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Historical timeline of manual medicine


As developed by the authors and direct quotes from:

  Massage Therapy Principles & Practice, by Susan G. Salvo

  Healing Massage Techniques – Holistic, Classic, and Emerging Methods – Second Edition, by Frances

M. Tappan

  Principles of Manual Medicine – Second Edition, by Philip E. Greenman

       CLICK HERE to watch Dr. Philip E. Greenman discusses somatic dysfunction.


If you know which year you want to start with, click on its link below to go directly there.

   15000B.C.    25 B.C.    1600    1825    1850    1880    1900    1920    1970    1992


15,000 B.C. – European cave paintings depict what appears to be the use of therapeutic touch.


8000 B.C. – The Yoga cult in India used respiratory exercises for religious and healing purposes as recorded in the Veda Books of Wisdom.


3000 B.C. – Chinese records reveal practice of massage.


2760 B.C. – Some historians argue the actual date of Nei Ching was written around this time. 


2000 B.C. – It was at this time the Inca had a higher success rate for trepanation (surgical procedure involving the removal of a segment of the skull), than the Europeans had in A.D.1800. Also at this time, it is believed that the art of massage was first mentioned in writing.


1800 B.C. – Knowledge of massage gradually becomes an integral part of Hindu tradition as exemplified by the sacred Ayur-veda.


Between 700 and 600 B.C. – The concept of health and medicine in the West began to take shape. Also during this time, the legendary Greek physician, Asclepius evolved into a god responsible for the emerging medical profession. His holy snake and staff still remain the symbols of the medical profession.


500 B.C. – The various ideas of healing and treatment in Greece merged into a techne iatriche (healing science). During this process, Iccus and Herodicus concerned themselves with exercise and the use of gymnastics.


460-375 B.C. – Life of Hippocrates, a Greek physician known as the “Father of Medicine.”


430 B.C. – At this time, Hippocrates wrote, “It is necessary to rub the shoulder following reduction of a dislocated shoulder. It is necessary to rub the shoulder gently and smoothly.”


300 B.C. – Manav Dharma Shastra, work mentioning therapeutic massage.


200 B.C. – Chinese manuscripts denote massage as one method of treatment for illness.


Between 201 B.C. and A.D. 1-100 – Chinese medicine began to take on its basic shape.


100 B.C. – Various schools of medical thought had been founded and had already begun to produce diverging ideas. These various ideas and beliefs were compiled under the name of the mythical Yellow Emperor and have become the classic scripture of traditional Chinese medicine, the Huang-ti-nei-ching. Although the exact date of the original writing of the work is unknown, it was already in its present form by approximately the first century B.C.


100-40 B.C. – Julius Caesar uses massage to help with his epilepsy.


90 B.C – Acupuncture is mentioned in Chinese medical writing.

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25 B.C – A.D. 50 – Life of Aulus Aurelius Cornelius Celsus, who wrote on friction.


A.D. 130-200  – Life of Galen, whose writings dominated Western medical thinking for 1500 years.


A.D. 476 – In this time, after the collapse of the Roman Empire, Western medicine experienced a period of decline.


A.D. 600 – The techniques and use of massage were well established in China and found their way into Japan.


A.D. 625-690 – Life of Paul of Aegina, among the last of the Greco-Roman writers to consider treatment by mechanical means and advocated the bending, stretching and rubbing of paralyzed limbs.


A.D. 642 – Following the fall of Alexandria, knowledge of Greek medicine spread throughout the Arabic world.


A.D. 700 – By this time, there was a Chinese ministry of health and a public health system.


A. D. 850-932 – An encyclopedic work by Persian Rhazes discussed Greek, Roman, and Arabic medical practices, including massage.


A.D. 980-1037 – Life of Abu-Ali al-Husayn ibn-Sina, generally known as Avicenna, a Persian physician who authored numerous medical books that remained standard until the 17th century. His Canon of Medicine was an especially famous medical text, which compiled the theoretical and practical medical knowledge of the time.


