Mexican massage therapy utilizes techniques that have been adopted from healing practices used by ancient Mayan and Aztec healers and spiritual advisors. This type of therapy is practiced in modern times by specialists called "sobadoras," a term which translates loosely to "street masseuse." Many Mexican, Mayan or Aztec massage techniques are centered around local spices and herbs such as copal or floral herbs. Obsidian stones, which are considered sacred in Mexican society, are also widely used in various treatments.
Sobadoras act as untrained chiropractors in modern Mexican and Central American society. These health practitioners operate outside of the formal medical sphere and treat patients by spreading a lubricant such as baby or mineral oil on the impacted body part before performing a type of linfatic massage. Body parts typically targeted by these specialists include the inside of the forearms, the outside of the wrists, the abdomen and the feet.
Ancient Mayan civilization stretched from south eastern Mexico into Guatemala, Belize, Honduras and El Salvador, whereas the ancient Aztec empire was composed of a loose grouping of city-states in central Mexico. Traditional Mexican massage techniques that are derived from Mayan and Aztec customs include the Temazcal steam bath ceremony and the Sobada herb treatment.