Thursday, June 11, 2009


This essay looks at the history (the roles in the development of massage and the scandals of the 1800s), cultural (Eastern versus Western and Maori techniques), philosophical approaches to massage (body, body-mind, body-mind-spirit) and the development of professional massage in New Zealand.

Comparison of the Development of Massage in the Eastern & Western Traditions
Western massage is based on Swedish massage (which consists of deep and soft tissue) and has a physical, and physiological approach. However, Eastern massage use treatment developed from traditional techniques, based on the holistic approach of physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual. There is generally no use of lubricant and they use compression, stroking and stretching techniques.

History in the Development of Massage in the Western Tradition
Hippocrates of Cos (460 to 375 BC) a Greek physician became known as the “Father of Medicine”. He believed that illness had a physical and rational explanation. He described and recorded medical techniques and practices including many massage techniques. Massage should be directed toward the centre of the body or toward the heart to eliminate waste products from the body.

Galen of Pergamon (c. AD 130 to 200) a Roman physician who studied medicine and who was later a follower of Hippocratic medicine. He was the first to relate anatomy and physiology and contributed much of his early writing on massage.

Ling, Pehr Henrik (1776-1839) a Swedish physiologist and gymnastics instructor, his primary focus was on gymnastics applied to the treatment of disease and injury. He blended massage with physiology. According to Salvo (2007), Ling is regarded as the “Father of Swedish Massage”. Swedish massage and Swedish gymnastics were noted to improve circulation, relieve muscle tension, improve range of motion, and promote general relaxation.

Mezger, Johann (1817-1893) a Dutch physician was responsible for making massage a fundamental component of physical rehabilitation. Being a physician he was able to promote massage using a medical and scientific basis and was successful in getting the medical profession to accept massage as a treatment for disease and illness. The introduction of Effleurage, Petrissage and Tapotment were accredited to Mezger.

Kellogg, John Harvey (1852-1943) wrote numerous articles and books on massage and published “Good Health” magazine. His efforts helped popularize massage in the United States.

Vodder, Dr. Emil a Danish physiotherapist in the 1930’s developed the method of Manual Lymph Drainage, an effective massage technique.

Cyriax, Dr. James was the first to thoroughly and systematically study soft tissue lesions of the orthopedic system, and devise a specific massage technique for their treatment. The technique is also called deep transverse friction and is used for treating muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joint capsules.

Travell, Dr. Janet the first woman ever to serve as the White House Physician pioneered a technique known as “trigger-point” release.

Comparison of Maori Massage – Miri Miri versus Romi Romi

Miri Miri
This traditional Maori approach for wellbeing has been practiced by Maori for over 700 years. It includes elements of spirituality, energy balancing, therapeutic massage, deep tissue massage and relaxation massage and according to Muru (2008) “Koo Miri is the process of Koorerorero (talking) is used to find the ‘core’ emotional bindings that dis-able, dis-empower and keep dis-cord rife. These are mainly emotional experiences behind physical, psychological or mental ailments. Through the use of the third eye one is able to identify issues and bring about change as well as healing. “Taa Miri” according to Muru (2008) is to read and listen to the body. This is mainly where we see the trauma trapped within the body i.e. hip bones – imbalance of energy, male/female energy askew.

Romi Romi
Is the use of elbows, hands, knees, feet, raaku (stick/wood), kohatu/toka (stones) and, moana (seawater), to do very deep tissue body work (McQuillan, 2009)

Massage Scandals of the 1800’s and Impact on the Massage Industry
In the 1890’s massage had become well recognized, and with this growth there was an increase for the need of trained therapists. Consequently, there was an increase in training facilities and the market soon became saturated with therapists. As there were varying educational standards, massage parlors falsely advertised “massage” and exploited those from poor neighborhoods (who were trying to pay debt off from their training) which in turn then became known as prostitutes. This rapidly reduced the reputation of massage.

Development of Professional Massage in NZ
In 1985 Bill Wareham formed MINZ (Massage Institute of New Zealand) from massage therapists called in from the greater Auckland area. Their focus was education, standards and annual conferences for skill development. In 1989 Jim Stanford established NZATMP (New Zealand Association of Therapeutic Massage Practitioners) and as McQuillan (1990) advises “he saw the need for a professional association for therapeutic massage practitioners in New Zealand”. Their focus was education, professional image, distribution of information, and to increase public awareness of massage therapy. In the late 1990’s NZATMP changed its name to TMA (Therapeutic Massage Association). With this came a change of focus to support and represent the needs of the qualified therapist and be a voice for the massage industry (McQuillan, 2009). In 2007 MINZ (Massage Institute of New Zealand) and TMA joined together to form MNZ (Massage New Zealand). Today, educational standards are rising, educational opportunities are increasing and there is a growing acceptance amongst other healthcare professionals.

Contemporary Massage
Contemporary massage has been developed from traditional techniques and a physiological theory. Treatment often focuses on the body (physiological). It is based on Swedish massage including trigger-point release (interaction between nerves and muscles), myofascial release (deep strokes to relieve chronic muscle tension), and Lymphatic Drainage (stimulate the flow of lymph fluid).

Philosophical Approaches to Massage

BODY – “Treatment focuses on the body and on the effects of massage within the body.” (McQuillan, 2009). The mind is not a factor. Healing is more of a physical approach in Western traditions.

BODY-MIND – “Any therapy exercising the effects of consciousness solely within the individual body” (Dossey, 2000). The way we think affects our body e.g techniques such as counseling and hypnosis. The perception you give your client from the initial consultation and the overall experience that goes beyond the physical manipulation.

BODY-MIND-SPIRIT – “The body mind spirit approach often incorporates a spiritual dimension into health. Your actions operate within a spiritual context (e.g. Karma) and may have physical consequences. You may be affected by spiritual beings”. (McQuillan, 2009). Eastern techniques adopt these principles and attempt to affect the person’s energetic state by channeling positive energy to their client through feeling and touch. It also incorporates a spiritual dimension into health.

Massage is a growing industry in our society that is slowly shaking-off an unethical image that was unfortunately inherited from the past. It has been interesting researching how massage has evolved and the techniques used in the Eastern and Western world. Most of the techniques used in the past are still being adopted today, and it is still evolving. We as Massage Therapist’s need to educate people on its many benefits to ensure the health and well-being of our client’s are being maximized.

Muru, A. (2008). Retrieved June, 09 2009 from

Salvo, S. (2007). Massage Therapy Principles & Practice (3rd ed.). A Historical Perspective of Massage. Missouri: Saunders Elsevier

McQuillan, D. (2009). Fundamentals of Massage. Dunedin, New Zealand: Otago Polytechnic.

Dossey, L. (2000). Reinventing Medicine. Element Books Ltd. Shaftesbury, Dorset.

RESOURCES Hippocrates & Massage History. Retrieved June, 09 2009 from

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