Friday, April 13, 2012

Hippocratic Massage

"The  wisdom of  the  ancients appears  to  great  advantage in  some of their remarks about rubbing, and it requires years of practical acquaintance
with  massage  in  order  to  fully  appreciate  them."

- Hippocrates     


The Father of Medicine, Greek Physician Hippocrates (480 B.C.), used "anatripsis" to refer to the upward strokes (toward the heart) he used to the extremities followed by a light stroke back (nerve strokes) and then another upward stroke to push the venous and lymph towards the heart. Interestingly, the word literally translates into English as "to rub up." These strokes could have varying pressure from soft moderate or hard, depending on the condition of the soft tissues upon palpation, the effect desired, or the need of. He was specific about the physiological effects of each of these methods of anatripsis: "Friction can relax and attenuate; Hard pressure braces; soft pressure relaxes; and moderate pressure thickens."

In many of the sessions I performed, I have been using the same technique and I do not even know that they all have part of their roots in Hippocratic massage. And though I customize my massage based on where I work and the type of clientele and their needs, the technique have always been either western, eastern or somewhere in between. Today, there are a number of research that supports Anatripsis. It has many clinical applications and you can find the techniques infused in many modern disciplines of manual therapy, bodywork and Massage.

Here is an interesting article I stumble upon at home with some of my old files from my graduate days, I think it was one of those old research papers I submitted late. It was written by Robert Noah Calvert, the founder of Massage Magazine. Most of the material for the article comes from the World of Massage Museum's collection and Calvert's book, The History of Massage, published in February 2002 by Healing Arts Press.

- Leo Feraer-Oporto     

Rubbing Up vs. Rubbing Down

Medical lore was passed down from generation to generation long before human beings settled in mud huts or crude villages between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers nearly 10,000 years ago. In these early and subsequent civilizations, members of the priestly classes were the keepers of most knowledge, especially that related to the healing arts-spiritual and physical. They were the overseers of the welfare of the people, and healing practices were intricately tied to their religious rituals.

The shaman was the first identifiable priest-physician. Today most people think of the shaman as a medicine man, sorcerer or witch doctor, dancing amid beating drums, chants, and the rattling of beads and charms. The image of the shaman is that of a primitive, archaic, outdated, bizarre and mysterious man. But the true picture of the shaman is far from this myopic and masculine view. The shaman is a noble figure in history, and both men and women have served their people in this venerable role. The shaman was the first undisputed champion of magico-religious life in society. It is from the ritualized healing practices of the shaman that civilized societies have inherited nearly all their healing arts.

In ancient times disease was believed to be caused by demons, spirits or the sinful acts of the patient. This concept of disease was based on something magically put into the body or magically taken from it. Despite the use of herbal remedies, ritual was a significant aspect of treatment—the superior power of one magic over another was regarded as the curing factor. The shaman was both diagnostician and treating physician. Massage was used in these rituals as a part of the overall treatment for a disease. It was a form of coaxing, or intimate and personal coercion, by use of the skilled hands of the practitioner to cleanse or chase demons from the body.

In The Epic of Medicine, medical historian Felix Marti-Ibanez, M.D., writes, "Magic represented man's earliest attempts to use his own strength to solve the problems of health and disease … Also used in therapy were fruit, cereals, spices, flowers (garlic, roses, oats, laurel, and tamarind), mineral and animal substances, massage, plasters and baths." The fundamental remnants of an archaic past remain evident in the practices of contemporary shamanic ritual healing. Modern shamans, according to an expert on the subject, Mircea Eliade, retain many of the same attributes and methods used by their ancient counterparts.

The antecedent priest-physician method of rubbing prior to the Greeks was to rub down—rub, brush, blow, or suck to move evil spirits or the invading sickness from the core of the body toward and out the extremities. The Greeks altered this tradition to conduct the rubbings from the extremities inward to the center of the body, so waste materials that would contain disease were removed through the alimentary tract with the movement of vibration and friction, assisted with proper diet, rest and plenty of water.

John Harvey Kellogg, writing in 1895, criticizes a Japanese practitioner because he worked toward the extremities instead of in the direction of the blood flow toward the heart. "He is to be criticized, however, for one serious fault in his operations—that of [rubbing] down, instead of up. A portion of the good done is thus neutralized, one object of scientific massage being to help back toward the center the blood which is lingering in the superficial veins."

This is not, however, the end of the story. Today we find, as did Kellogg a little more than a century ago, indigenous people from around the world continuing the ancient shamanic tradition of rubbing down along with the modern practitioner using the tradition of rubbing up begun by Hippocrates.

Robert Noah Calvert: The History of Massage;  
Healing Arts Press; Feb 2002.

- Leo Feraer-Oporto     

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