Massage is one of the most ancient and most widely practiced forms of wellness. It is fascinating to learn how the massage we know today has evolved over time. So let’s travel back in time and learn about the intriguing history of massage.

Ancient Chinese massage

Ancient China (2700 BC)

The earliest known date in massage history is all the way back around 2700 BC, when a book on Chinese medicine called “The Yellow Emperor’s Classic Book of Internal Medicine” was created. This book is widely considered the first massage text, detailing the practices and techniques used in massage and oriental medicine even today, including techniques for acupuncture and acupressure.

Ancient Egypt (2500 BC)

About 200 years later, the Egyptians developed what we now call reflexology. It is based on the idea that the body has points on the feet that are reflected in all the organs of the body. This form of massage is conducted by applying pressure to specific parts of the foot, which correspond to a particular organ.

Ayurveda (1500 BC)

A thousand years after that, the ancient Hindu practice of Ayurvedic medicine emerged. Ayurvedic Medicine holds that the mind, body, and spirit are connected and when one part does not work properly, it negatively affects the others. It is a holistic and natural approach to living a full and balanced life which includes diet, exercise, meditation, and periodic cleansing.

Japanese massage (1000 BC)

Around 1000 BC, Japanese Buddhist monks in China were studying the Tui Na technique, which is a massage modality in traditional Chinese medicine. Returning to Japan, the monks added their own modifications to Tui Na, which eventually became their own massage modality, known as Anma. During the 1940s, Anma and other massage techniques were codified by Tokujiro Namikoshi into what we now know as Shiatsu.


Ancient Greece (800-700 BC)

One of the most influential cultures in the history of massage were the ancient Greeks. Massage was commonly practiced at all levels of Greek society. Specific techniques included the lessening of “knots” in all muscle tissue throughout the body by the means of therapeutic rubbing.

Hippocrates (500 BC)

Hippocrates is considered the founder of modern medicine and his legacy continues to this day. He prescribed treatments for injuries, which included massage as a form of healing. He also promoted general well-being by encouraging good diet, exercise, ample sleep, and music. In many ways, his healing system had more in common with holistic medicine than with the conventional medicine of today.

Modern massage therapy

Modern Massage (1800 to Present)

Modern massage was largely developed during the 19th century by Per Henrik Ling, creator of what we know today as Swedish massage, and Dr. Johan Georg Mezger, who codified the strokes and gave them the French names we use today.  Although our scientific understanding of massage has evolved over the centuries, massage as an applied practice for achieving health and wellness has not changed all that drastically – which makes sense when you consider that the human body hasn’t changed significantly in the last 2,000 years.


Massage has been around for a long time, and as long as people are prone to discomfort and illness, massage will continue to exist as a health and wellness practice. At Healing Hands, our licensed therapists are experienced with a variety of massage modalities – some ancient, some more modern – and we are at your service! Book your session today.