Facts You Need to Know Before Receiving Russian Massage

Disclaimer: The following material is based on the personal research, experiences and beliefs of the staff of the Institute of Russian Healing Arts, and is not approved by any medical or dietary authority. Use this information only at your own risk. Please, consult your physician before using this information, especially if you are under medical supervision.

Russian Massage has become a legendary technique in the United States. What is the reason for this? What is Russian Massage? Why should you (or should you not) choose it as your massage treatment? All of these questions I hear almost every day for the past 20 years of my practice. This article will help you to understand what Russian Massage is about.


One of the most difficult tasks is to define what Russian Massage in United States is. I have been living in this country for over 17 years and have seen a lot of massage therapists practicing “Russian Massage”. Also there is a number of massage schools teaching “Russian Massage Technique”. I was shocked to see such a variety of completely different techniques, all calling themselves “Russian Massage”. There is a reason for this diverse proliferation...

The truth is there is no such term as “Russian Massage” in Russia! Searching through numerous Russian books on the subject of massage therapy you can find an unimaginable number of different massage techniques and a substantial variety of their combinations. Each of these systems has a specific name. For example: “Connective Tissue Massage”, “Classical Massage”, “Body Reflexology Massage”, “Point Massage” and so on. Also there are many techniques and systems, which are not described in the literature at all, due to communist regime prohibitions back in the day.

Most of the similarities between these different techniques are only in terms of general principles, common and most popular strokes, and the specific approach to safety of massage therapy.
Another factor in defining Russian Massage is its purpose.  Massage therapy in the United States has become almost synonymous with muscular therapy. This is not the case in Russia, where massage therapy is commonly used to treat a great number of aliments, such as asthma, gastritis, Kron’s disease, hypertension, myopia and so on.

To finish my discussion about the “identity crisis” of Russian Massage in the United States, let’s talk about the bio-energy aspects of Russian Massage System. Aside from medical use of Massage Therapy in Russia, there are many practitioners who practice an ancient tradition of bodywork. This includes not only physical but also bio-energy strokes and techniques. This esoteric tradition has been passed down through generations but, of course, was not welcome during the Communist regime. Although massage therapy schools in the United States offer classes on Polarity Therapy and Healing Touch systems they are not really integrated into the system of massage therapy. In Russia bio-energy techniques are often integrated into old tradition massage systems. In my opinion, this is another unique characteristic of the Russian Massage System.

I would, therefore, define Russian Healing Massage as a system of massage therapy integrating massage strokes and techniques as well as bio-energy correction methods originating in Russia, which have been developed since ancient times.This definition gives me the opportunity to appreciate both the medical specialists and the Russian healers while talking about the actual system, rather than about many different techniques practiced in Russia.


Since ancient times massage has been a part of the medicinal system in Russia. This art has been practiced by monks and folk medicine healers. It became such an integral part of the culture that many families would carry “some special” massage techniques for everyday use. In ancient Russia it was very common to treat rheumatic pains and traumas with friction for the joints and muscle kneading.

Another popular form of massage from ancient times is a massage using the branches of a birch tree in Russian-style baths. Even now almost everyone in Russia knows to some extend how to do this ancient form of healing.
A long time before Dr. Ling, at the end of the 18th century, two medical doctors, S.G. Zybelin and N.M. Abdomnik, started actively advocating massage as a therapeutic method in pediatric care. At the beginning of the 19th century a famous Russian doctor, M. Y. Mudrov, enthusiastically recommended massage and exercises in his practice. By the end of the 19th century massage became a well-respected medical practice. From 1882 to 1911 more than twenty PhD dissertations were defended on the subject of massage therapy. Since that time massage has become a regular study course at medical and nursing schools.

In 1876 professor V.A. Manassein introduced a course of massage therapy and exercises to the curriculum of Russian Medical Military Academy. In his clinic a number of scientific studies were carried out.

Dr. I. Zabludovskiy had made a very special contribution to the study and development of massage therapy. Some Russian authors call him The Founder of Modern Massage. He advocated the use of massage in therapy and developed a list of indications and contraindications. During the period of 1882-1913 he published more than a hundred works on the subject of massage therapy. He developed a logical scientific system, which became a basis for modern Russian massage. His book “Materials to the question about effect of massage on healthy individuals” published in 1882 became the ABC of massage practitioners of that time.

At the end of the 19th century a famous Russian Doctor, Petr Badmaev, introduced Zhud-Shi - a Tibetan art of healing. He valued massage and healing rubs as an important method of therapy. Unfortunately, after the Russian Revolution the name of Petr Badmaev as well as his publications was prohibited by the Communist Party. His philosophy was far from materialistic, but his real offence was being too close to the royal family, which was hated (and killed) by the Communists.

Doctor Badmaev was not the only one. For the Communist Power massage therapy was a controversial topic. The reason was in the origins of the system. Traditionally, the art of healing massage had been developed and practiced by folk medicine men, women and monks, not by medical doctors. In addition, since the beginning of the 20th century, esoteric aspects of healing and healing with massage became very popular. And this fact was also unacceptable to the Communist regime. The system of Russian Healing Massage was distorted and “edited”. During “Communist Era” it was no longer allowed to mention energy and esoteric aspects of Russian massage tradition, as well as the true origins of this great healing art. Most of the names of those who carefully carried forth ancient techniques were lost. Massage therapy became a standardized medical practice with “no magic allowed”. All the strokes associated with esoteric knowledge were prohibited. Lots of monks were killed (not because of the massage practice, but because of their religious beliefs). Many healers were persecuted by the KGB.  History books were rewritten, including books on history of art of massage healing. Massage in Russia became a regular medical practice…

But, there is a popular saying in Russia: “There are no bad things without good things”. After loosing all of its esoteric aspects (for official and legal use), massage therapy was carefully studied by Russian medical professionals. Many new techniques based on the modern medical knowledge were developed. A lot of research was done. Massage therapy became a powerful part of physical therapy. Medical schools started to train massage therapists in a new “scientific" tradition.

