Massage in Ancient and Medieval Times

Massage is the manipulation of superficial layers of muscle and connective tissue to enhance the function and promote relaxation and well-being. The word comes from the French massage "friction of kneading", or from Arabic massa meaning "to touch, feel or handle" or from Latin massa meaning "mass, dough". In distinction the ancient Greek word for massage was anatripsis, and the Latin was frictio. Massage involves acting on and manipulating the body with pressure, tension, motion or vibration, done manually or with mechanical aids. Target tissues may include muscles, tendons, ligaments, skin, joints or other connective tissue, as well as lymphatic vessels, or organs of the gastrointestinal system. Massage can be applied with the hands, fingers, elbows, knees, forearm, and feet. There are over eighty different recognized massage modalities. The most cited reasons for introducing massage as therapy have been client demand and perceived clinical effectiveness.

Writings on massage have been found in many ancient civilizations including Rome, Greece, India, Japan, China, Egypt and Mesopotamia. A biblical reference from year 493 BC documents daily massage with olive oil and myrrh as a part of the beauty regimen of the wives of Xerxes (Esther, 2:9-12). Hippocrates wrote in 460 BC that "the physician must be experienced in many things, but assuredly in rubbing". The Ancient Chinese book called Huangdi Neijing by the Yellow Emperor recommended "massage of skin and flesh". The technique of massage abortion, involving the application of pressure to the pregnant abdomen, has been practiced in Southeast Asia for centuries. One of the bas-reliefs decorating the temple of Angkor Wat in Cambodia, dated aprox. 1150, depicts a demon performing such an abortion upon a woman who has been sent to the underworld. This is believed to be the oldest known visual representation of abortion. In Romania some illnesses were treated by a massage in which the client was trodden on by a tame bear.


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