Origins of Massage Therapy?

Origins of Massage Therapy?


I don’t know about you but I love history and this was a fun subject to research.  Massage therapy dates back thousands of years to ancient cultures. The first written records of massage therapy were found in China and Egypt.


2700 BC

The first know Chinese text the “Huangdi Neijing” (given the title The Yellow Emperor’s Classic Book of Internal Medicine in one of the latest translations). This book was published in English in 1949, then became part of massage therapy training and was used as a textbook for training other forms of alternative medicine such as acupuncture, acupressure and herbology.

The Huangdi Neijing is an ancient treatise on health and disease said to have been written by the Chinese emperor Huangdi around 2600 BC. However, Huangdi may not be the only author and could be a compilation of several authors and the book probably dates from later around 300 BC.  But whatever its origin, the book has has been influential as a reference for practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine well into the modern era.


2500 BC

There were paintings found in the Egyptian tombs that massage therapy was also used in their medical traditions. Egyptians got the credit for pioneering reflexology which influenced other cultures such as the Greeks and Romans.

The Ancient Egyptians were the first to codify and study essential oils and their therapeutic benefits. As well as combining various ingredients to make beautiful perfumes and fragrant incense for personal and ritual use. They applied this knowledge to develop massage and reflexology as therapeutic tools. They believed the god Nefertum could reasonably be considered the world’s fist aromatherapist and the goddess Isis is reputed to have used therapeutic massage as a cure for a number of ailments.

An early reference to massage and reflexology in Ancient Egypt can be found in the decorations of the tomb of Ptahhotep (a Vizier during the reign of Djedkare during the fifth dynasty in the Old Kingdom). Ptahhotep is depicted having a manicure and pedicure and having his legs massages by a servant. Some authorities consider this the earliest positive record of reflexology.


1500 and 500 BC

The first know written massage therapy traditions came from India, but it may have actually originated around 3000 BC or earlier.  Hindus used the art of healing touch in the practice of Ayurvedic medicine. Ayurveda, a Sanskrit word translates to “life health” or “life science.” It is regarded as the basis of holistic medicine. Ayurvedic medicine is based on the belief that health and wellness depend on a delicate balance between the mind, body, and spirit. Its main goal is to promote good health, not fight disease. But treatments may be geared toward specific health problems.

Those who practice Ayurveda believe every person is made of five basic elements found in the universe: space, air, fire, water, and earth.

These combine in the human body to form three life forces or energies, called doshas. They control how your body works. They are Vata dosha (space and air); Pitta dosha (fire and water); and Kapha dosha (water and earth).

Everyone inherits a unique mix of the three doshas. But one is usually stronger than the others. Each one controls a different body function. It’s believed that your chances of getting sick and the health issues you develop are linked to the balance of your doshas.


I hope you enjoyed and learned something new!

This was a lot more then what I normally write, but like I said earlier I love history and I could read about it all day. I’m very intrigued by The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine (which I found on Amazon). One more book to add to my reading list.

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Information pulled September 12, 2018


Photo by Ylanite Koppens from Pexels

2 thoughts on “Origins of Massage Therapy?

  1. Hmm is anyone else having problems with the pictures on this
    blog loading? I’m trying to find out if its
    a problem on my end or if it’s the blog. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.


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