The History Of Massage Therapy

Discover the evolution of massage.

Today, we know and love massage therapy. Massage therapy has become a part of our regular routines to manage stress — whether you receive a massage weekly, monthly, or just on special occasions. Massage therapy is also used in hospitals, birthing centers, and even nursing homes to help with relaxation, treat pain, and expedite the healing process of muscles. But have you ever stopped and wondered where massage therapy originated from? In today’s blog, we are going to uncover the history of massage therapy and how it originated. Let’s start by thanking ancient India, China, and the Egyptians.

3,000 BCE - 2500 BCE


According to many historians, the first written evidence of massage therapy comes from India. It was believed at this time that you would develop illnesses and diseases if you lived out of harmony with the environment. To treat poor health conditions, Hindus practiced Ayurvedic medicine, which combined aromatherapy, meditation, relaxation, and touch in order to reestablish harmony between themselves and the environment and heal naturally.

China & Egypt

Similar to the belief that you developed illnesses and diseases if you were out of balance with the world around you, the Chinese and Egyptians believed that you would incur illnesses and diseases if there was an imbalance or deficiency of energy in your body. To solve this issue, it was believed that massage would help the energy flow more smoothly through these pathways helping the body heal itself. Thus, reflexology was created. Written evidence of massage therapy can be found in Egyptian tomb paintings  and in the Chinese text, “The Yellow Emperor’s Classic Book of Internal Medicine.”


1,000 BCE


Based on the ideas of traditional Chinese medicine, Shiatsu was created. This type of massage therapy is similar to acupuncture, in which pressure points are stimulated in order to rebalance a person’s energy. Monks would use their hands — thumbs, fingers, and palms to apply pressure on different points of the body.


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800-700 BCE


During 800-700 BCE, massage therapy progressed from healing illnesses and diseases to keeping one’s body in peak physical condition. At this time, athletes began using massage therapy as a means to prepare their body for competitions and to help heal themselves if they sustained an injury.

1800 CE


Per Henrik Ling, a Swedish physician, developed a system that incorporated massage with medical gymnastics. Due to the fact that his techniques — stroking, pressing, squeezing, etc., are similar to Swedish massage techniques, Per Henrik Ling is often credited as the father of Swedish massage. However, Dutch physician, Doctor Johann Georg Mezger, is the true founder who created the Swedish Massage modality around 1868 while studying friction methods.

The 20th Century

As time went on, massage therapy became more and more recognized as a legitimate, natural form of medicine. However, it was largely seen as a luxury for the wealthy, Olympic athletes, and as a form of healing for World War I soldiers who suffered from shell shock and nerve injuries.



Though massage therapy has evolved, massage therapists today still practice many techniques that are derived from these ancient methods in order to promote healing of the body and overall health and well-being.


Are you looking for a way to relax and unwind? Or are you looking to heal your body from a sports injury? Schedule an aromatherapy or sports massage at Petra’s Massage Therapy in Oklahoma City. We offer many different types of massage therapy that will help you revitalize your mind and body so you can feel your best.