Definition and History of Massage

The most ancient of healing arts

sp2No one knows when massage was first practised, but over the past 50 years it has become a popular treatment for aches and pains and those who have regular massages proclaim to be one of the best forms of preventative medicine.

This page presents a simple summary of massage including its history, common use and some of the different types of massage that are also described in more detail on this site.


Massage is an instinctive human response that when we bump ourselves that we rub it and the 'ouch' soon goes away. This basic instinct has been slowly developed over the countless generations into a sophisticated healing art and science.

Professional therapeutic massage is an age-old healing art, which can alleviate physical, mental and emotional ailments. The practice dates to the Chinese in 3000 BC. Other references in the bible refer to anointing the body with oil. In 460 BC, Hypocrites prescribed it as a beneficial treatment for his patients.

In one form or another, it developed in all the nations of the old World. Hippocrates, who is considered a father of medicine, said that all physicians should have experience of the techniques of rubbing, It is recognised that rubbing can bind a joint that is too loose and loosen a joint that is too rigid. Furthermore, rubbing can make the flesh and cause parts to waste, it is these latter beliefs that are so important for those concerned with figure improvement.

In 1813, the Royal Central Institute was established in Stockholm, Sweden, and here the known massage movements were studied scientifically and systematised. This was the most important single development in the field in modern times and it is because of this that remedial massage is often called "Swedish".

In the 1800s, genital massage was prescribed to treat women's hysteria

During the late 1800's and early 1900's, the industrial revolution was driving women mad. Husbands would only have sex with their wives to procreate and the women were left with the kids and the gentlemen were entertained by courtesans.

The medical massage at the time was to ease "women's madness"; a female genital massage and the orgasm released their stress. The doctors delivering this service soon tired and the vibrator was invented.

As the industrial revolution progressed and new drugs and surgeries were invented, massage almost fell from common use. With the criminalisation of sex for money, sex workers (perhaps inspired by Dr Swift) began to use massage as their service description which had the effect of degrading the massage industry and during the late 1900's practitioners began to reclaim the art.

The consequence was that massage became politicised and regulated in some countries. In New Zealand and Australia, the legalisation of sex work has helped massage regain widespread respect although in some sectors of society, the word massage still carries some unhealthy connotations.

With the growth in population and advancements in communication, massage is now flourishing and over the past one hundred years, new styles and applications of massage have evolved.


Massage is a scientific method of manipulating the soft tissues of the body for specific effect. Its objective may be the restoration of function, application of pleasure, release of tension and/or the re-establishment of the contours where this is desirable.

Massage Therapy is:

  • The holistic application of physical touch to affect the systems of the body; ie. the muscular, skeletal, digestive, elimination, respiratory, circulatory, lymphatic, endocrine, emotional, mental and nervous systems.
  • It is the manipulation the soft tissues of the body with the hands for therapeutic, healing, relaxing and pleasurable effects.
  • It is the loving touch of the heart expressed through the hands.
  • It is not physiotherapy or any practice of manipulation of the skeletal structure.

There are many different approaches and applications to massage.

  • Swedish Massage, a general whole body massage using oils on the skin to facilitate treatment. This is the basis of all Western forms of massage treatment.
  • Shiatsu, with this Japanese style you generally stay dressed and are treated on the floor. This system balances all bodily systems.
  • Deep Tissue, this approach is powerful and often painful although the benefits can be great. It is helpful in restructuring the body, improving posture.
  • Holistic Pulsing, clothes on, you are gently rocked, the rocking or pulsing releasing tension.
  • Sensual Massage often both the client and therapist are naked and there may be some sexual arousal. This is excellent for couples to help develop intimacy.
  • Tantric Massage. usually a sensual massage whereby the therapist assists you to understand and control or re-direct energy. A basic understanding and acceptance of the human aura and energy centres is advisable before taking this treatment (although some therapists within the sex industry use this term for sensual - sexual massage without any real knowledge of what tantra is, as it is a trendy concept). With a qualified therapist it can be of great benefit toward liberation of body, mind and spirit.
  • Aroma therapy, the use of naturally occurring essential oils to enhance treatment. Often used as a treatment in themselves with different oils being applied to different parts of the body. Pure essential oils have great healing properties and we will have some pages on them in the near future. more.
  • In all there are over 400 recognised styles of massage.

Massage Therapy helps relaxation, releasing stress and tension in our bodies.

Too much unresolved stress in our lives can cause constant muscular tension. This tension or tightness reduces the flow of blood and oxygen to the muscles and organs and also restricts nerve & lymph supply. Tension creates a tendency for a build up of toxins in the body, and reduces the flow of the more subtle energy or life force (Prana or Chi). Tension can lead to symptomatic feelings of fatigue, heaviness, aches and pains, tightness of muscles and stiffness. Muscular stress can increase the likelihood of strains and injuries. Muscular stress also distorts the skeletal structure which further compounds existing problems and creates new ones.

The following are some of the beneficial results that you can receive from massage treatments

  • Improve circulation Increase blood circulation and the flow of tissue fluid (lymph)
  • Improve lymphatic drainage
  • Help breathing Stimulate breathing Assist the flow of nutrients & oxygen to tissues
  • Lower the heart and pulse rate
  • Detoxify the body systems Hasten excretion or waste products
  • Assist weight loss
  • Nourish the skin (with the right oils) Promote nourishment, repair and renewal of body cells
  • Assist in removal of deposits of tissue
  • Stimulate activity in skin and its glands
  • Improve muscle tone Induce muscle tone
  • Soothe and relax nerves
  • Relieve Stress
  • Release emotional tension
  • Relieve pain in certain conditions
  • Relax mind and body deeply
  • Give pleasure
  • Create a feeling of well-being.

Are situations where it is advisable to be cautious about having massage treatment. Conditions such as: Acute inflammation, redness, swelling, marked breathing difficulty, fever, skin rash, Varicose veins. If you have any of these conditions or other concerns, check with your therapist at the time of booking your treatment.

Massage Therapy is a safe and effective treatment which benefits people of all ages and conditions.


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