History of Massage Therapy 1950-2000

History of Massage (20th Century, 1950 – 2000)

1948 – Francis Tappan’s Masters Degree Thesis – Development of Modern Massage Techniques compared the methods of J. Hoffa, Mary McMillian and James Mennell (who were instrumental in development of massage being practiced in PT settings).

1950’s –  Francis Marie Tappan (1915-1999) and Gertrude Beard (1887-1971) wrote books and articles on massage techniques. Tappan’s Guide to Massage Therapy.

Frances M. Tappan approached Patricia Benjamin to join her as coauthor of Healing Massage Techniques for its 3rd edition (1998). After Dr. Tappan’s passing in 1999, Dr. Benjamin continued to update and improve Tappan’s Handbook of Healing Massage Techniques (2010), which remains a standard in the field. Dr. Benjamin authored Professional Foundations for Massage Therapists (2009) to address related professional competencies and combined that information with basic massage skills and applications in Pearson’s Massage Therapy: Blending Art with Science (2011). This latest edition of Tappan’s Handbook combines all three of its predecessors for the most comprehensive and up-to-date presentation of the theory and practice of massage therapy available today. Tappan’s Handbook of Massage Therapy: Blending Art and Science, sixth edition, remains true to Frances Tappan’s vision of healing massage as holistic manual therapy that contributes to the well-being of humanity in so many ways.

1952 – Janet Travell researches Triggerpoints.

1952-Hoshino Therapy developed by Tomezo Hoshino, Hoshino Therapy is an official medical therapy in Argentina.

1956 – Margaret Knott and Dorothy Vass wrote a book called “Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation”.

1959- North Dakota Massage Legislation

1960 -The American Massage & Therapy Association (AM&TA later to become AMTA) was incorporated as a non-profit organization in 1960.  A Code of Ethics was developed in 1960, and the Massage Journal replaced The Masseur as the official AM&TA publication in 1962.

1960’s – John Barnes Developed Myofascial Release Therapy

1960’s – Albert Baumgartner used Massage in Athletics.

1960’s – Esalen became a center to explore human potential.  Ida Rolf did her first trainings there. Deane Juhan worked there. Bernie Gunther trained people to do massage.

1961 – Tappan’s textbook. “Massage Techniques: A Case Method Approach. (expanded info from her Thesis.

1960′s late- John Barnes, developed his own version of Myofascial Release Therapy 

1962 – Esalen Founded by Michael Murphy and Dick Price

1964 – Applied Kinesiology was founded by Chiropractor George Goodheart

1966 – Raymond Nimmo-Wrote book ” The Receptor Tonus Method “, which came from his work with “noxious generative points”.

1967 – New York Massage Legislation

1967 – Montana Massage Legislation Created

1968 – Ruth William’s writes “25 years: History in the Making”  which is the history of the AMTA.  Read the full book here in PDF format.

1968 – The Heartwood Institute founded.

The Transformative 70’s

1970 – Paul St John’s Neuromuscular Therapy aka Triggerpoint therapy

1970 – Massage schools started being curriculum approved schools as compared to schools from 1930-1970 that were self credentialed schools.  1987 outside accrediting agencies were created to accredit schools.

1971 – Core Energetics developed by Dr. John Pierraolcos.

1971-Core Energetics Started by Dr. John Pierralcos in 1971, core energetics adds a more spiritual aspect to bioenergetics.
Core Energetics: Developing the Capacity to Love and Heal
by John C Pierrakos

1972 – Moshe Felednkrais writes Awareness Through Movement which follows up to his 1949  publication “The Body and Mature Behavior” and  “The Potent Self: A Study of Spontaneity and Compulsion.

1972 – George Downing  “The Massage Book” – An international classic book on the art of massage for lay people.

1973 – Zero Balancing developed by osteopath and acupuncturist, Dr. Fritz Smith

1996 – Myotherapy developed by Bonnie Prudden.

1977 – Aston – Patterning developed by Judith Aston

1978  – Hellerwork created by Joseph Heller (after training with Ida Rolf and others)  www.hellerwork.com  ,  www.josephheller.com

1978 – Soma Neroumuscular Integration developed by Bill Williams Ph.D who studied with Ida Rolf

1978 – Frances Tappan writes Healing Massage Techniques: A Study of Eastern and Western Methods”. She had studied Traditional Chinese Medicine in Taiwan and acupressure.

