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THE STORY OF MASSAGE Movement Prescriptions By Patricia J. Benjamin An entirely new breed of manual therapist—the archetype medical gymnast—came to North America from Sweden in the mid-19th century. These were well-trained practitioners of Pehr Henrik Ling's "Swedish movement cure"—a well- developed system of drugless healing that prescribed active and passive movements to treat medical conditions. Ling took the position that traditional medicine was incomplete, that it focused primarily on chemical phenomena to restore health, and that it ignored the mechanical and dynamical forces at play. He argued that, for many chronic cases, using movements of the body to stir the mechanical forces would bring the human organism back into balance and a state of health. The combination of joint movements and soft-tissue techniques that defined Ling's Swedish movement cure supplied the blueprint for massage therapy over a century later. Medical gymnastics was based on the belief that prescribed movements could be effective for restoring health. A variety of machines were invented to facilitate active and passive movement of different parts of the body. Photos reprinted with permission: Massage and Medical Gymnastics by Emil Kleen (1921). Excerpted from The Emergence of the Massage Therapy Profession in North America (Curties- Overzet, 2015) by Patricia J. Benjamin. Find it at

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