Acupressure massage history explained

Acupressure massage history explained: From cosmology to science

What do the Old Stone Age and the Iceman have to do with acupressure massage? Well, a lot!

Because, if you want to understand the real benefits of acupressure massage, you should first understand its history. Because acupressure massage is not something new.


8,000 years of empiric knowledge

Actually, there are over 8000 years of empiric knowledge of acupressure massage. Based on trial and error we now use the acupressure techniques like massage therapy to prevent and cure ailments.


Old Stone Age

Imagine living about 8000 years ago. You would be living in the so-called Old Stone Age. Probably most of your days you would be gathering plants and fishing, hunting or scavenging wild animals. You would live in a small community. And if you were sick, you would go to a traditional doctor. There were no hospitals.


First acupressure tools

At that time acupressure was already used for treatment. Archaeologically research reveals that around 6000 BC long sharp bones and needles sharpened stones were used for acupressure.


The Iceman’s tattoos

If we make a time jump, there is proof of the use of acupuncture around 3300 BC. Anthropologists studied the Iceman, the so-called mummy that was found in 1991 in a glacier. The Iceman has over 61 tattoos. These tattoos were organized into 19 different groups. Each group of tattoos is a set of horizontal or vertical lines.


Joint and spinal degeneration

These tattoo groupings tend to cluster around the lower back and joints. It is very interesting to see that research reveals that these were the places where the Iceman was suffering from joint and spinal degeneration. Therefore it is believed that the tattoos served a therapeutic purpose. Researchers think that the tattoos marked locations for acupuncture or acupressure treatments. Or maybe the tattoos itself were the treatments.



Years later, people who were sick would go to traditional doctors, called Shamans. In Thailand, they were called hermits, Ruetsis. They used to live in the forest, studying traditional medicine, herbs, massage and natural remedies to cure people.


Physiological problems

Archaeologically research reveals that 80% of the consults of the people who went to Ruetsis in Thailand came for physiological problems. They had headaches, back pains, stiff shoulders and pain in the arms etc. Actually the same ailments we have still nowadays.



The acupressure massage that is still given in Thailand nowadays, was introduced in Thailand by the Buddhist monks who arrived from India during the second and third century BC. One of the few ancient written texts of the traditional Thai massage you can find nowadays in the temple of Wat Po in Bangkok.

These drawings illustrate the principles of traditional Thai medicine: that energy flows through the body along ten major channels, meridians, or sen lines. If an obstruction occurs in any of these channels it is believed that pain or disease results.


Traditional Thai medicine banned

The traditional Thai medicine, which includes traditional Thai acupressure massage was banned in the country in 1916 due to the influence of Western medicine that was introduced in Thailand by missionaries and western physicians. However traditional Thai medicine revived around 1978 when the World Health Organization (WHO) urged its member countries to include traditional medicine and medicinal plants in their primary healthcare program. Nowadays traditional Thai medicine is popular, used in hospitals in Thailand and is gaining acknowledgement around the world.


Cosmology versus physiology

For us as traditional Thai acupressure teachers and owners of the first International Training Massage School in Europe, we use the knowledge of acupressure massage in our daily lives. However, when explaining the benefits of acupressure massage to our students we add extra information.


The ocean of Chi

We can describe cosmology versus physiology. Thousands of years ago we did not have the knowledge of biology and physiology as we have now. At that time the benefits of acupressure massage were explained by the unblocking of the energy through the meridians. The energy was called Chi or Qi. And the area of the abdomen was seen as the ocean of the Chi.


Chi or blood?

When we now talk about energy, Chi or Qi, we like to describe this energy as blood circulation. How blood provides oxygen towards the millions of cells that we are made of. Red blood cells carry oxygen to the cells. Blood plasma carries nutrition. Acupressure massage also improves the movement of lymph, therefore improves your immune system. Acupressure massage increases flexibility and also nerve stimulation. Thousands of years ago they did not know how the digestion system works and why massage of the abdomen is so powerful. They did not know how stress and the level of cortisol are related.


Scientific knowledge

In those times acupressure massage was done by trial and error. We now have so much scientific knowledge that we do use the same traditional acupressure techniques. However we don’t use sharp stones, but our own body like thumbs, knees, elbow, forearm, feet or a wooden stick to give acupressure and we teach by explaining the scientific way.


Modern therapy

However, to understand the benefits of acupressure massage in a scientific way, it is important to know the cosmological way the benefits were explained thousands of years ago. And then mix that with modern therapy.

We keep on updating our knowledge on acupressure massage therapy because every now and then new research and evidence is found. It is so interesting! But one thing did not change these years: The knowledge that acupressure massage works!

We wish you a healthy, happy and stress-free day!

Nicole & Manel

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