This article is from the Alternative Medicine Therapies guide.
Massage is the manipulation of the soft-tissues of the body. It helps to ease stress and muscular tension, relieve pain from injuries, and speed healing from certain acute and chronic conditions. Today millions of people worldwide visit massage therapists as a form of regular health-care maintenance.
The practice of massage has been used for thousands of years. As early as 2700 B.C., the Chinese text, The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine, recommended that "breathing exercises, massage of the skin and flesh, and exercises of the hands and feet" should be used to treat paralysis, chills, and fever. In 400 B.C., the Greek physician Hippocrates wrote about the necessity for all physicians to use rubbing as a remedy, particularly to treat sports and war injuries. Ancient records from Japan also refer to massage therapy, and the technique is known to have been used by other cultures as well, including the Egyptians, Romans, and Arabs.
The roots of modern, science-based massage therapy begin with Per Henrik Ling (1776-1839), a Swedish fencing master and gymnastics instructor who developed a therapeutic system that included both massage and exercise. In 1813, Ling established the Royal Central Gymnastic Institute to make his methods available to the public. At the time, Ling's program included what he called "medical gymnastics" and "Swedish movement cure." Later the combination of the two came to be known as Swedish massage.
After studying in Sweden in the 1850s, two physician brothers, George and Charles Taylor of New York City, introduced massage therapy to the U.S. The technique gradually gained credence and was widely used by doctors until the early 1900s. But as biomedicine and new "high tech" equipment came into play, physicians lost interest in this labor-intensive therapy. A small number of massage therapists carried on the tradition until the 1970s, when a revitalized interest in alternative medicine sparked a demand for this healing technique.
Today there are some 80 different types of massage and related forms of bodywork. These techniques are generally organized into five broad categories:
Many massage practitioners use a combination of these methods, depending on what the client needs at the time.