A History of the Massage Profession

Here at National University of Health Sciences, we are currently seeing historic growth in research supporting the health benefits of massage, and an increased incorporation of massage therapy in integrative medical settings. But did you know that the massage occupation dates back to colonial times?

History MTRecently, Patricia J. Benjamin wrote a great article for AMTA's Massage Therapy Journal titled "Brush Up on the History of Your Profession."  She explains how "Rubbers" (what massage therapists were once called) worked as far back as the 1700s, when they were even employed by surgeons to assist with patient rehabilitation after surgery. "Rubber" was one of the few occupations where women could make a living outside the home.

In the 1850's, you might receive bodywork from a "medical gymnast" trained in a Swedish system developed by Pehr Henrich Ling. Several training schools opened for Ling's system across the United States. 

The words masseuses or masseur became common later in the 1880s, through a training system of manual manipulation developed by physician Johann Mezger. Ohio was the first state to license masseuses and masseurs in the late 1800s, with Agnes Bridget Forbes being the first licensed masseuse in 1916.

At the turn of the 20th century, massage was often used along with hydrotherapy and rest cures in sanitariums and natural convalescence centers. It wasn't until 1930 when Swedish massage became dominant on the massage scene - yet it was different than today's Swedish massage, in that it encompassed an entire wellness system of massage, movements, electrotherapy and hydrotherapy.

In 1960, the terms "massage therapy" and "massage therapists" became the preferred term we still use today in the profession. Then, in the 1960s and 1970s, a growing counter-culture brought in more techniques and styles such as Rolfing and Esalen, while Asian influences raised the popularity of Shiatsu and Ayurvedic massage.

From the 1990s until today, more and more states began to license massage therapy. There are now 45 states that license massage therapists.

Read more from this article and see why now is a great time in history to start your career in massage therapy, then visit National University to get started with the education you'll need!

Bringing Massage to the Community

Massage Therapy Awareness Week October 25-31

2015-10-21_pic _stackThe AMTA has declared October 25-31 as National Massage Therapy Awareness Week. Massage therapists across the country use this week to promote the benefits of massage therapy to their communities and encourage people to incorporate massage into their personal wellness plans.

At National University of Health Sciences, community education is a year-round effort. Massage interns participate in community outreach events as part of their graduation requirements.  Teams of students, accompanied by faculty supervisor, bring portable tables or massage chairs to sports and charity events and well as corporate and community wellness fairs.

There are a wide variety of community outreach events where NUHS massage interns have provided free massage and massage education, such as:

  • American Cancer Society "Relay for Life"
  • Village of Lombard Senior Citizen Health Fair
  • Illinois Hands and Voices "Moms Night Out"
  • Edward's Cancer Center Women's Retreat

"Outreach events not only increase massage therapy awareness," says Dr. Patricia Coe, massage supervisor at NUHS. "They provide valuable massage practice experience for our interns and instill in them in the importance of giving back to the communities we serve."

Community service opportunities that share the "hands-on" benefits of massage not only bring awareness to the value of massage therapy, they are part of what makes the massage therapy program at National University outstanding.


AMTA Lists 25 Reasons to Get a Massage

Massage .smallThe American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) has put together a list of 25 evidence-based ways that massage therapy can improve health and wellness and relieve symptoms of common health conditions.

Each item on the list below is linked to an AMTA article that in turn links to research behind the benefit:

1. Relieve stress

2. Boost immunity

3. Reduce anxiety

4. Manage low-back pain

5. Help fibromyalgia pain

6. Reduce muscle tension

7. Enhance exercise performance

8. Relieve tension headaches

9. Sleep better

10. Ease symptoms of depression

11. Improve cardiovascular health

12. Reduce pain of osteoarthritis

13. Decrease stress in cancer patients

14. Improve balance in older adults

15. Decrease rheumatoid arthritis pain

16. Temper effects of dementia

17. Promote relaxation

18. Lower blood pressure

19. Decrease symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

20. Help chronic neck pain

21. Lower joint replacement pain

22. Increase range of motion

23. Decrease migraine frequency

24. Improve quality of life in hospice care

25. Reduce chemotherapy-related nausea

The AMTA is also offering the list as a downloadable flyer that massage therapists can use in their practice, or that massage enthusiasts can give to friends to encourage them to get a massage.

