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The History and Development of Swedish Massage


Contrary to popular belief in the United States, the Swedish massage method neither began in Sweden nor was it invented by a Swede. In fact, Sweden and most of Europe refer to it as “classic massage”. In fact, the United States, Dutch-speaking countries, and Hungary are the only countries that use the term “Swedish massage”.

Peter Ling often receives credit as being “the father of Swedish massage,” albeit incorrectly, according to Massage Magazine. He did develop what’s referred to as the Swedish Movement System or the Swedish Gymnastics Movement System, but it had nothing to do with Swedish massage. At some point during the 19th century, the term “Swedish Movement System” was mistranslated as the “Swedish Massage System”, which may explain how Peter Ling became associated with that massage method for so long.

By 1890, several doctors and non-doctors had published books with text and illustration about the massage movements known as Swedish massage. These writings established massage as a standalone therapeutic tool, distinct from the gymnastic movement systems founded earlier in the century.

Common Techniques of the Swedish Massage Method

Dutch doctor Johan Georg Mezger is the man credited by those knowledgeable about Swedish massage’s history with adopting the French names to denote the five basic strokes of this massage method:

  1. Effleurage – long, gliding strokes
  2. Petrissage – kneading and squeezing muscles
  3. Friction – rubbing
  4. Tapotement – quick tapping
  5. Vibration / Nerve Strokes – quick shaking

Benefits of Swedish Massage Therapy

  1. Improved Circulation

Swedish massage therapists use effleurage, long, gliding strokes, to push blood in the direction of the heart and open blood vessels. This stimulates blood circulation and improves the flow of blood and nutrients to muscles. The net result is a better functioning body. Better blood flow also helps improve the rate of healing for muscle tears and ligament strains.

  1. Stress and Tension Relief

Swedish massage also reduces muscular stress and tension. Its long, gliding strokes target large, superficial muscles and induce muscular and mental relaxation.

  1. Pain Management

Those that suffer from chronic  back pain caused by osteoarthritis or other medical conditions will benefit greatly from this massage method. People who work in a single position for extended periods of time, like people who work a desk job, can also benefit from this massage.

  1. Injury Management

A Swedish massage therapist knows how to adjust the therapy to best target injured muscles and joints to help mitigate pain and speed healing. Therapists us petrissage and friction to help manage existing muscle issues, like muscle adhesions caused by injuries.

  1. Improved Immune System

Relieving stress and tension lowers the levels of cortisol in your body; the main stress hormone. High cortisol levels have been linked to a number of health issues due to the negative influence stress has on the immune system.  

Why You Should Become a Massage Therapist Today

There are endless reasons to become a certified massage therapist. For example, massage therapists get to work in a wide variety of interesting work environments, such as:

  • Physical Therapy Clinics and Pain Clinics
  • Rehabilitation Centers
  • Neurology, Podiatry, and Chiropractic Clinics
  • Spas, Resorts, Health Clubs, and Cruise Ships

Massage therapists are also in a singular position to treat patients in a natural way for painful conditions. They can help rehabilitate overtaxed muscles and joints, reduce stress, and promote overall health. If you enjoy the health and wellness field and are looking for a career that fits your lifestyle, massage therapy training might be right for you. To find out, take the massage therapist career training readiness quiz from Woodruff Medical right now. It will only take you three minutes to complete, and you’ll receive a personalized report.


Start your medical career today. Call 1-833-WMT-4-EDU