Advancing Massage Therapy in this Modern Age

Many of prominent physicians throughout the centuries have revered Massage techniques and relied upon them in practice. Massage, as treatment for headaches, neuralgia, anxiety, joint disorders and various other ailments, has spanned the globe from China and Japan, to Greece and Rome and finally, in these last centuries, to Europe and the Americas.

These physicians studied the art of Massage, wrote about it and applied its principles with thoughtfulness and intelligence.  Yet for many people Massage Therapy remains a big mystery today.


Why is it that the principles of Massage, so dutifully outlined by the Chinese in their treatises some 1000 years ago and Pehr Henrik Ling just a few centuries ago, still remain largely in the shadows as effective treatments for pain, stress and disease?

In the days of Hippocrates, Asclepiades, and Plutarch, Prominent Greek Physicians, Massage Therapy (simply called Massage) was considered a viable therapy for many aches, pains, and various bodily maladies. In fact, Asclepiades abandoned many medicines in favor of massage. It was he who first prescribed gentle stroking to induce sleep.

What has appeared on the scene in this present age is a result of the categorization and simplification of ancient massage techniques by the prominent Swedish physician Johann Georg Mezger.  Mezger’s compilations are based on the earlier works of Pehr Hendrik Ling, a Medical Gymnastics practitioner. Dr. Harvey Kellogg, who studied the works of Mezger and Ling, wrote The Art of Massage some 100 years ago.

Today, Massage Therapy students continue to study The Art of Massage because the principles studied, tested and documented are still relevant to the application of Massage today.  So why this disconnect from the past? In part because of the reputation Massage has been given in the recent past, but also in part because what was once widely studied, accepted, and practiced as medicinal in centuries past is having to be reestablished in the present modern medical age.

I am appreciative and grateful that the concept of Massage Therapy, as real therapy for the body, is gaining traction once again. Yet there remains an unfortunate gap between the historical/anecdotal evidence and broad acceptance as to the efficacy of massage within the medical community. One of the main reasons for the resurgence of Massage and other Holistic treatments is demand.

As the ability to research and study our own aliments has grown, as well as our ability to travel beyond the borders of our home countries, so has our desire to advocate for alternative paths of healing. Along with a world of knowledge at our finger tips, and a greater understanding of health issues, has come a greater empowerment over our own health and a desire to return to the ways of the ancient healers.

It is only within the last 50 to 60 years that Massage, now known as Massage Therapy (and to lesser extent Body Work), has really gained significant ground. This modern massage era touts such greats as
1. John F. Barnes – Myofascial Release therapy
2. Dr. Fritz Smith – Zero Balancing
3. Joseph Heller – Heller Work
4. Ida Rolf – Rolfing
5. Janet Trevell and Davis Simons – Trigger Point Therapy

These are but a few modern-day pioneers who have contributed to our understanding of how the body works and how best to work with the body to achieve a higher degree of movement with less pain.  Many good and faithful champions for the cause of Massage as therapy in the world of medicine have fought hard to bring it to the forefront of modern medicine and continue the fight today.

Hospitals throughout the United States are looking at Massage in meaningful and empirical ways thanks to these women and men. Also, in the works are efforts by the ACIH (Academic Collaborative for Integrative Health) to establish standardized educational requirements, orientation procedures and competencies for Massage Therapists working in a hospital setting. Thank you to all those who are working and have worked to revive Massage Therapy as well as other holistic therapies as viable health alternatives.

Melissa Jarufe, LMT



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