Massage has its roots in the far reaches of human history. Rubbing a sore muscle or stroking another person for comfort are natural responses; spiritual and healing traditions have valued touch and the use of hands for healing since the beginning of human memory. The first written records that refer to massage date back more than 4,000 years to China. In ancient Greece, Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, wrote, "the physician must be experienced in many things, but most assuredly in rubbing".
Massage comes from both Western and Eastern traditions. Eastern traditions can be traced back to the folk medicine of China and the Ayurvedic medicine of India. Shiatsu, acupressure, and many other contemporary techniques have their roots in these sources. Western traditions date back to ancient Greece and Rome. Modern Western massage owes a great deal to the work of Peter Henrik Ling, a 19th century educator and athlete from Sweden. His approach, which combined hands-on techniques with active movements, became known as Swedish Massage, perhaps the most common therapeutic massage modality in the West.
In a recent study by the American Massage Therapy Association, it was reported that 35 million adult Americans has a massage at least once in the past year. Physicians are prescribing therapeutic massage to alleviate a variety of maladies from stress to pain, as well for a wide range of medical conditions, including allergies, arthritis, headaches, mysofascial pain, sinusitis, back pain, sports injuries, cancer recovery and temporal manidbula joint dysfunction (TMJ).
Massage therapy is growing in several venues, especially in medical and sport settings, in the workplace, at health and fitness centers, and in spas. People are seeking the therapeutic benefits of massage and report getting massages mostly for medical reasons to relieve aches and pains and to help reduce stress. Professional athletes rely on massage to help them recover from injuries and muscle soreness. Massage therapy has become an increasingly common component of hospice care and psychological treatment. Also an increasing number of companies are offering massage at work. Employees typically sign up for 15-minute chair massages, and report feeling not only less stressed, but more alert.
The U.S. government's National Institutes of Health has a component called the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine which is the lead agency for scientific research on Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM). Massage therapy is one of the top therapies received by patients. Both the medical community and insurance companies are beginning to include massage therapy as part of preventive health programs. According to a national survey conducted by the State University of New York at Syracuse, 54% of primary care physicians and family practitioners said they would encourage their patients to pursue massage therapy as a treatment. Of those, 34% said they are willing to refer the patient to a massage therapist.
As public acceptance of massage has grown in the United States, the number of massage therapists has greatly increased. The public perception of massage has changed dramatically with the increase of well trained, state regulated and Nationally Certified massage therapy professionals. Public demand is driving the trend as the benefits of therapeutic massage are validated and become well known. The AMTA (American Massage Therapy Association) estimates that the number of massage therapists in the U.S., including students, is between 300,000 and 350,000. Currently 44 states and the District of Columbia regulate massage therapy. Approximately 85% of these agencies require a minimum of 500 hours or more of classroom training in massage and regulated subjects. New York State requires at least a 1000 hour curriculum. As interest and recognition of massage therapy expands nationally, graduates of New York College are entering the world of health and healing at a time when opportunities to practice, research, and teach are increasing. The skills learned at New York College enable them to successfully establish and expand their practices to treat patients of all ages with a wide variety of health.