The History Of Swedish Massage


Peter Ling (Per Henrik Ling) is credited with the invention of the Swedish Massage, which is also called classic massage in most parts of Europe.

However, “Massage Magazine” points out that a Dutch practitioner named Johan Georg Mezger originally systemized the massage and formulated the French vocabulary describing specific strokes used.

So who invented the Swedish Massage?

Keep reading to find out!

Origin Of Swedish Massage

Many people believe that a Swedish fencing instructor named Per Henrik Ling invented the Swedish massage in the 1830s. 

It was said that when his elbow was injured, he healed it by applying percussion strokes to the affected area. Consequently, he developed the technique now known as Swedish massage. 

Furthermore, Dr. Karl and Dr. George Taylor introduced the Swedish massage to the United States in the 1850s. 

The specific techniques of Swedish massage include the application of long strokes, rubbing, kneading, and tapping movements on the body’s soft tissues.

In addition, active and passive joint movements are also utilized.

Who Was Per Henrik Ling

Per Henrik Ling (1776-1839) is arguably called the father of massage. 

He was a Swedish fencing instructor who headed the Royal Central Gymnastics Institute in Stockholm, Sweden.

Henrik Ling is also credited with developing several procedures based on his vast anatomy, physiology, and pathology knowledge.

Although Ling was a medical innovator and expert in physical therapy, it was said that during his early adulthood, he suffered from various physical ailments, such as rheumatism and lung disease.

However, Henrik Ling found a way to relieve his pain by applying a few strokes to the affected parts of his own body. This experience helped him to learn more about the anatomy and physiology of the human body.

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Hence the development of Swedish gymnastics. His innovation was a methodology that used specific exercises to treat illness and pain. 

His efforts, which resulted in a unique kind of holistic therapy, paved a modern Swedish massage.

However, he did not use, write or discuss anything directly related to any massage. He even named his new techniques the Swedish Movement System.

Who Was Johann Georg Mezger

Many massage experts who studied the history of massage believe that the Swedish massage was invented by a Dutch doctor named Johann Georg Mezger (1838-1909)

Metzger was also a physiotherapy specialist and professional gymnastics instructor. He had excellent experiential knowledge of human physiology as an extraordinary gymnast.

To broaden his knowledge, Mezger started studying medicine at Leiden University in the Netherlands. At the same time, he began practicing French “friction methods” on patients suffering from minor sprains.

He even wrote his doctoral dissertation on this method which eventually became the basis for the creation of Swedish massage.

Over the years, Mezger used many techniques that Per Henrik Ling developed in his Swedish Movement System and gave a few details about the five basic Swedish massage techniques that form modern Swedish massage. 

Most parts of the Swedish massage as we know it now were devised by Mezger. But then, since he primarily utilizes the Swedish movement system, his invention is incorrectly attributed to Per Henrik Ling.

What Techniques Did Mezger Define

To develop Swedish massage, Johann Georg Mezger defined five basic techniques, for which he used French terminology. 

This is one reason why some massage experts attribute the invention of Swedish massage to him. 

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These five main strokes techniques are:

  1. Effleurage (long strokes)
  2. Petrissage (squeezing & kneading of the muscles)
  3. Friction (rubbing)
  4. Tapotement (quick tapping)
  5. Vibration/Nerve strokes (quick shaking)

Nowadays, the most commonly requested Massage type is the Swedish massage. This is because its techniques have a general application and address a wide range of physical diseases. This makes it a suitable treatment for almost any individual.

Why Mezger Is Also Credited As The Inventor

The contributions of Per Henrik Ling to modern physiotherapy are well known. 

However, modern Swedish massage has some main phrases in French, while none of Ling’s writings contained these French phrases. Besides, he never referred to his particular practice as a type or technique of massage. 

On the other hand, Mezger was the person who distinguished between the classic massage strokes and techniques used in the Swedish movement system.

Also, this type of massage with five main techniques is called Swedish massage only in Dutch and English-speaking countries and Hungary. Interestingly, Swedish massage is called classical massage in most parts of the world, including Sweden. 

Irrespective of the inventor of this type of massage or the massage name, the so-called Swedish massage combines effective techniques, probably the best known and most common holistic method of reducing pain and tension in our bodies and minds.

Benefits Of Swedish Massage

Mentioned below are the most significant benefits of Swedish massage:

  • Swedish Massage stimulate and improve blood circulation in the body
  • Swedish Massage helps to alleviate pains and improve brain functions
  • Swedish massage helps to increase oxygen supply to the places the body needs it the most.
  • This Massage type is used to relieve muscle tension, anxiety, and stress
  • Swedish Massage helps to reduce chronic neck or back pains conditions

Disadvantages Of Swedish Massage

Below are some of the common disadvantages of the Swedish massage technique:

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  • Headaches/Migraines
  • Lingering Pain
  • Inflammation
  • Fatigue or Sleepiness
  • Nausea

Frequently Asked Questions

When Was Swedish Massage Created?

Swedish massage was created in the early part of the 19th century in Europe. However, George Henry Taylor and Charles Fayette Taylor introduced the Swedish massage to the United States in 1856.

What Does A Swedish FullBody Massage Include?

The Swedish full body massage includes a relaxing head massage (also known as an Indian head massage, scalp massage, or Champissage).

What Is A Swedish Massage Good For?

A Swedish massage is meant to relax the whole body by rubbing the muscles in long, sliding movements in the direction of blood flow back to the heart. Nevertheless, Swedish massage goes beyond relaxation. This massage type can help boost the oxygen levels in the blood, promote blood flow and flexibility.

How Often Should You Get Swedish Massage?

It would help if you had a Swedish massage once a week. However, you should get it every two weeks if your job leaves you stressed out and tired.

Are Swedish Massages Worth It?

Yes, Swedish massage is worth it because it’s an effective method for alleviating muscle tension and relaxing your mind and body. It’s also a perfect fit for people who wish to give themselves an exotic indulgence of self-care.

Disclaimer:The information contained in this article is a result of in-depth research on the subject matter. This article is only for informational and educational purposes, and it’s not intended as medical or health advice. Hence, I suggest you always ensure to seek the opinion of your doctor or other qualified health personnel regarding any questions that relate to health objectives or medical conditions.


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