If you've never received a professional massage, National University of Health Sciences offers affordable massage therapy at its on-campus integrative medical clinic - the NUHS Whole Health Center-Lombard. 

Qi Gong for Self-Care: Part of a Massage Therapy Curriculum

QIGongAt National University, students in the massage therapy program not only learn how to take care of future clients, they also learn how to take care of themselves. Toward this goal, the required curriculum includes a participation class featuring Qi Gong. 

Qi Gong is a Chinese system of breathing exercises, body postures and movements, combined with mental concentration and meditation. The techniques are used to maintain good health and control the flow of vital energy, or "qi".

Students in the class learn Qi Gong relaxation techniques so that they can recharge their own energy and maintain wellness throughout their career. "I teach the MT students specific techniques to keep their hands healthy, how to manage emotions, keep themselves well," says John Robertson who owns Seven Stars Martial Arts and has been teaching Tai Chi and Qi Gong at NUHS since 2005.       

Qi Gong2"I tell my students that Tai Chi and Qi Gong are the 401k plan for your health. It is what you do today that allows you to have health and wellness in your later years," says Robertson.

Massage therapists must maintain a level of fitness without injury to continue thriving in this physically demanding profession.  It can also be very easy for a therapist to find him or herself so invested in taking care of others, that they forget to take good care of themselves.  That's why it's critical for massage therapists to develop self-care regimens such as yoga, Qi Gong, Tai Chi - and even remembering to get a massage themselves.

Qi Gong3You'll find John Robertson and his MT students doing Qi Gong outside when the weather is nice. Robertson also teaches at several local park districts, assisted living centers and in Alzheimer's and dementia outpatient care programs.

"I think its awesome that self-care is a requirement at National University," says Robertson, who also teaches Taichi in the acupuncture and oriental medicine degree programs. "It's part of the old physician's code 'heal thyself.' If you're not well, then you're not able to work to the best of your ability, or give your client the finest care."

Comparing Massage Schools: A Strong Faculty

Nothing is more important to your massage education than the people who you will learn from. When you compare massage schools, it's important to take a look at the faculty and their background.

For example, how many instructors are there at the school? Some massage programs get by with only 3 or 4 instructors. However, a small instruction staff can't provide the breadth of experience and mentorship that is available with a larger staff. Learning from more instructors allows you to benefit from a wider pool of knowledge, more client case histories, and the ability to observe a wider range of business and practice styles.

Dr Coe2

Secondly, examine the education and qualifications of the faculty.  For example, at National University, you'll study health sciences under primary care physicians with advanced degrees. That means you'll learn pathology from a doctor who has actually managed patients with many of the diseases and conditions you'll learn about. You'll study anatomy from a physician who dissected cadavers in the same medical school lab you'll be learning in.

In the on-campus integrative medical clinic at National University, you'll intern under clinicians with DC or ND credentials. This can help you learn how to better manage clients with medical conditions. Additionally, you'll learn how to better interact with physicians, and understand what they will expect from you in the future when they refer their patients to you for massage.

Third, see if the school's faculty is active in the profession outside of the school.  Professionals who are passionate about what they do are usually also actively involved in organizations supporting that profession. The faculty at National University is a great example: The assistant dean of the program, Dr. Randy Swenson, is the former chair of the Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation. One of the university's research professors, Dr. Jerilyn Cambron, is president of the Massage Therapy Foundation, and she and another colleague founded MassageNet.org, a practice-based research network.

When you join the massage therapy program at National University, you'll be studying under a strong faculty that is committed to seeing you succeed. A little research in comparing schools will give you confidence that you are putting your education in good hands.