A Brief History of the Swedish Massage

 In Massage Treatments

A great Swedish massage is one of the services offered in diVINE Spa. Our well-trained and friendly massage experts will make sure you not only relaxed but but would also receive the benefits of such a massage. People walk in to our spa everyday to get the massage and walk out with fixed joints and ligaments. This modality is almost 200 years in the making and is one of the first truly western massage that based its principles around the western understanding of the human anatomy. But how did this all begin? This is a tricky question to answer because there had been some confusion over the years but today, this confusion has mostly been laid to rest. Let’s look at how did this fantastic modality begin.

To look at this modality’s long and rich history, let’s first take a look at a man called Per Henrik Ling. Ling was a Swedish medical scientist at the first quarter of the 1800’s. In most of his life he would be afflicted by several ailments such as lung disease, gout and rheumatism. Thus, he naturally became interested in the science of medicine to better understand and perhaps cure his body. In 1804, he established his own gymnastics institute in Sweden which emphasized physical fitness to all of his students.

Among his many interests was fencing. He spent training on fencing daily that he became proficient enough to be appointed as a master of fencing at Lund University. While studying fencing, he realized that his health seemed to improve the more he trained daily. Thus opened another path for him in medicine in which he focused on physiology, the mind and body connection. And through the years of studying and practicing the science of physiology and his physical activities he eventually developed what he called Medical Gymnastics. This gymnastics is a mix of calisthenics, stretching and even some massage. Medical Gymnastics isn’t Swedish massage, but it would lay the critical groundwork for the man who coined the term.

Enter, Johann Georg Mezger. Like Ling, Mezger also practiced gymnastics and delved deep into medical science, specifically the human anatomy. He was acclaimed for his study for the treatment of scoliosis (a deformation of the spine). In 1868, he wrote The Treatment of Distorio Pedis with Frictions, a 47-page dissertation which would serve as the foundation for Swedish Massage. In it, he applied all of his learnings and condensed them to what is now today known as The five techniques of Swedish Massage:

Effleurage -Long, gliding strokes
Petrissage – Kneading of the muscles
Friction-Firm – Circular rubbing motions
Tapotement – Tapping or percussive movements
Vibration – Shaking particular muscles

By 1871, his contributions on western medicine placed him as one of the most distinguished doctors of that century and was even credited for treating the king of Sweden once by restoring his mobility in just after 10 days of massage sessions with Mezger. He passed away in 1909 at the age of 71. As the 20th century entered, the Swedish Massage would become so popular it would be adapted by the English-speaking world. As such, most of the books before the Second World War were written in French, and so English-speaking translators slid in words both from Ling’s and Mezger’s works haphazardly. But in 1986 a historian called Patricia Benjamin clarified the issues once and for all and today, the Swedish Massage is a uniform and codified form of massage that can be a benefit to everyone.

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