A.D. 1250-1550 – This was the time of the Renaissance; an exciting period in the history of medicine and medical treatments.


A.D. 1316 – First modern treatise on anatomy, Anothomia, written by Mondino dei Luzzi

1492 – Christopher Columbus, in an attempt to reach Asia from Europe, discovered America.

1493-1541 – Life of Philippus von Hohenheim, also known as Paracelsus, a Swiss physician, who laid the foundations of chemical pharmacology.


1510-1590 – Life of Ambroise Pare`, a French military surgeon, who established new surgical procedures. In addition to inventing several surgical instruments, Pare` was among the earliest modern physicians to discuss the therapeutic effects of massage, especially in orthopedic surgery cases. He even went so far as to classify various types of massage movements. Not until the sixteenth century was interest renewed when he sought an anatomical and physiologic foundation for mechanotherapy.


1514-1564 – Foundations of modern human anatomy in the West are established by Flemish physician Andreas Vesalius.


1530-1606 – Life of Girolamo Mercuriale, a notable Renaissance physician.


1551-1615 – Life of Timothy Bright, another notable Renaissance physician.


1569 – Girolamo Mercuriale writes De Arte Gymnastica, considered the first book in the field of sports medicine.


1578-1657 – Life of William Harvey, who demonstrated that blood circulation in animals, is impelled by the beat of the heart through arteries and veins.


1584 – Timothy Bright, while teaching at Cambridge University, writes his first medical work. It discusses baths, exercise, and massage.

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1600 – Publishing of two East Asian works dealing with massage. The Chinese publication contains a chapter on pediatric massage, and the Japanese publication deals with passive and active massage procedures.


1608-1679 – Life of Giovanni Alfonso Borelli, who carried out extensive anatomical dissections and had analyzed the phenomenon of muscular contraction.


1624-1689 – Life of Thomas Sydenham, an English physician who was most prominent in the realization that it is necessary to compile complete clinical descriptions of disease, generally at bedsides, and to develop specific remedies for each specific disease.


1700 – In Italy, Giovanni Borelli analyzed the phenomenon of muscular contraction. In England, William Harvey demonstrates that blood circulation is impelled by the beat of the heart. These discoveries enhance the acceptance of massage as therapeutic.


1728-1797 – Life of Simon Andre` Tissot, who was an important figure in physiotherapy.


Mid 1700’s – Simon Tissot publishes works on gymnastic exercises that recommend massage for various diseases.  


1776-1839 – Life of Pehr Henrik Ling, a Swedish physiologist, fencing major and gymnastics instructor. He began a study of massage after he had cured himself of rheumatism in the arm by percussions, and developed a method of massage consisting of the two disciplines. He based his system on physiology, which was just emerging as a science.


1784 – Dr. Edward Harrison graduated from Edinburgh University. He developed a sizable reputation in London by using manual medicine procedures and became alienated from his colleagues by his continued use of these procedures. 


The 1800’s  - The 19th century was a time of turmoil and controversy in medical practice.


1800 – Swedish physiologist, Pehr Ling, develops the ‘Ling System’ of medical gymnastics and exercise.


1813-1839 – Ling taught massage techniques at the Royal Central  Institute of Gymnastics, which he founded with government support. This was the first college to include massage in the curriculum.  Ling’s students subsequently published his theories, and through them and the many foreign students at the Central Institute of Stockholm, Ling’s system soon became known in a great part of the world. Today, we refer to most “standard” massage as Swedish Massage.

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1825-1861 – Life of Henry Gray, who wrote the first English edition of Gray’s Anatomy in 1858 and had completed the Second edition in 1861, just prior to his death. The American edition was released in 1859 with revisions including the correction of typos, index improvements, and the binding made more durable. As a physician, he held numerous prestigious positions as a lecturer, author and house surgeon with St. George’s Hospital in London. Just prior to his demise, he was being considered as the assistant surgeon for that hospital. St. George’s has numerous historical contributions, especially in the field of orthopedics and as to the use of medical massage. Through Gray’s death, we may also gain insight as to why numerous practitioners were reluctant to administer hands-on care. For it was due to his treating his nephew, whom had smallpox, that resulted in the end of this man’s brilliant career. Viruses, bacteria and aseptic technique were neither recognized nor observed in the healthcare of the day, and it would appear that physical contact was minimized, due to fear and ignorance, by many physicians and only employed by a brave few.


