Massage, or the practise of using touch to cure illness, has existed since the beginning of human history. It has been used instinctively long before people knew just why it had such beneficial effects. It seems to have existed under different names among all ancient cultures. References to massage have been found in Chinese literature dating back 3000 years before the Christian era.
Eastern and Western massage have taken off in different directions. In the West, the body has been approached from an objective point of view with the focus being on tangible physical structures such as organs, bones and muscles. Any malfunction has been approached mechanically as a separate entity. This differs radically from the eastern approach which has been more subjective and where the focus has been on the energy within the body. Here problems have been looked upon as a disorder of the whole body and the concept of energy lines and points has been very important.
Swedish massage, which is the most popular style of massage practiced in the West today, focuses on the relaxation of the physical body and does not have an energetic understanding of the body. Thai massage, on the other hand, is an eastern style of bodywork based on the concept of energy. The philosophy behind Thai massage will be discussed more in the section on Philosophy and Theory of Thai Massage. Fortunately, with more and more contact between east and west the best of both approaches is becoming more cross culturally shared.