Of course the 80’s

1980sWatsu (water therapy) was developed by Harold Dull 

1980’s-Taws Method (Soft Tissue Release) was developed by Stuart Taws (his website), a British sports rehabilitation therapist now residing in America

1980  AMTA had 1,400 members

1980 – 9 states have licensing

1981 – Lauren Berry, a physical therapist and mechanical engineer, recorded his methods of manipulating joints, “The Berry Method, Volume I”

1981–  Lawrence H. Jones identifies tenderpoints and develops “Strain- Counterstrain” techniques of treating points.

1983 – Janet Travellwrites book. with David Simons.  Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction:  The Triggerpoint Manual : Volumes I & 2

1985 – Massage Magazine Started by Robert Calvert.

1985 – 10 states have state massage licensing.

1987 – outside accrediting agencies were created to accredit schools.

1987 – ABMP was founded by Sherri Williamson ( a disgruntled massage therapists according to Robert Calvert in his book “The History of Massage”)

“But not all bodyworkers were happy to join the AMTA. Some viewed it as“the Swedish massage organization” and refused to be linked to it. They saw themselves and their disciplines as quite distinct from what they considered old-school massage. Others were libertarians, heirs of the hippie counterculture and human potential movement who distrusted “the establishment” and could not bear the hierarchy and internal politics inherent in professional associations. AMTA, which had been advocating for a unified massage therapy profession since 1943, became a symbol of everything they rejected. This set of circumstances left an opening for the formation of a new general membership organization for massage and bodywork practitioners. The Associated Professional Massage Therapists (APMT) was founded in 1986 by Sherri Williamson and her business partner, Richard Smith. Promotional
materials soon added “& Bodyworkers” to its official moniker, and in 1990 it adopted the name Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals (ABMP). The earliest APMT brochure laid out its basic philosophy as a member services organization welcoming all practitioners.

The purpose of APMT is to provide professional bodyworkers with an effective service organization and professional liability insurance. Membership is open to all qualified professionals in the “allied” health fields such as massage therapists, Polarity therapists, Shiatsu practitioners, etc…worldwide. APMT is operated on an International Level. There are no meetings to attend…no local chapters…no local officers…no hidden or
additional fees. All APMT members have equal standing in the association. Your professional credentials speak for themselves! APMT was essentially a for-profit business providing benefits such as liability insurance, discounts on products, and a newsletter. Mimicking professional associations like the AMTA, it also gave full members a wall
certificate for display, listing in a membership directory, patches and pins, and in its early days, the designation “RPMT” or Registered Professional Massage
Therapist. Its membership levels began with the standard of 500 hours of education in a manual therapy, but also accommodated those with 100 hours or less plus
experience. As a recruitmentstrategy, it offered a commission
to those who sponsored new members, and took advantage of anti-AMTA sentiments to portray itself as the “big tent” that welcomed all practitioners of the massage and bodywork profession. Its stated goal was to become “the largest, most effective, most widely recognized international professional massage therapist organization.” This marketing campaign ignited a fierce competitive rivalry with AMTA.
APMT positioned itself as an alternative professional association that was fighting for freedom to practice against the AMTA’s attempts to create a monopoly controlling the profession. AMTA viewed APMT as weakening the profession with lax standards and duping members into thinking it was
a comparable organization. Most practitioners of the time had difficulty distinguishing between a for-profit member services organization and democratically run professional association – or they dismissed the differences as insignificant. In an interview with Massage magazine in 1989, Williamson
rejected the idea of having state chapters or holding meetings, saying that “we do not want to develop a petty bureaucracy.” The whole point is that we are here to provide services that people need or want. And, with a centralized organization we don’t have to debate with 15,000 people as to whether we can put our ideas into action or not. Instead,
we can take a great idea with the general consensus of the membershipand do it… Some people say we should have meetings so that people can have input. Members have input! If a member sends us an idea, and if the majority of the membership thinks it’s a good idea, or if we just think it’s a
good idea, it gets implemented, if it’s financially reasonable and feasible. APMT offered action unencumbered by the slow, messy, and often frustrating democratic process requiring elected officers and committee meetings. AMTA at that time was experiencing growing pains. There were dramatic changes in its leadership and it had outgrown the inefficient volunteer structure then in place. It was vulnerable to a rival that offered a product that on the surface appeared identical and that provided more efficient customer service.
AMTA saw APMT as just a lucrative scheme to sell professional liability and other types of insurance. And to make matters more contentious, Williamson and her corporation took positions against and actively opposed national certification and state licensing efforts mounted by the AMTA in the 1990s. The fledgling organization, currently called the Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals, had a fundamentally different perspective from the AMTA.
Although ABMP initially spoke about massage and bodywork as a profession, it began to describe it in commercial terms as an “industry” and opposed anything that would interfere with the ability of bodyworkers to define their own work and practice in a free marketplace. Their programs stressed
helping members to be successful as business owners, rather than advancing as professionals in a more traditional sense.