1828-1917 – Life of Andrew Taylor Still, a medical physician trained in the preceptor fashion of the day. His disenchantment with the medical practice of the day led to his formulation of a new medical philosophy, which he termed osteopathic medicine.


1839-1909 – Life of Johann Mezger, a Dutch physician who was a key individual in the history of massage.  Mezger is generally given credit for making massage a fundamental component of physical rehabilitation; he has been credited for the introduction of the still-used French terminology into the massage profession (e.g. effleurage, petrissage, and tapotement).


1843-1913 – Life of Just Lucas-Championniere, who advocated the use of massage and passive motion exercises after injuries, especially fractures. Championniere’s works would influence and serve to catapult numerous individuals to prominence. Initially affected was Sir Robert Jones, who in turn influenced Mary McMillan, James B. Mennell and Edgar Cyriax. McMillan was later recognized as the “mother of physiotherapy.” Mennell’s son John helped to found the North American Academy of Manipulative Medicine (NAAMM) and altruistically contributed to the works in the field. Cyriax’s son James was the first to reference reflex pain and became internationally renowned as a lecturer in the field of orthopedics. He championed physical assessment and manual soft tissue and structural technique.  After obtaining significant political favor for his work in structural and soft tissue manipulation, he became equally as renowned for his condemnation of other manipulative practitioner’s such as osteopaths and chiropractors.  Therefore, he is either considered a hero or a villain depending upon the practitioner that’s consulted. 


1845-1913 – Life of Daniel David Palmer, a grocer known to practice as a magnetic healer and a self-educated manipulative therapist.


1849-1919 – Life of Sir William Osler, who was called the “most influential physician in history,” and the “master of hands-on physical assessment.” He also helped to create the system of postgraduate training for physicians, which is still followed today.

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Mid 1800’s – The Sweet Family practiced the lay art of ‘bone setting” in New England in the mid 19th Century. Some family members migrated to the mid west United States, and  while there are no records indicating an association with Andrew Still, it is possible that either they or individuals that they influenced, provided Dr. Still with his insight of structural manipulation. According to records, he did not obtain the name as the “lightning bonesetter” or use structural manipulation until 5 years after his development of osteopathy.


1852-1943 – Life of John Harvey Kellogg, who wrote numerous books on massage, and published Good Health, a magazine that targeted the general public


Between 1854-1918 – The practice of massage developed from an obscure, unskilled trade to a field of medical health care, and the profession of physical therapy began.


1856 – Ling System introduced in the United States


1874 – Andrew Taylor Still first proposed his philosophy and practice of osteopathy.


1879 – It was at this time, some 5 years after his announcement of the development of osteopathy, that Andrew Taylor Still became known as the “lightning bonesetter.”

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Late 1800’s – Dr. Douglas Graham publishes several books on the history of massage.


1881-1961 – Life of Bartlett Joshua Palmer, son of Daniel David Palmer, gave the chiropractic profession its momentum, although it was his father who is given credit for the origin of chiropractic.


1883 – Nissen opens the Swedish Health Institute for the Treatment of Chronic Disease.


1880 – About this time, Just Marie Marcellin Lucas-Championniere claimed that in fractures, the soft tissue union as well as bony union should be considered.


1888 – Nissen’s paper “Swedish Movement and Massage” is published in several medical journals.


1889 – Sir William Osler became the first professor of medicine at John Hopkins University.


1892 – The first college of osteopathic medicine, the American School of Osteopathy, was established in Kirksville, Missouri. Andrew Taylor Still who, prior to this date, had a preceptor program that was the practice of the day, founded the college. Also at this time, Sir William Osler wrote the textbook The Principles and Practice of Medicine.


