Probably the oldest medical book in existence, The Yellow Emperor’s Classics of Internal Medicine, which was written in China in approximately 1000 BC, discusses the treatment of paralysis and reduced circulation using massage.
Hippocrates, circa 460-375 BC discussed “gently rubbing” a dislocated shoulder following reduction to aid the healing process.
In ancient Greece massage was given to athletes before and after playing sport. This was thought to prepare the muscles for activity and to remove excess fluid and metabolites after sport, a theory which is still in use today.
During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries our current terminology for different massage techniques such as petrissage, tapotement and stroking started to emerge from a number of different writers. In the nineteenth century Per Ling from Sweden designed a therapeutic exercise called Medical Gymnastics and Massage Therapy which was recognised by many physicians. This was later written about by Augustus Georgi and became known as Swedish massage which is still popular today.
In the United Kingdom in 1895 a group of nurses recognised the positive therapeutic effects of massage therapy and formed the Society of Trained Masseuses. The society ran training courses and formal examinations to standardize therapeutic massage and later became the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists. Massage therapy remained a core examinable skill for British physiotherapists as late as 1977.
Coming swiftly up to date in the United Kingdom, Sports and Remedial Massage is now a profession in its own right, with a number of professional associations assuring the public and other health care professionals that their members have received a high standard of education and have passed examinations.