Wellness Wednesday - The History of Massage

This last week of October is National Massage Therapy Awareness Week, October 25 to October 31. In recognition of this week we would like to highlight some of the advances made in the industry from its humble beginnings to how it is being used today.


A Little History

Recently, an article in U.S. News and World Report, recognized massage as an “alternative to medical treatment”, the article cited “that medical centers nationwide now offer massage as a form of patient treatment”. This is not surprising since the roots of massage came out of medicine;

Before Current Era:

 2700 BC -Chinese text of internal medicine has been used in massage therapy training

1500 BC & 500 BC (written sometime between) -Ayurvedic principles and practices were written and one of the treatments sited is touch therapy

800 BC -Athletes in Ancient Greece employed massage therapists to keep themfit and healthy for competition. Physicians of the time used massage techniques along with herbs and oils to treat medical conditions

200 BC- Massage therapy is used in Rome by Galen , a physician to many emperors , to treat different types of injuries and disease.

Massage Therapy continues to grow throughout Europe in the second half of the century but it was not until the early 1800’s that a Swedish physician , Per Henrik Ling, developed a system called the Swedish Gymnastic Movement System. The techniques used in his system became the foundation for Swedish massage most commonly used in the West today.

Current Era:

 1943 - The American Association of Masseurs and Masseuses is created (The Name would change in 1958 to American Massage & Therapy Association)

1949 - Began official efforts to help legitimize massage therapy through state laws.  Massage Registration Act created as model law for states to register legitimate massage therapists

1980’s -The organization Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals is formed.

1983 - Name changed to the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA).  Removal of “&” supported practice of massage therapy as legitimate professional field unto itself, separate from physical therapy.

1990- The Massage Therapy Foundation started to bring scientific research to the public

 1991- The Touch Research Institute is created; The National Institutes of Health establishes the Office of Alternative Medicine.

 1992 -National Certification Examination for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork is first administered.

 1993 -The New England Journal of Medicine reports the use of alternative and complementary forms of health care.

As massage grew more main stream and started being recognized for its health benefits and not just for relaxation, the need for regulation over this field also grew.

With strong efforts made by organizations like the AMTA we currently have 43 states that regulate the profession, including Illinois.

Current Stats

According the AMTA consumer fact sheet, for 2014 56% of the people surveyed use massage therapy for a medical reason, which included pain relief, stiffness and spasms, injury recovery, & migraines, as compared to only 43% in the 2013 study.  Out of those surveyed 91% of individuals view massage as being beneficial to overall health and wellness while only 29% of individuals believe it is only a form of pampering.  Another uptrend is physicians are recommending massage therapy to their patients; it’s up from 53% in 2013 to 59% in 2014. 2

Clearly this shows a shift in the way people are thinking of their health and looking for other means to control their pain and soreness than just traditional medicine.

Even physicians are recognizing the medical benefits that massage has for their patients.

What Does That Mean for You?

Every day we are hearing of how massage therapy is being integrated into many health care environments, yet, it is not commonly part of most medical insurance plans,  Medicaid or Medicare.

One advance that has been made is that we can work with integrated care networks such as, Accountable Care Organizations ( ACOs)& Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH) to help patients achieve the best possible outcome at affordable rates.3

These integrated care networks are looking for ways to offer better health care to their patients, focusing on better patient outcomes and overall lower costs.

Massage Therapy has been proven to benefit a variety of health conditions.

Having massage therapy as part of this integrated care model only makes sense to help support better overall patient care.

We are continuing to make strides forward in our industry but we need to “define and create partnerships that share responsibility for delivering and coordinating patient care” 4

-Donna Taylor

Information compiled from the following:

1.  US NEWS & WORLD REPORT ,February 12th, 2015 ,Massage as Medicine

2. American Massage Therapy Association, Consumer Survey Fact Sheet 10/2014

3&4. The Value and Efficacy of Massage Therapy in Integrated Health Care

    Published by the American Massage Therapy Association 2014©

Time Line From:

Holistic Online, Massage –Wire.com, PlanetHerbs.com