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Massage is the manipulation of superficial and deeper layers of muscle and connective tissue using various techniques, to enhance function, aid in the healing process, decrease muscle reflex activity, inhibit motor-neuron excitability, promote relaxation and well-being, and as a recreational activity.
The word comes from the Frenchmassage
"friction of kneading", or from Arabicmassa
meaning "to touch, feel or handle" or from Latinmassa
meaning "mass, dough", cf. Greek
verb μάσσω (massō
to handle, touch, to work with the hands, to knead dough". In distinction the ancient Greek
word for massage was anatripsis
, and the Latin was frictio
Massage involves working and acting on the body with pressure – structured, unstructured, stationary, or moving – tension, motion, or vibration, done manually or with mechanical aids. Target tissues may include muscles
, or other connective tissue
, as well as lymphatic
vessels, or organs of the gastrointestinal system
. Massage can be applied with the hands
, or feet
In professional settings massage involves the client being treated while lying on a massage table, sitting in a massage chair
, or lying on a mat on the floor, while in amateur settings a general purpose surface like a bed or floor is more common. The massage subject may be fully or partially clothed or unclothed.
Ancient and medieval times[edit
BC 2330: The Tomb of Akmanthor (also known as "The Tomb of the Physician") in Saqqara
depicts two men having work done on their feet and hands, presumably massage.
BC 722-481: Huangdi Neijing
is composed during the Chinese Spring and Autumn period
(the beginning of recorded history). The Nei-jing is a compilation of medical knowledge known up to that date, and is the foundation of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Massage is referred to in 30 different chapters of the Nei Jing. It specifies the use of different massage techniques and how they should be used in the treatment of specific ailments, and injuries. Also known as "The Yellow Emperor's Inner Canon", the text refers to previous medical knowledge from the time of the Yellow Emperor
(approx 2700 BC), misleading some into believing the text itself was written during the time of the Yellow Emperor (which would predate written history).
BC 700 Bian Que
, the earliest known Chinese physician uses massage in medical practice.
BC 493: A possible biblical reference documents daily "treatments" with oil of myrrh
as a part of the beauty regimen of the wives of Xerxes (Esther
BC 460: Hippocrates
wrote "The physician must be experienced in many things, but assuredly in rubbing".
BC 300 Charaka Samhita
believed to be the oldest of the three ancient treatises of Ayurvedic
medicine, including massage. Sanscrit
records indicate that massage had been practiced in India long before the beginning of recorded history.
AD 581: Dr Sun Si Miao
introduces ten new massage techniques and systematized the treatment of childhood diseases using massage therapy.
AD 581: China establishes a department of massage therapy within the Office of Imperial Physicians.
Middle-Ages: Medical knowledge, including that of massage, made its way from Rome to Persia in the Middle Ages. Many of Galen's manuscripts, for instance, were collected and translated by Hunayn ibn Ishaq in the 9th century. Later in the 11th century copies were translated back into Latin, and again in the 15th and 16th centuries, when they helped enlighten European scholars as to the achievements of the Ancient Greeks. This renewal of the Galenic tradition during the Renaissance played a very important part in the rise of modern science.
One of the greatest Persian medics was Avicenna, also known as Ibn Sina, who lived from 980AD to 1037AD. He was the foremost philosopher of medieval Islam and also a great philosopher, logician and medic. His works included a comprehensive collection and systematisation of the fragmentary and unorganised Greco-Roman medical literature that had been translated Arabic by that time, augmented by notes from his own experiences. One of his books, Al-Qānūn fī aṭ-Ṭibb (The Canon of Medicine) has been called the most famous single book in the history of medicine in both East and West. Avicenna excelled in the logical assessment of conditions and comparison of symptoms and took special note of analgesics and their proper use as well as other methods of relieving pain, including massage.
AD 1150: Evidence of massage abortion, involving the application of pressure to the pregnant abdomen
, can be found in one of the bas reliefs
decorating the temple of Angkor Wat
. It depicts a demon
performing such an abortion upon a woman who has been sent to the underworld
. This is the oldest known visual representation of abortion.
AD 1776: Jean Joseph Marie Amiot
, and Pierre-Martial Cibot
, French missionaries in China translate summaries of Huangdi Neijing
, including a list of medical plants, exercises and elaborate massage techniques, into the French language, thereby introducing Europe to the highly developed Chinese system of medicine, medical-gymnastics, and medical-massage.
AD 1776 Pehr Henrik Ling
, a Swedish physical therapist, and teacher of medical-gymnastics is born. Ling has often been erroneously
credited for having invented "Classic Massage" aka "Swedish Massage", and has been called the "Father of Massage".
AD 1779: Frenchman Pierre-Martial Cibot
publishes ‘Notice du Cong-fou des Bonzes Tao-see' also known as "The Cong-Fou of the Tao-Tse", a French language summary of medical techniques used by Taoist priests. According to Joseph Needhan, Cibot's work "was intended to present the physicists and physicians of Europe with a sketch of a system of medical gymnastics which they might like to adopt—or if they found it at fault they might be stimulated to invent something better. This work has long been regarded as of cardinal importance in the history of physiotherapy because it almost certainly influenced the Swedish founder of the modern phase of the art, Per Hendrik Ling. Cibot had studied at least one Chinese book, but also got much from a Christian neophyte who had become expert in the subject before his conversion.”
AD 1813 The Royal Gymnastic Central Institute for the training of gymnastic instructors was opened in Stockholm, Sweden, with Pehr Henrik Ling
appointed as principal. Ling developed what he called the "Swedish Movement Cure" with the help of a friend named Ming (full name never recorded) who was an expert in the martial arts and Kung-Fu
based Tui na
massage. Ling died in 1839, having previously named his pupils as the repositories of his teaching. Ling and his assistants left little proper written account of their methods.
AD 1878: Dutch massage practitioner Johan Georg Mezger takes a sub-set of techniques from Dr. Ling's system, and coins the phrase "Swedish massage system". Notably, Ling's techniques, having been borrowed by Mezger, are still known by their French names (effleurage (long, gliding strokes), petrissage (lifting and kneading the muscles), friction (firm, deep, circular rubbing movements), tapotement (brisk tapping or percussive movements), and vibration (rapidly shaking or vibrating specific muscles)). Each of these techniques are fundamental elements of Tui na
, and had been practiced in China for several thousand years prior.