Sunday, 15 June 2008

Massage - Touching on History

Throughout history and all over the world we have used our hands to promote healing. Although it is safe to say that the use of massage preceded written history, it is more difficult to say when it was first mentioned.

Ancient Egypt and Greece

The Ancient Egyptians used massage extensively for health and beauty that can be seen in tomb paintings dating back to 3,000 BC. Recorded comments about massage were made by the Greek physician, Hippocrates, who noted in the 5th century BC that "rubbing can bind a joint that is too loose and loosen a joint that is too rigid. . . hard rubbing binds, much rubbing causes parts to waste, and moderate rubbing makes them grow."

Early written evidence

One of the earliest references to massage in a written form can be found in a book on traditional Chinese medicine dating from the 3rd century BC, The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine. It tells us that massage as a form of medical treatment was used for patients with "complete paralysis, chills and fevers, most fittingly treated with breathing exercises, and massage of the skin and flesh."

Massage in the East

In India, massage plays an important part in Ayurvedic medicine dating back over 3,000 years. The Ayur- Veda (Art of Life), a sacred Hindi book written about 1860 BC, describes shampooing (massage) to reduce fatigue and promote well-being: "Rise early, bathe, wash the mouth, anoint the body, submit to friction and shampoo and then exercise." Avicenna, the great Persian physician (AD 980-1037) wrote: "The object of massage is to disperse the effete matters formed in the muscles and not expelled by exercise. Massage removes fatigue; such friction is soft and gentle and best done with oil." The relevance of this statement is seen today in the increasing number of athletes who use massage as part of their fitness regimes.

Roman baths

The Romans developed the use of public baths for health and social relaxation, and wealthy Romans had daily massages there given by their servants.

A great story goes that the Emperor Hadrian saw a veteran soldier rubbing himself against the marble wall at the baths and asked him what he was doing. The soldier replied that he couldn't afford a slave to give him massages. Immediately Hadrian gave him two slaves and enough money for their keep. The next day several old men were rubbing themselves against the walls in Hadrian's presence hoping for similar good fortune - but he told them to massage each another!

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