Using touch as a healing method is a tradition of antiquity. Both eastern and western civilisations found that massage could heal injuries, relieve pain and cure illness. And of course, as a way to reduce stress and induce deep relaxation. For over 5000 years, massage therapy has developed and transformed into what we know today. It’s truly amazing how these ancient techniques still remain beneficial today. Not to mention all the new techniques that have been birthed over the years.


Ayurveda is the traditional holistic medical system in India. Ancient seers and natural scientists developed this system based on centuries of studies, experiments and meditations. Ayurvedic texts were written around 1500BCE detail treatments such as aromatherapy, colour therapy, sound therapy and touch therapy (massage).

Egypt & China

The earliest written records of massage therapy were discovered in Egypt and China.

Tomb paintings in Egypt depict individuals being stretched and kneaded by others (no, it was not torturing). I have been blessed enough to see tomb paintings similar to this during my trip to Egypt in 2018. The Egyptians are also credited with creating reflexology in approximately 2500BCE.

In China, texts documenting the medical benefits of massage therapy date back to 2700BCE (approx.). The tradition of massage therapy in China was developed by the combined and unique expertise of Traditional Chinese Medicine doctors, Buddhists and Taoists. All who viewed touch as essential to their spiritual teachings.


Starting around 1000BCE, Japanese monks studying Buddhism in China observed the healing methods of traditional Chinese medicine, including massage therapy. Japan soon began in adopt and change Chinese massage techniques, giving rise to traditional Japanese massage which then grew into Shiatsu.

Greece & Rome

Deriving from the Eastern philosophies and practices, massage inevitably made the journey to the West. This happened in apprizing 800BCE. Athletes in Ancient Greece used massage to keep their bodies in peak condition while philosophers like Hippocrates prescribed ‘friction’ to treat physical injuries. Hippocrates also promoted a combination of massage, healthy diet, exercise, rest, fresh air and music to restore and keep the body at a healthy state. This ancient philosopher was preaching the secrets to good health and long life well before all the clutter and confusion of the modern-day came. Women also used massage whilst incorporating oils to treat many medical conditions at home.

In Rome, during the first century BCE, Galen, a physician to many emperors, began using massage to treat many physical injuries and diseases. Following Hippocrates’ principles, Galen beloved in exercise, healthy diet, rest and massage as integral pieces in restoring and maintain a healthy body. Furthermore, although the wealthy could afford to have physicians and massage therapists come to their homes, the public used the public baths to have relaxation massages by the local doctors.


The 20th century saw a rapid increase in new and rediscovered massage techniques. New techniques began to be documented and there started massage we know today. Massage was used in WWI to treat soldiers suffering from nerve injury or shell shock. Despite this, massage remained out of mainstream culture as a form of treatment for years as it was perceived as a luxury for the wealthy.

Today, massage therapists practise myriad techniques, all originating from ancient methods. From the roots of these ancient traditions, the underlying philosophy continues to carry through – to help others heal their physical and emotional wellbeing and experience a higher quality of life.

All information sourced from

This post was written by freelance writer,
Lachlan Cornell