History of Massage

The powerful impact of massage is not new.  Heidi Johnson, massage therapist and owner and operator of Thrive Massage and Bodywork, LLC, has been practicing for 20 years, building on the evolution of ancient knowledge and modern medical massage research. And massage is not new to Ann Arbor. Many of you know of her work from Heidi Johnson Massage in downtown Ann Arbor, where she has helped reduce pain and speed recovery from physical work, exercise, injury and medical procedures for over 20  years.



In 460 BC, Hippocrates wrote, “The physician must be experienced in many things, but assuredly in rubbing”. When the words were written, the practice of professional massage therapy had already been around a long time. A hieroglyphic dating from 2330 BC in The Tomb of Akmanthor reveals two men receiving bodywork on their feet and hands. This ancient Egyptian site is also known as “The Tomb of the Physician” and the word “massage” may be traced to the Arabic “massa.”

As the practice of deep tissue massage evolved in ancient Greece, its came to be known by the word “massō” meaning to knead with the hands as one kneads dough. When the Roman Empire enveloped the Greek city-states, the term evolved to “massa.”

While the popularity of massage spread across the western world, it was also in full bloom in Ancient China with references in thirty different chapters of the Nei, the famous compilation of Chinese medicine.

In the 19th and early 20th century, whether Americans were working on a farm or in a factory, life for men and women was a physically challenging, and even the executive class had to shovel coal into their home furnaces to stay warm in the winter. Then as now, women reported higher incidences of persistent pain.

The effectiveness in relieving pain, anxiety and depression brought massage therapy a wave of popularity in the mid-19thcentury across the United States, American therapeutic practices building on techniques practiced in Sweden.

Today, despite the shift to our service based economy, some 76.5 million American adults report a problem with pain that persists around the clock, with pain frequency increasing as people age. Pain reduces the joy of living, but persistent pain is also a threat to business productivity and also can be a key factor in career success or disappointment. People who radiate health and energy are the most admired. Those who feel good and feel good about themselves get promoted, earn more income, see more of the world, and are able to build a more comfortable retirement.

In today’s high stress life, massage can be an effective alternative to pain medication, and, should medication still be necessary, massage therapy may reduce the dosages required. Both the addictive effects and unpleasant side effects of pain medication are frequently reported in medical studies and by the news media. The benefits of massage are documented by peer-reviewed medical research and include pain relief, reduced rates of anxiety and depression. Other documented massage benefits include frequent temporary reduction of blood pressure and heart rate, and faster recovery rates for muscle performance. Research also has shown that massage helps reduce pain and pain intensity on people afflicted with metastatic bone pain.

While results vary with individuals, and massage cannot guarantee that pain will go away, the benefits of visiting Ann Arbor’s Thrive Massage and Bodywork may include:

  • Faster recovery from physical work, exercise and fitness programs.
  • Better athletic performance in professional and amateur events.
  • Reduction of headache pain.
  • Reduction of lower back pain.
  • Relief of postoperative pain.
  • Reduced back, hip and leg pain in pregnant women.
  • Reduced pain for those suffering with myalgia.
  • Reduced pain and increased function for those suffering from Carpel Tunnel Syndrome.

When pain is reduced, wellness will increase. While massage can bring effective pain relief in a crisis, regular massage should be considered for everyone’s health management program. This is something known around the world for more than 4,300 years, and yet sometimes even in Ann Arbor we have to remind ourselves that not only do we enjoy a professional massage but we also need it.

Contact Thrive Massage & Bodywork, LLC, today to inquire about what Ann Arbor’s best massage practice can do for you, your friends and your loved ones.