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History of Hospital Based Massage Therapy

  • Massage used in India, China, Egypt, Greece and Rome in temples and halls.
  • 4th Century – Christian houses of refuge treated the sick and dying
  • Middle Ages – Touch used as ‘laying on of hands’ in the care of sick and dying people.
  • 18th Century- Used in Hospitals
  • 1883 – John Kellogg Battle Creek Sanitarium, taught nurses massage.  The Art of Massage (book)
  • 1923 – Soldiers receive massage in medical Barracks (History of Massage)
  • Mid 1980s -Social Worker – Tedi Dunn and Nurse Marian Williams,  starts the massage program at the California Pacific Medical Center, San Francisco
  • 1980 – Irene Smith, Dawn Nelson, Helen Campbell started teaching on how to work with HIV/AIDS
  • 1980s – Dawn Nelson Pioneered work with the elderly
  • 1980’s – Helen Campbell pioneered hospice and hospital massage
  • 1980’s – Colorado.  Barbara Carnahan, Mary Rose of the Boulder Hospice
  • 1980’s – Karen Gibson, nurse massage therapist, moved massage forward in hospitals in Colorado and partnered with the Boulder School of Massage to create an  internship program
  • 1982 – Irene Smith pioneers hospice massage on the West Coast (US) Irene Smith’s Bio
  • 1992 – National Association of Nurse Massage Therapists was founded in 1992 by Andy Bernay-Roman a registered nurse, massage therapist and psychologist
  • 1993 – Compassionate Touch.  Hands on Healing for the Elderly, Ill and Dying.  Dawn Nelson.
  • 1995 – Hospital Based Massage Network  (now defunct but has old articles and manuals for sale) created by Laura Koch in Colorado.
  • 2001 – Irene Smith creates Everflowing an educational outreach program dedicated to teaching mindful touching, as an integral component to end of life care.
  • 2005 – Massage for the Hospital Patient and Medically Frail Client MacDonald, Gayle
  • 2007 – Society for Oncology Massage
  • 2008 –Hands-On Care for Those in Later-Life Stages By Ann Catlin, LMT, NCTMB, OTR. Massage Today
  • 2015 – Over 125 hospital based programs listed on the Society for Oncology Massage website.
  • 2015 – Development of a Hospital-based Massage Therapy Course at an Academic Medical Center. International Journal of Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork, 8(1), 25–30.
  • 2017 Academic Collaborative for Integrative Health (ACIH)Hospital Based Massage Therapy(HBMT)Competencies for Optimal Practice
    in Integrated Environments(PDF)


Statistics:  1998, 7.7% of US hospitals offered one or more CAM therapies. That number was up to 37% in 2007 according to a 2008 report by the American Hospital Association.  Massage for the Hospital Patient and Medically Frail Client” MacDonald, Gayle (2005)

The Reasons for Massage in a Hospital Environment

66% – Pain Management, 57% – Massage for Cancer Patients, 55% – Pregnancy massage, 53% – Physical therapy, 45% – Mobility training, 41% – Palliative care

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