controversial figure in the massage World, but is hailed as “The Father of Swedish Massage” within my Sports Massage syllabus [YMCA Level 3 Diploma in Sports Massage Therapy (QCF)]. My own independent research has shone a light on Johann Georg Mezger as another mover and shaker in 19th Century massage circles, so given the range of evidence and his quite frankly astonishing facial hair I felt he must also be given a nod within this post.   

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