ABMP had unwittingly tapped into a fundamental split in thinking about massage and bodywork. The forces working for a massage therapy profession in the mold of other health professions were suddenly confronted wit an alternative view for the future, that is, massage and bodywork as a multi-discipline industry or trade. These two perspectives had existed for some time, but the “massage as industry” group had never been an organized force before. In the coming years, AMTA and ABMP, the two standard bearers
for these opposing viewpoints, would shape the debate about the future of massage and bodywork in the United States.” A History in Archetypes by Patricia Benjamin

1986-1990 Robert King was president of AMTA

1988 – National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB) created by the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA). which provided the seed money for startup.  The NCE was originally started as an AMTA entrance exam and quickly moved to becoming a national exam which we all know is not so national. See also: History of National Certification Board in Massage and Bodywork

 1989 – AMTA also created the Commission on Massage Training/Accreditation (COMTAA) in 1989 when it was created by the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) to set educational standards for the massage therapy profession with a goal of eventual recognition by the U.S. Department of Education (USDE).


The process of establishing an accrediting agency recognized by the United States Department of Education (USDE) began in the early 1980’s when AMTA national officers visited the USDE to make contact with federal officials. In 1982, the AMTA Council of Schools was established, in recognition of a shared concern among educators and school directors for the quality of massage therapy education. Early council work focused on the need to develop and maintain educational standards.

In 1985, the COS formed an Accreditation Committee, which did preliminary research on the feasibility of creating an accrediting agency. Experts on accreditation were invited to meetings to educate COS members. The Shiatsu Feasibility Subcommittee of the AMTA Education Committee, many of whose members were COS members, performed an in-depth study which resulted in far-reaching proposals to the AMTA. In 1988, a moratorium on the school approval process was declared by the AMTA because approval had become untenable.

The COS accreditation committee was reorganized to prepare a feasibility study and to research the steps necessary for the AMTA to form an accrediting agency. In 1989, the COS and the AMTA Education Committee issued a recommendation to the AMTA Board of Directors that it officially establish an accrediting commission, Commission on Massage Training Approval/Accreditation (COMTAA), to evaluate and accredit massage therapy programs and to administer the annual renewal process for the approved schools until such time as all AMTA schools could have the opportunity to go through the new accreditation process.

The AMTA acted on the COS recommendation, and the Commission on Massage Training Approval/Accreditation was established. In the following two years, with the assistance of the Program Approval Review Committee (PARC) of the AMTA, the COS, and additional AMTA volunteers and staff, COMTAA created and implemented standards, policies and procedures that would meet the rigorous standards of the USDE for accrediting agencies. Recognition by the Council on Post-secondary Accreditation was pursued as a developmental stage toward the ultimate goal of USDE recognition. (COPA was dissolved in 1993.) USDE recognition was considered desirable by both the COS and the AMTA Board of Directors because accreditation by such a recognized agency would allow schools to have access to federal funds for their students, and it would assure quality and credibility for massage therapy accreditation.

In 1992, in an effort to combat widespread fraud, waste and abuse in the federal Title IV financial aid programs, Congress passed the Higher Education Amendments. This law requires USDE-recognized accrediting agencies to act as “gatekeeper” of federal funds. The responsibility for oversight of student loan programs for years had been shared by states, accrediting agencies and the USDE. Congress determined in 1992 that this triad was not able to guarantee program integrity and financial accountability in higher education institutions. The Amendments created a new triad in which the states (which have a new enforcement capability) and the accrediting agencies (which have new requirements to meet) each have responsibility for monitoring and reporting to each other and to the USDE.

The revision of the Higher Education Act required new regulations to be written by the Secretary of Education. Executive administrations and political parties changed, however, and the new regulations were not issued until the end of April 1994. In the meantime, the USDE stopped accepting applications for new accrediting agencies. A newly-created National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity, charged with recognition of accrediting agencies in light of the new regulations, had its first meeting in June 1994 to begin to deal with the two year backlog of applications and renewals, as well as to withdraw recognition from agencies which do not meet the new requirements. Many areas of the new regulations still await interpretation and clarification.

While waiting for the USDE regulations to be issued, COMTAA continued to accredit programs and continued to refine its policies and procedures to be ready to come into compliance with those regulations.

In October 1996, an elected COMTAA Commission was seated. The members were elected by the current COMTAA approved and accredited programs. The representation on the Commission included 2 massage school administrators, 2 massage school educators, 2 public members, 1 each of professional academic, massage therapist employer and massage therapist practitioner.

