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A Brief History of Swedish Massage

The term "Swedish massage" is a bit of a misnomer. Although it is commonly associated with Sweden, the massage technique did not actually originate there, nor was it created by a Swede. In fact, in Sweden, massage is more commonly referred to as "classic massage."


The strokes that make up the Swedish massage technique include effleurage (stroking), petrissage (kneading), tapotement (striking), and frictions (rubbing), with vibration added later. These French terms were never used by Peter Ling, a Swedish gymnast who is often mistakenly credited with inventing Swedish massage.


It was actually Dutch practitioner Johan Georg Mezger who adopted the French names to denote the basic strokes and systemized massage as we know it today, as Swedish or classic massage. Mezger's use of the term "Swedish Movement System" was later transposed to "Swedish Massage System" during the second half of the 19th century.


Despite some confusion about its origins, Swedish massage became a widely used therapeutic tool in sanitariums throughout Europe and North America in the late 19th century. Physicians and non-physicians alike published books describing the massage movements in detail, which successfully separated massage from the gymnastic and movement systems it had been associated with previously.


Today, Swedish massage is considered a classic and basic massage technique in America, even though the term "classic massage" is more commonly used in Europe. While its origins may be somewhat unclear, there is no denying the effectiveness of Swedish massage as a therapeutic tool.

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