1894 – Formation of The Society of Trained Masseuses in Great Britain.


1895 – Dr. Daniel D. Palmer first founded chiropractic as a science, art, and philosophy. Dr. Palmer reportedly “cured” a janitor who was deaf in one ear for over 2 years by “adjusting” the janitor’s neck vertebra back to normal. After which, the janitor’s hearing was restored. Dr. Palmer instituted the profession of chiropractic and established the first school in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. While it has never been proven that Palmer was ever a patient, employee or student of Still’s, it is known that they associated with one another in the early 1900’s in Clinton, Iowa. Therefore, there appears to be a prior history in the mid-west between the descendants of the Sweet family and the students of Still being the earliest of structural manipulators of this region. However, it was the prodigious works of D. D. Palmer, but most especially, his son Bartlett Joshua, and the students that came after, which established spinal manipulation as a stand-alone treatment regime.


1899 – Around this time, Sir William Bennett of England was so impressed with Lucas-Championniere’s idea that he started a revolutionary treatment with the use of massage at St. George’s Hospital. Also at this time, the first edition of The Merck Manual was introduced, which was reported to be the most comprehensive manual of Materia Medica to date. It consisted of 192 pages. The 17th edition, released 100 years later has over 2800 pages.

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1900 - Albert J. Hoffa published his book, Technik der Massage, in Germany. This book is still the most basic of all texts on massage, giving the clearest description of how to execute the stroke and advocating the procedures that underlie all modern techniques.


1901-1997 – Life of Janet G. Travell, in 95 years of life, she served as the personal physician for Presidents John F. Kennedy and L.B. Johnson. Other than those years devoted to the president’s of the United States, she researched, developed and taught what was to become a field of pain management previously omitted by modern medicine. In concert with David Simons, she released a two-volume set of what was to become the medical text and authority on Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction - The Trigger Point Manual. Her treatments varied from the stretching and spraying with vassal coolant, localized trigger point injection, to massage and acupuncture. And while her greatest emphasis was dedicated to cryo, pharmaceutical, and home care relief; her acknowledgment of soft tissue and structural manipulation not only gave purpose to these age-old remedies, but also served to reintegrate manual technique back into mainstream medicine.


1902 – Douglas Graham, a strong advocate of massage, published A Treatise on Massage, Its History, Mode of Application and Effects.


1905 – Sir William Osler moved to England at this time to take up the Regius Chair of Medicine that he held until his death in 1919.


1911-1915 – It was during this time that Mary McMillan was associated with Sir Robert Jones (a leading orthopedic surgeon in England and president of the British Orthopedic Association) where they served at the clinic at Southern Hospital in Liverpool, England. McMillan served as chief aide at Walter Reed Army Hospital where her influence on present massage techniques was of fundamental importance. She received her special training in London at the National Hospital for Nervous Diseases, at St. George’s Hospital with Sir William Bennett, and at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital.


1912-1935 – During this time, James B. Mennell, served as a medical officer and lecturer of massage at the Training School of St. Thomas’s Hospital, London, England. Until his death in March 1957, he worked constantly to interest the medical field in the importance and usefulness of massage.


1913 – Elizabeth Gould translated Max Bohm’s Massage, Its Principles and Techniques, which includes some interpretations of Hoffa’s techniques.


1917 - James B. Mennell, a medical officer and lecturer of massage, wrote his text, Physical Treatment by Movement, Manipulation and Massage.


1918 – The Society of Trained Masseuses had nearly 5,000 members.

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1920 – Chartered Society of Massage and Medical Gymnastics is founded through merger of Society of Trained Masseuses and Institute of Massage and Remedial Exercise.


1921-1925 – During this time, Mary McMillan was director of physiotherapy (courses for graduates) at Harvard Medical School. Also, 1922 the birth of David G. Simons.


1926 - John S. Coulter became the first full-time academic physician in physical medicine at the Northwestern University Medical School.


