Massage is thought to be one of the oldest forms of physical healing in both Eastern and Western cultures. Some of the earliest references date back to 3000BC, with archaic images and writings coming from ancient Egypt, China, India, and Greece.
The first mentions of massage identify the health benefits, showing that the practice has always been equated with healing. Supposedly originating in India and later moving to east to China and west to Egypt and Greece, massage was initially used as a way to balance the mind and body with itself and the surrounding environment, healing ailments. The popularity of massage diminished with the dark ages, but recently has gained a strong following once again.
Massage was first used in both Eastern and Western cultures, but as time progressed, the practice was altered to include different techniques. Beginning in the East, the custom was primarily linked to the body’s energy, or Qi. Using Buddhist thought, and later, a mixture of martial arts and traditional Chinese medicine, massage was used to cure energy imbalances, the root of all illness.
Reflexology was developed by the ancient Egyptians, who believed that specific spots on the body were connected to internal functions and could cure inner systems thrown out of balance. Chinese massage, called Tuina, uses an understanding of the body’s meridians (different channels that connect points on the body to all internal systems and organs – similar to reflexology) to balance inner energy.
In the West, Hippocrates, the father of Western medicine, used massage as a way to treat physical injuries or improve bodily strength. After temporarily being lost in the West, a Swedish doctor developed Swedish Massage, which uses oils and lotions to increase circulation, thus promoting relaxation and physical relief. The Western Swedish massage system uses Western Anatomy and Physiology as its source of knowledge.
Massage boasts many health benefits, increasingly proven and backed by scientific studies and research. Sessions of massage lead to the reduction of stress hormones, produce endorphins and improve circulation. Anxiety, insomnia, and joint and muscle pain are often lessened using massage therapy. Internal afflictions are also targeted by massage, including high blood pressure and digestive disorders. Massage is also used as a complimentary treatment to many cancers. The practice can increase the flow of lymph and relax tissue, which helps women diagnoses with breast cancer. People infected with HIV and AIDs benefit from the potential of massage therapy to boost the immune-system.
Scores of studies have been and continue to be conducted about the effects of massage therapy on health. For example, research done with cancer patients at the Royal Marsden Hospital, in London, showed massage could reduce their anxiety and improve their quality of life. Research at the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami, in Florida, have found that massage can relieve back and muscle pain, lower high blood pressure, ease PMS symptoms, reduce anxiety and depression, reinvigorate office workers, and increase levels of T cells that boost immunity and fight viruses