Massage Therapy from Pharoah to Plano Texas

March 7, 2010


John James, LMT

Massage in many forms has existed since the beginning of human history. The power of physical touch to soothe, comfort and even to heal physical and emotional pain has been noted in all civilizations.  Many cultures have evolved massage therapy techniques into distinctly different and recognizable methods.

Early Records of Therapeutic Manipulation

Ancient Egyptian, Indian and Chinese civilizations produced the first written records of manual techniques for medicinal and therapeutic uses. Drawings on pyramid walls and papyrii from nearly four thousand years ago advise manipulation and specific types of gentle touching for pain relief. The Ayurveda, a pre-Christian medical script, codifies specific manual methods which are still used today. Traditional Chinese medicine is based upon Huangdi Neijing, written in the first or second century BC, which includes the recommendation for stroking, stretching and repeated gentle blows to the muscles among its methods.

Hippocrates, the Greek physician often called the “father of Western medicine” strongly promoted massage. So did Julius Caesar who demanded massage therapy daily to treat his frequent headaches.

Massage became widespread in France during the sixteenth century due to surgeon Andre Pare’, the Royal Court physician to four French kings. Inventor of hemostats and the first to use ligatures in surgery, Pare’ commonly used massage therapy practices on his patients. Many of the terms used in teaching classic massage techniques today are of French origin - i.e. effleurage, petrissage, tapotement.

That’s Swedish Isn’t It?

Widely used and known to most people in the West, “Swedish massage” is a collection of methods initially developed in the 1800s by the Swedish doctor Per Henrik Ling. Borrowing techniques he learned from the traditional Chinese manipulative therapy tui na and from Asian martial arts, Ling founded the Royal Central Institute for Gymnastics in Stockholm to educate physiotherapists in his medical gymnastics protocols.

The development of “classic” Swedish massage as a separate discipline, and, the use of French terms for its techniques, is credited to Dutchman  Johan Georg Mezger (1838-1909). Mezger, a massage practitioner, compiled a reduced set of techniques and maneuvers from Ling’s gymnastics into what he called the “Swedish massage system”, the collection of strokes used in classic massage that are still employed today. So what is commonly known today as “Swedish massage” was actually developed by the ancient Chinese, systematized and given French technique names by a Dutchman, and yes, finally employed and widely popularized by a Swede – Per Henrik Ling.

Recent Developments in Massage

The twentieth century has seen America evolve its own physical therapies based on more subtle understanding of human anatomy, and, on selected ancient techniques. Two advanced methods in particular have emerged as popular and effective – myofascial release technique and cranosacral therapy.

Myofascial Release Therapy

Devised by the internationally recognized physical therapist John F. Barnes, myofascial release therapy considers the patient’s whole body rather than just isolated symptoms of aches and pains.Rather than focus entirely on musculature, this whole body approach considers the tissue that joins, supports and surrounds the muscles, the fascia, as equally important. The myo-fascial unit composed of muscle fibers and fascia should move smoothly within the body, gliding over adjoining muscles, structures and even its own muscle fibers.

Injuries, overuse or poor posture may cause the smooth and flexible myofascial tissue to shorten and become rigid and inelastic. Pain is caused thereby, range of motion is restricted and muscle spasms might occur. Stress to the myo-fascial unit and imbalance can radiate up and down the body causing pain in unexpected locations.

Myofascial release techniques restore the smooth functioning of the fascia caused by injured muscles, and, stretch the fascia/muscle unit back to its normal length. This form of massage therapy releases tight, bound-up areas of muscle in a gradual way, slowly evening-out tight, injured fascia and relieving pain.

Craniosacral Therapy

An Osteopathic Physician and Professor of Biomechanics at Michigan State University, Dr. John E. Upledger developed CranioSacral Therapy after years of research and clinical testing. Focused on improvement of central nervous system performance, CranioSacral Therapy frees circulation of the brain’s cerebrospinal fluid by relaxing the fascial tissue surrounding the spine. By relaxing restrictions to the free flow of cerebrospinal fluid in the spine and in the cranium, migraines, insomnia, and TMJ pain and tension from stress can all be reduced.

Call me to learn how massage therapy techniques descended from ancient sources can help you now:

John James, LMT
John James Massage Therapy Plano Texas
469 855-2049

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