Friday, June 28, 2013

Practical Massage and Corrective Exercises

Erik Dalton recently pointed out a 1916 book by a Norwegian Masseur Hartvig Nissen who was as an instructor for the Harvard University Summer School, teaching massage therapy and Swedish Gymnastics.


Hartvig may as well be the Father of Swedish Massage as he was probably the one who introduced The "Swedish Movement" in the US. In the History section of his book, he described the Ling's school as:

The principal studies for graduation are : Anatomy, Physiology, Pathology, Chemistry, Hygiene, Diagnosis, Principles of the Movement Treatment, and the use of exercises for general and local development. 

It was not, however, until after the middle of the nineteenth century that massage became really known and was considered by the medical profession as a scientific and valuable remedy in the treatment of diseases. 

In the United States massage was hardly known when I arrived here in the early eighties.

I opened an institute, "The Swedish Health Institute for the Treatment of Chronic Diseases by Swedish Movements and Massage," in Washington, where the foreign diplomats assembled for treatment well known to them, and they soon brought scores of the great men and women of the United States to the institute, and gradually the physicians of the city came to inquire into the mode of treatment and send their patients there. 

In March, 1888, I read a paper before the Clinical Society of Maryland, on "Swedish Movement and Massage Treatment," which appeared in several medical journals, resulting in numerous letters from medical men who wanted to know more about it, and urging me to write a manual and also give instructions on the subject, and in 1889 my book, "Swedish Movement and Massage Treatment," was published.

Swedish movements and massage are based on plain physiological laws, and have nothing in common with " magnetism," nor is it " regular gymnastics," nor " rubbing"



I think most of the current massage myths still come from the 19th century, as he wrote:

For instance, in a case of synovitis or glandular enlargement or sprains, etc., the manipulations should always be directed centripetally — toward the heart ; but in case of insomnia, or very painful neuralgia, the manipulation should be directed downward, from the shoulder toward the fingers, ...

Certainly current Swedish massage has other influences, as the movement he described is all in English such as centripetal stroking, kneading, and circular friction. The term petrissage, effluerage, tapotement are not found in his manuals.

It is a delightful reading, he also has written a few other similar books (Hartvig is the Leon Chaitow of 19th century):


Here are some other  interesting books:

  • Complete Course in Massage, Swedish Movement and Mechanical Therapeutics. With a subtitle based on the teachings of Peter Henrik Ling, founder of the Royal Central Gymnastic Institute, Stockholm, Sweden and supplemented by original discoveries and teachings. A practical course in manual treatment as applicable to surgery and medicine. Written by James Gwalia, published in Canada in 1911. In this book, the usual terms petrissage, effluerage, tapotement can be found under kinds of movement (page 6)




The nomenclature adopted in the description of the manipulations is that which isgenerally recognised both in Europe and America ; and although the use of foreignwords may be open to objection, still, it seems preferable to retain them, as they constitute a kind of volapuk among practitioners of the method throughout theworld, 

Effleurage, petrissage, tapotement, vibration, and massage a friction are the names given to these manipulations,


Digital kneading, instead of petrissage

Palmar stroking, instead of effluerage

Ulnar percussion, instead of tapotement



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