How did the word “massage” come into life?

Philologists’ attempts to find out the origin of the word „massage” prove that this word has a long history. It is believed that massage is a French word that is created from a verb masseur (to rub) that was adopted from arabic mass (to touch, palp). Also, word’s massage origin is connected with Sanskrit word „malch”, with Greek word „masso” (squeeze with hands), with latin word „massa” (dough, a substance that sticks to fingers) and with Hebraic word „mashesh” (to snatch). All of these terms more or less describe the quiddity of massage. A lot of tribes and nations used massage to conjure evil spirits during religious rituals and during saint ablutions procedure rubbing in body different oils.

The emergence of massage

The origins of massage as a meditative method of healing are to be found in ancient times. Sources of literature give information that massage was known for more than 25 centuries BC. Some massage needle made of stone that was found nowadays enabled the Academy of traditional medicine in China conclude that needle therapy existed for at least 10 milleniums whilst massage with hands – much earlier. Massage is a part of religious, phylosophic and medical teachings that have come from depths of millenniums. Since ancient times massage was given in India, Japan, Korea, Ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome, in Oriental countries and Western Europe, in Ancient Russia and in many other places in the world. It is known that massage techniques were used even in primeval South African tribes. In the very first traditional medicine development periods aching spots were mostly intuitively stroked, rubbed and pressed.

Discovery of healing properties of massage in China

In China massage was used starting from 3rd millennium BC. Massage techniques were used to heal rheumatic pain, sprains, remove fatigue and muscle spasms. What is more, while giving the massage chinese rubbed a whole body with hands gently pressing muscles and making pulling moves in joints area. During pulling it was possible to hear crackles even from a long distance. The first mentioning of massage usage in Ancient China is in the book „Kong-Fu” („The art of human being”) which was written in 2698th year BC. Authors of the „Kong-Fu” manuscript claimed that movements (exercising and massage) keep breathing balance but breathing is a blood circulation controller. In the 6th century for the first time in the world in China a national institute of health was established where medical massage was taught as a mandatory subject. In almost all provinces of Ancient China there were gymnastics schools that prepared taosse physicians that practiced massage and remedial gymnastics. In the 6th century BC in China an encyclopedia in 64 volumes called „San-Tsai-Tu-Gosi” was published where rubbing, kneading, hitting, vibrations, passive movement techniques were systematized and ancient Chinese massage methods were described.

Massage history illustration

Massage as a cure from any disease

In Ancient India massages was used in all life circumstances: in cases of disease and snake bites, fatigue and especially traumas – bruises, fractures and sprains. Specially taught priests performed massage in saint temples. They succeeded in the art of healing with massage so well that it awoke superstitious fear among common people. Massage techniques in Ancient India were described in details in Ayurveda tractate – „The knowledge of life” (9th – 3rd century BC) . At that time body’s complete kneading starting from head to foot was popular. Indians were first to combine massage with vapor bath. During the massage a particular amount of water was poured on heated iron plates which evaporizing penetrated into the deepest layer of skin. When body was wet enough a man was laid in the floor and surrounded by two guards by each side who gave massage pressing with different intensity to relaxed muscles on the top of body, after that massage was given to stomach and chest. Then human was turned to his stomach and he was given a massage of back, cervix and legs.

Wound treatment with massage

In 4000 BC in Ancient Egypt, Lybia, Babylon massage was used either to heal voids that warriors got during battles or for recovery of physical strength after military expeditions. In one of the papyruses that was found in sarcofague of Egyptian warlord in 1841 were depicted massage techniques like stroking, rubbing and hitting. Among possessions that belonged to Asyrian king Sanherib (861-705 BC) there was an alabaster bas-relief that depicted two people where one of them gave massage to another.

Massage history

Massage in the Ancient Greece

Massage with rubbing oils and smears into skin was adopted by Ancient Greeks from Egypt. Homer describes how Odyssey was rubbed with smears in Circe bath. Greek physicians used massage not only for healing purposes but also introduced it in daily life, sports, schools and army. A new massage type appeared in citizens system of physical upbringing – body massage for health strengthening – that was given with physical exercises. Young people studied in gymnasiums where massage was a mandatory subject. One of the first Greek physicians that advised to practice massage as a way of recuperation was Herodykos (484-425 BC). His student Hippocrates recommended massage with kneading tissues (460-377 BC). In book “The Hippocratic Oath” ("Corpus Hyppocraticum") the author describes the impact of physical exercise and massage techniques on ill people. He explained it with a salutary influence by stimulating physiological processes. This saying belongs to no one but Hippocrates: “A physician must be experienced in many things and by the way in massage too”. He encouraged paying a special attention to kneading methods, emphasizing that “relaxed limb becomes stronger but tensioned one becomes flexible”. Hippocrates is considered to be a founder who has established massage as a remedy.

Massage as an art of healing

Physicians in Ancient Rome adopted achievements of massage theory and experience from Chinese, Indians, Egyptians and Greek and encouraged further massage development as an art of healing and a way of physical upbringing. Massage was frequently used by Romans in baths of Caracalla and Diocletian, later on it was practiced in all of the gladiator schools. Massage was given either before a battle (to prepare the organism better) or afterwards in order to heal traumas and recover strength before following fights. In Emperor’s army massage became an integral part of physical training.

Massage in the Ancient Russia

According to Nestor’s writings, ancient Russia’s Slavonic tribes in their severe climate conditions often washed themselves, sweltered in sauna and gave themselves a massage hitting their skin with birch tree or oak branches. Smears, fat of special medicine made from plants and leaves were widely used for rubbing joints and kneading muscles. Similar massage techniques were popular among Karelians and Finns as well.

Still, the art of massage has become a independent method of healing and was acknowledged only in the latter half of the first millennium. It was the time since when this experience is collected and consciously summarized.