Russian doctors and scientists paid enormous respect to massage therapy and studied it in detail. They found that massage has a positive effect on almost every pathological condition if used properly. They also formulated a list of contraindications, when massage should not be used at all, and pointed to the conditions where massage should be used with caution.

Meanwhile, healers kept practicing their exceptional art without being too concerned to scientifically explain the real miracles they were able to perform with their own hands. Some of them even published books on the Art of Healing with Massage. Of course, this was all underground unofficial publishing called “samizdat”, which means “self-publishing”. These books used to be secretly carbon-copied on the typewriters and were prohibited. Even reading these books could get you in trouble. Usually such books would not print the name of the author, only the title. On the black market these books were quite rare and expensive.

Fortunately, the Communist Era is over. Now everybody in Russia is allowed to study any massage style they want. But there is still a separation between “medical massage” based more on a materialistic point of view and the so-called “non-traditional massage” systems, or techniques, which came from ancient times. There are some alternative massage schools in Russia now, which try to integrate both approaches, but the separation still exists.
Personally I find the combination of traditional and alternative techniques of Russian Massage the most effective for my clients. This Combination I call Russian Healing Massage.

PURPOSE AND BENEFITS OF RUSSIAN HEALING MASSAGEThe purpose of Russian Healing Massage is to bring balance and harmony to each and every system of the body as well as to harmonize and integrate the whole body. It means that massage affects the person on every level: physiological, emotional, mental and energetic levels. Also, by changing the breathing and relaxation patterns of a person during massage, the interaction of the individual with the outer world could be changed.

After a course of Russian Healing Massage therapy, clients report not only improvement of their well-being but also a change in their attitude toward life in general. They experience more endurance to stress, improvement in communication with other people and a more positive outlook on life.

Although the following paragraphs refer to the effects and benefits of Russian Healing Massage, I do not claim that these effects can only be reached by the use of Russian Healing Massage technique. I do not make any “superiority claims” here. The following material about the benefits of massage might be true for other massage techniques as well. I use the word “might” because a lot of studies, which the following material is based on, were done in Russia and they involved some techniques really unique to Russian Massage.

From a physiological point of view Russian Massage is found effective and beneficial in treatment and general improvement of:

  • Skin
  • Cardio-Vascular System
  • Lymphatic System
  • Muscular System
  • Immune System
  • Joint and Tendons
  • Nervous System
  • Respiratory System
  • Inner Organs and Metabolism

This material is discussed in more details in my upcoming book  LINK. To generalize... when applied correctly, Russian Healing Massage triggers deep healing processes on physiological, energetic and emotional levels of the client.

INDICATIONS AND CONTRAINDICATIONSWhen my clients, students or friends ask me about indications for receiving massage therapy, I would say that massage therapy is indicated always, except when it is contraindicated. As I mentioned before, massage has a powerful balancing effect not only on the muscles, but on the whole body, as well as on each level of the system, including bio-energy, emotional and mental levels. I don't think I need to tell you, that most of us need some balancing work, even if we do not have any physical problems. Therefore, if massage is not contraindicated, it is indicated, you just have to determine how often and how deep it should be and areas to be treated.

Now let’s talk about contraindications. Please, don’t be surprised to read such a long list of contraindications. As I described before, Russian Healing Massage affects not only skin and muscles, it also has a serious effect on internal organs and body’s biochemistry in general. This explains the length of the list. And I would strongly recommend that you consult your physician on whether or not it is ok to receive massage therapy, since you might have conditions you are not aware of or they are your "personal contraindications" from your doctor.

General list of Contraindications:

  • Fever
  • Acute Inflammatory Processes
  • Blood Disorders
  • Hemorrhages
  • Skin Disease
  • Thrombosis, Phlebitis and Varicose Veins
  • Gangrene
  • Aneurysm
  • Trophy Skin Ulcers
  • Lymph Nodes Inflammation
  • Active form of Tuberculosis
  • Any form of Cancer
  • Any form of Tumors
  • Syphilis
  • Acute Pain of Any Localization
  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Acute Stomach Pain
  • Recent Surgery
  • Some Forms of Edema
  • Serious Conditions of the Heart, Circulatory System, Lungs, Kidneys and Liver
  • Open wounds


If you are interested in receiving a Russian Massage Treatment:

  • Consult your physician as to whether or not you can have Massage Treatment
  • Find a Massage Therapist practicing Russian Massage modality
  • Make sure the practitioner you find is licensed and certified
  • Find out what kind of Russian Massage technique(s) this Massage Therapist is practicing and what to expect from your session
  • Discuss your health and emotional problems and concerns with your Massage Therapist before your first session
  • Find out how often you need to have the sessions
  • Don't hesitate to ask the massage practitioner about the meaning and health benefits of massage strokes used during the session
  • Understand that Russian Massage can employ very deep strokes, so try to cooperate using deep breathing and make sure to let your massage therapist know if you are uncomfortable with deep pressure. You will get used to it in a few sessions!
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