Massage therapy is one of the oldest healing arts, with roots tracing back thousands of years across various cultures.

Over time, it has evolved significantly, influenced by different traditions and medical advancements.

Here’s a journey through the history of massage therapy, highlighting its evolution from ancient practices to modern techniques.

Massage Therapy Through History

Ancient Beginnings

The earliest records of massage therapy date back to ancient China around 2700 BCE. The “Huangdi Neijing” (The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine), written during this period, mentions massage as a treatment for various ailments.

The Chinese developed Tui Na, a form of massage that combines acupressure, stretching, and joint manipulation.

In India, massage therapy has been practiced for over 5,000 years as part of Ayurveda, an ancient system of medicine. Ayurvedic massage, or Abhyanga, uses warm oils infused with herbs to promote balance and health.

The practice is deeply rooted in the belief that massage can restore the body’s natural equilibrium.

Ancient Egyptian tombs depict scenes of massage therapy, suggesting its significance in their culture around 2500 BCE. Egyptians used massage for both therapeutic and beauty purposes.

They believed in its power to enhance circulation and improve skin condition.

Greece and Rome:
In ancient Greece, massage therapy was integrated into daily life and athletic training. Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, wrote about the benefits of “rubbing” to treat physical injuries and ailments.

The Romans adopted these techniques, and massage became an essential part of their baths and health routines. Notably, Galen, a prominent Roman physician, used massage therapy to treat gladiators.

The Middle Ages and Renaissance

During the Middle Ages in Europe, the practice of massage therapy declined, largely due to the rise of religious conservatism, which viewed the body with suspicion.

However, it persisted in other parts of the world, notably in Islamic cultures, where scholars translated and preserved many Greek and Roman medical texts.

The Renaissance period saw a revival of interest in the human body and classical knowledge. Physicians like Ambroise Paré, a French surgeon, reintroduced massage techniques to treat injuries and improve recovery.

Modern Developments

19th Century:
The 19th century marked a significant turning point for massage therapy in Europe and the United States. Per Henrik Ling, a Swedish physiologist, developed a system of massage and physical therapy known as Swedish massage.

His methods emphasized systematic movements and techniques, such as kneading and stroking, to improve circulation and flexibility.

20th Century:
In the 20th century, massage therapy gained recognition as a legitimate health practice. Influential figures like Ida Rolf developed Structural Integration (Rolfing), which focuses on manipulating the body’s connective tissues to improve posture and alignment.

The rise of physiotherapy and sports medicine further integrated massage into mainstream healthcare.

The mid-20th century also saw the emergence of various specialized massage techniques, including:

  • Shiatsu: Originating in Japan, Shiatsu involves applying pressure to specific points on the body to balance energy flow.
  • Deep Tissue Massage: This technique targets deeper muscle layers to relieve chronic pain and tension.
  • Trigger Point Therapy: Developed by Janet Travell, this method focuses on identifying and releasing tight muscle knots (trigger points) that cause pain.

21st Century:
Today, massage therapy is widely recognised and respected within the healthcare community.

It is used not only for relaxation and stress relief but also for treating specific medical conditions, enhancing athletic performance, and supporting mental health.

Modern massage therapists often blend traditional techniques with contemporary knowledge of anatomy and physiology to provide holistic care.


From its ancient origins in China, India, and Egypt to its modern-day applications, massage therapy has continually adapted and evolved.

At The Glasgow Treatment Rooms, we honour this rich history by offering a diverse range of therapeutic massage techniques tailored to meet the needs of our clients.

Whether seeking relief from pain, recovery from athletic endeavours, or simply a moment of relaxation, our skilled therapists are here to provide exceptional care grounded in centuries of tradition.

This article provides an overview of the fascinating journey of massage therapy through the ages, showcasing its enduring importance and the expertise available at The Glasgow Treatment Rooms.

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