1929 – Elisabeth Dicke developed an approach to massage that emphasizes the use of specific reflex zones, a system known as Bindegewebs massage.


1936-1951 – During this time, Bartlett J. Palmer maintained the Palmer Research Clinic in Davenport, Iowa. People who were sick and dying visited the clinic to get well by natural means.


1937 – Beginning at this time, Gertrude Beard contributed to the study of massage through her teaching at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.


1939 – The membership of the Chartered Society of Massage and Medical Gymnastics is approximately 12,000.


1944 – Harold D. Storms published an article describing a massage stroke he used for both diagnostic and therapeutic measures, particularly for fibrocystic nodules.


1947 – The field of physical medicine and rehabilitation, known as physiatry, is established as a separate medical specialty.


1958 – During the “Great Leap Forward,” the combining of Chinese and Western medicine resulted.

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Mid 1970’s – The Council on Chiropractic Education (CCE) petitioned the U.S. Department of Education for recognition as the accrediting agency for chiropractic education.


Late 1970’s - It was in the late 1970’s that increased recognition of chiropractic in both Australia and New Zealand was found.


1977 – John Mennell was instrumental in opening the membership in the North American Academy of Manipulative Medicine (NAAMM) to osteopathic physicians.

1983 – A 6-day workshop was held in Fischingen, Switzerland, which included approximately 35 experts in manual medicine from throughout the world. Also at this time, Travell and Simons’ released Volume 1 of the first edition of Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction – The Trigger Point Manual.


1985 – The death of James Cyriax, who is well known for his textbooks in the field of joint manipulation and also fostered the expanded education and scope of physical therapists. He incorporated manual medicine procedures in the practice of “orthopedic medicine” and founded the Society for Orthopedic Medicine and openly condemned the fields of osteopathic and chiropractic. 


1986 – In the summer issue of The Massage Journal, Patricia J. Benjamin notes “Massage Therapy is an emerging profession in the 1980s.”


1989 -    Philip E. Greenman, D.O. released the first edition of Principles of Manual Medicine,

CLICK HERE to watch Dr. Philip E. Greenman discusses somatic dysfunction.

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1992 – American Massage Therapy Association is successful in the establishment of the National Certification Examination for therapeutic massage and bodywork. Also at this time, the NAAMM merged with The American Association of Orthopedic Medicine. The fifth edition of Spinal Manipulation was published, with coauthors being E.A. Day and M.A. Bookout. The Office of Alternative Medicine (OAM) was formed under the Director of The National Institutes of Health (NIH) for the purpose of evaluating alternative health treatments. They considered any treatment not widely taught in American medical schools as alternative medicine.   


1995 – There were 17 colleges of osteopathic medicine in the United States, graduating over 2000 students per year.


1996 – A multidisciplined committee was formed to establish standards on acute low back pain. The findings of this group were later adopted by the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, the insurance industry and the U.S. Government. Treatment recommendations were rest, massage, structural manipulation, medications, and in worse case scenarios, surgical intervention.  Also in this same year Dr. Greenman released the Second edition of Principles of Manual Medicine.

CLICK HERE To Watch Philip E. Greeman, D.O. discusses somatic dysfunction.


1997 – The death of legendary Janet G. Travell.
Travell and Simons' Trigger Point Flip Charts|Book|Softbound
Travell and Simons' Trigger Point Flip Charts|Book|Softbound
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Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction: The Trigger Point Manual; Vol. 2., The Lower Extremities

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1999 – David Simons released the Second Edition Volume 1 of Travell and Simons’ Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction – The Trigger Point Manual. The 1999 Omnibus legislation established a White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine Policy to study issues regarding research, training and certification of CAM practitioners, insurance coverage, and other alternative medical issues.


2003– Dr. Greenman released the Third edition of Principles of manual Medicine.

CLICK ON PLAY BUTTON  To Watch Philip E. Greeman, D.O. discusses somatic dysfunction.

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2010 – Death of David G. Simons