In the last few posts, we focused on the ancient beginnings of massage, including the efforts by Hippocrates to make it an accepted and common element of medical practice.


Following the Western Dark Ages, Middle Ages and Renaissance, massage once again began moving toward greater acceptance around the world. In 1776, two French missionaries translated what is called the Inner Canon of Huangdi, an ancient Chinese medical text that some liken to Hippocrates’ own works. The work contained listings and descriptions of massage techniques that, when made available to European audiences, quickly became popular and were incorporated throughout the region. The Inner Canon also listed techniques such as acupressure, acupuncture and tai chi, which also have become popular in the West.


Three years later, another Frenchman, Pierre-Martial Cibot, released a similar listing of medical gymnastic techniques; these were used by Taoist priests.


The year 1776 also saw the birth of one Pehr Henrik Ling of Sweden, who went on to found the Royal Gymnastic Central Institute in Stockholm. Although Ling is commonly believed to be the inventor of Swedish massage, he in fact invented what he referred to as the “Swedish Movement Cure,” with the help of a Chinese expert in Tui na massage, which has been used for millennia by Kung Fu masters.


Tui na introduced the main elements of what eventually became known as “Swedish massage,” which were given French names: effleurage, petrissage, friction, tapotement and vibration. Tui na is believed to spread chi, or energy, throughout the body.


Ling also was believed to have read the French texts about Chinese medicine.


In 1878, the famed Johan Georg Metzger took Ling’s techniques and created the “Swedish massage system,” although he himself was Dutch. This may be where the misattribution to Ling’s program initiated.


The passion for massage also made its way to the United States. Toward the end of the 19th century, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg (of cereal fame) went so far as to publish a book about proper massage technique, utilizing the experiences he gained from operating the Battle Creek Sanitarium. We will learn more about Kellogg in the next newsletter.



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