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Healing Melody Therapeutic Massage

Swedish (Classic) Massage

Swedish Massage, sometimes referred to as classic massage, is a form of bodywork usually attributed to Per Henrik Ling (1776-1839) a Swedish physiologist and the so called Father of Massage. Per Ling was appointed Director of The Royal Gymnastic Central Institute in Stockholm which trained gymnastic instructors. During his tenure he and a friend named ‘Ming’, developed a system he called “Medical Gymnastics” which included movements performed by a therapist. These movements were at first called Swedish movements and eventually became the “Swedish Movement Cure.” 

Ling (whose full name was never recorded) was an expert in the martial arts and a form of massage that has recently come back into vogue, Tui na. After Per Ling’s death in 1839 his pupils, whom he left in charge of his teachings, dropped the ball so there is little actually recorded about his full methods.

Sometime later a Dutch massage practitioner, Johan Georg Mezger discovered some accounts of Ling’s methods and techniques. He renamed those using French terms and then coined the phrase “Swedish Massage System” soon after. The French terms are the names of the techniques taught in massage schools all over the world and are the core of a Swedish massage. There are Five basic moves:

  • Effleurage (long, gliding strokes)
  • Petrissage (lifting and kneading the muscles)
  • Friction (firm, deep, circular rubbing movements)
  • Tapotement (brisk tapping or percussive movements)
  • Vibration (rapidly shaking or vibrating specific muscles)

Interestingly all of these techniques are also fundamental elements of Tui na, which has been practiced in China for several thousand years. Some argue that Swedish massage should be credited to Mezger instead of Ling, but I think technically the mysterious Ming and all his ancestors are the real fathers of modern massage.

Benefits of Classic Massage

Swedish massage has shown to be helpful in reducing pain, joint stiffness, as well as improving function in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee. Depending on the therapist and which methods they employ a Swedish massage can be very relaxing or invigorating. Swedish massage is also the foundation for other forms of massage, such as Deep Tissue and Sports massage.

So if you’re new to massage try getting a Swedish, you can’t go wrong with a classic!