How many of us have had a massage? Before you answer lets take a minute to look at the definition of massage.
Now, consider the question again. You may have answered no to begin with because you consider a massage to be a treatment in a spa or beauty salon, yet by definition a massage is 'the rubbing and kneading of muscles to relieve tension' which we do everyday without thinking. If you have a tummy ache, you rub it better, if a child falls over, you rub it better, if you have a bad head, you massage your temples. We have always lived with massage playing a pivotal role in our health and wellbeing, yet we have probably never taken the time to consider the healing benefits that it brings.
The Origins of massage
There is evidence of massage being used as a healing therapy as far back as 2,700 BC. Images of massage have been depicted on the tombs of Ancient Egyptians and Archaeologists have discovered massage implements that were used
Throughout the middle ages, we see evidence of Witch hunts and trials taking place, one of the tests for a Witch was the touch test. As shown earlier, civilisations were using the power of touch as a healing treatment and yet fast forward a few thousand years and people are seeing it as witchcraft!
Fortunately, in Europe we soon started to see massage being documented as an important therapy to aid in the process of healing. In the sixteenth century, one of the founders of modern surgery (Ambroise Pare) recognised and wrote about the benefits of massage. In the Eighteenth century, many papers and books were written about the use of implements to perform massage, this became known as medical gymnastics and was widely respected throughout the medical world.
Massage was finally beginning to be respected and was being widely used in conjunction with medical treatments. Nurses were being trained in massage and in 1914 the Almeric Paget military massage corps was set up, which offered massage treatments to injured soldiers. This was so well received that during the war they were seeing an average of 200 patients per day! Sadly this didn't continue and after the second world war massage was demoted to being an alternative therapy once again.
The negative image of massage
Over the years of my career, there has been so much negativity to massage, mainly with it being seen as a seedy job. I grew up in a world where a sex shop was badly disguised as a massage parlour, at college we weren't allowed to perform massage on men (Local authority rule in the nineties!). I have known therapists that have been humiliated during treatments by their clients, I knew a man that danced around the treatment room naked doing a rendition of the full monty. I can not tell you the amount of phone calls I have had asking if we do extras. This all sounds quite funny, yet I am still shocked that massage struggles to get the respect that it deserves especially considering its place throughout history.
Going forward (again)
This year, research has shown that massage treatments could reduce sick days by 1.76 million and a Government group has asked for evidence of this claim. This is such a step in the right direction as massage isn't only physically beneficial it has been shown to improve mental health and can even keep some of the symptoms of depression at bay. We are asking for massage therapy to be recognised as a solution alongside medical treatments once again as it deserves to be.