The genesis of massage can be traced back to the Chinese book Con-Fu of the Toa-Tse from 3000 BC, which is also the oldest known book written about massage. This is a method of relief for people with minor injuries, pains and discomfort. As rubbing relieves man of minor discomforts, probably early man also learnt that by rubbing certain plants on the affected area could help out in easing the pain. This probably resulted in development of the current system of massage.
The word Massage is derived from the Arabic word mass h meaning to press gently. In its basic form, massage has been around for centuries, however it has now been developed into various specialized forms. The first description of massage was found in China where Chinese priests used to practice Qi Gong, which is a meditative movement revealing and cultivating the vital life force. The treatment was based on the principle that every illness is due to an imbalance of Qi. The Japanese monks, while studying Buddhism in China in 1000 BC, observed the traditional methods of the Chinese and then took them back to Japan. The Japanese used the method of massage for diagnosis and treatments. In Japan the practice of medicine mostly consisted of diagnosis and treatment with massage-type methods. The Japanese also introduced new combinations, and called it Shiatsu– ~shi~ meaning finger and ~atsu~ meaning pressure.
This form of medical treatment was known and practiced by many civilizations. The Native Americans used heat and massage with herbs to treat many problems; ancient Greeks used it in most avenues of daily life including helping athletes; Romans learnt medical techniques from the Greeks. This was the preferred choice of treatment by emperors especially in the first century AD when Galen, a notable physician used massage to treat many types of disease and physical injuries.
Massage techniques were also practiced by Hippocrates (460 to 377 BC) ~ the father of medicine ~ with the use of herbs and oils. Homer has described massage as a welcome relief to exhausted war heroes. However, massage took a back seat with the coming of dark ages and renaissance where touching got associated with pleasures and thus massage was considered sinful. This was the period that did not allow further progress in this field of medicine.
Pehr Henrik Ling, who is considered as the father of modern massage, established the Royal Central Institute of Gymnastics in Sweden in 1813. He is credited with formalizing a series of gymnastic movements and massage techniques that later came to be known as the Swedish massage. These techniques included stroking, pressing, squeezing and striking. This was the most major step taken in the advancement of this technique since the dark ages.
However, modern medical fraternity was reserved towards the scientific reasons behind the use of massage as a healing technique. In 1992, the Touch Research Institute was established at the University of Miami School of Medicine. The institute is devoted to the study of touch and has shown that massage can induce weight gain in premature infants, alleviate depressive symptoms, reduce stress hormones, alleviate pain and positively alter the immune system in children and adults with various medical conditions. Hence massage is becoming recognized as a viable and useful alternative or aid to modern medicine.