Harvard Men's Health Watch

Massage therapy

We don't know who gave the first massage or why. But we do know that massage is an ancient art that dates back to the dawn of civilization. The name is derived from the Greek word meaning "to work with the hands, as in kneading dough," and in 400 B.C., Hippocrates wrote, "The physician must be experienced in many things, but assuredly in rubbing."

Medicine has come a long way in the ensuing 2,400 years, and doctors no longer rely on the laying on of hands to heal their patients. Massage has come a long way, too. Masseurs are no longer viewed simply as high-priced locker room specialists (much less as shady ladies who need dough of a different sort), but as therapists.

Massage is respectable, but is it therapeutic? An estimated 25 million Americans visit about 90,000 practitioners 60 million times a year. Many feel better — but are they actually healthier?

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