In 1997, a five year formalized agreement was reached between COMTA and AMTA outlining the areas of support, limits and responsibilities of each party. This agreement emphasized the continuing commitment of COMTA and AMTA for USDE recognition as part of emphasizing the commitment to improve the quality of massage therapy education and went into effect March 1, 1998. Also in 1997, the decision was made to end the approval status on March 31, 1999 and change the name to the Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation.

Our Services

  • A full-time staff available to schools for consultation on the accreditation process, and as a source of clarification regarding policies, procedures, and requirements
  • Continuous review of the standards to assure that they reflect the most current practices and ethical guidelines
  • Practices and standards based on the regulations set forth by the U.S. Department of Education for accrediting bodies
  • Policies which prevent conflicts of interest and ethical standards to ensure objectivity and impartiality in all aspects of our work
  • Complaint and appeals procedures which provide due process related to the interpretation of standards for individuals, programs, and schools.

Important Features of COMTA

COMTA is the premier independent accrediting body for the massage therapy profession. COMTA accreditation is unique because:

  • Standards of Accreditation are set by practitioners and educators in the profession
  • Standards are designed to encompass diversity in curriculum content and organization and in methods of instruction reflecting the diversity in professional practice
  • There is an elected Board of Commissioners who have experience in the profession as practitioners and administrators, as well as employers and members of the general public
  • The review by peers ensures that there are people who know the profession and value the importance of maintaining high standards
  • Our full-time staff is trained to serve you and your school as you undertake the steps toward accreditation

1990’s  – Were you there?

1990 – AMTA had 8,500 members.

1990 – ABMP had 2100 members

1990’s –  David Palmer creates and markets On Site Massage using a massage chair. www.touchpro.org

1990 – protocol for fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) defined by the American College of Rheumatology

1991 –  Touch Research Institute created.

1992 – National Certification created.

1994 – International Massage Associated created by Will Green.  (see also 2011 – IMA closed for fraud)  Alternative to massage associations for liability insurance.

April 1996 –  ABMP was sold to a group of four people who now comprise the core of the company’s management team.

Oct 1996 – Chaitow and DeLany, as well as internationally known athletic trainer Benny Vaughn and chiropractor/author Craig Liebenson, formed the editorial team for the first peer-reviewed journal in the field of bodywork, Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies. The first issue of JBMT was published in October 1996 and, with four issues each year for almost two decades,

1997 – Business Mastery by Cherie Sohnen-Moe by Lippencott Williams and Wilkins.  This was one of the first books on business for massage therapists and is now it it’s 4th edition.

1997 – AMTA Commissioned first annual consumer survey on attitudes and usage of massage therapy; annual results now most consistent gauge of massage usage and consumer attitudes on massage.?- Launched AMTA website

1999 – Minnesota creates Freedom of Access legislation.

1990 – 1999 another 16 states and Washington, D.C. took the step for licensing.

Jan. 1999 – 137,390 massage therapists (ABMP statistics)

1999 – The Educated Heart by Nina McIntosh – one of the first ethics books.

 1999 – Commission on Massage Training/Accreditation (COMTAA)  was officially changed to the Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation (COMTA)

Time Line History of Massage
Timeline history of massage therapy 3000BC – 100BC
Timeline history 100-1899
Timeline history – 1900-1950
Timeline history – 1950-2000
Timeline history 2000-2010
Timeline History 2010-2020
History of Massage Through Google Books
Early History of Massage through Google Books  1866-1921
History of Sports Massage
History of Massage licensing by state
The Phenomenal Growth of the Number of Massage Schools
History of AMTA
History of AMTA by Ruth Williams
History of AMTA- WA – includes PDFs of AMTA journals 1954-1960
History of AMTA National
The Future of the Massage Profession -Franchises/schools
History of massage in Healthcare
The history of Hospital Based Massage Therapy
History of how WA State is able to bill health insurance – on my other site – www.massagepracticebuilder.com

History of massage in Healthcare

The history of Hospital Based Massage Therapy

History of how WA State is able to bill health insurance – on my other site – www.massagepracticebuilder.com

Other History

Practical Massage: Introduction to the Private Instructions in the Art of Massage. Massage Heritage Times (archive.org)

The Physiological Effects of Massage by JH Kellogg. Massage Heritage Times

The Meaning of Massage and Its Technique By Dr. Emil A.G. Kleen. Massage Heritage Times.

Brush Up on the History of Your Profession Patricia J. Benjamin, August 27, 2015  AMTA