Popular Science Monthly/Volume 30/February 1887/Massage



IN the present day, when we hear so much of the wear and tear of daily work and worry, and when the preservation and restoration of health are of supreme importance to those who take the foremost rank in the battle of life, it may not be unprofitable to cast a glance on the means employed by the nations of the Orient and of antiquity to develop and maintain the vigor of the body.

The history of massage, which of late years has been employed with wonderful success as a cure for many ailments, has been written by Dr. Hünerfauth, of Homburg, and, in the hope that some hints may be useful, I have translated extracts from his comprehensive work.

The expression "massage" is derived, according to Pierry ("Dictionary of Medical Science"), from a Greek word signifying "to rub"; according to Savary ("Letters on Egypt"), its derivation is from the Arabic word "mass," to press softly. In England a process of some-what the same character is known as shampooing. It seems certain that massage was practiced by the Indians and the Chinese many centuries before the birth of our Saviour. It was combined with hygienic gymnastics. The Brahmans exercised the art of healing; the priests of Buddha are known to have acquired much of their power over their people by their skill in medicine. Sir William Jones, the great Oriental linguist, discovered fragments of the third sacred book of the Brahman period, entitled "The Knowledge of Life," which contained many secrets of Indian medicine. An extract from Daily's work states that, when Alexander the Great penetrated as far as India, in the year 337 before Christ, his soldiers suffered much from the bites of serpents, for which no cure was known by the Greeks. Alexander had gathered round him the best Indian doctors, and he proclaimed to the army that any who had been bitten must come to the royal tent to be cured. These Indian doctors were in great repute; illnesses were not of frequent occurrence in those delightful climates, but any who were sick resorted to the wise men, or Brahmans, who cured them by wonderful or, as they professed, supernatural means. It has been ascertained that massage and shampooing were among the remedies employed by them. The "Law of Manu" prescribed diet, washing, baths, rubbing, and anointing with oil as religious exercises.

In 1854 an account was published of a German merchant, who had been treated in Stockholm by medical gymnastics, and who made a journey to Calcutta, and went through a course of massage and exercises there, in order to become an authority on the subject. He afterward founded an athenæum for rational gymnastics in Berlin.

The gymnastic exercises of the Indians consist of (1) wrestling, (2) of what we should call boxing, (3) stick, or sword, exercise. They also practice movements for rendering the limbs supple, and manipulations of various sorts. Before the Indians begin their exercises, they cower on the earth, and by turns rub each other with the mud from the delta of the Ganges when they can obtain it. All the muscles of their bodies are pressed and kneaded. When Indians are unwell, they frequently employ a cure called chamboning: the whole of the patient's body is gently kneaded, beginning with the upper extremities, descending to the feet.

Dr. Stein, of Heidelberg, who spent some years in the Dutch medical service in Java, writes that massage is practiced there, as in almost all the Dutch colonies of the Indian Ocean. It is known as pidjet-ten, and it is also employed in the Society, Sandwich, Feejee, and Tonga Islands. Dr. Emerson, a native of the Sandwich Islands, says it is there called lomi-lomi, and is performed either over the whole or part of the body, usually by old women. It consists in rubbing and kneading, and may vary from the gentlest stroke to the most powerful grip. It is considered as a high mark of honor for a host to perform this operation for his guest, or to receive this attention from him. No pain is inflicted. Occasionally the natives lie flat on the earth, and let their children trample on them. In an account of the Isle of Tonga, it is related that, when people are suffering from great fatigue, three or four little children are employed to trample on the body of the patient as he lies on the grass. Massage is frequently applied to the forehead, or the top of the head, in those islands, with excellent results.

In Forster's account of Cook's travels in Tahiti, we read that the friendly inhabitants rubbed the travelers' limbs in order to refresh them after their fatigues.

The Chinese are supposed to have learned the use of gymnastic exercises from the Indians, and the subject was mentioned in the most ancient of their books, the "Cong-Fou," or "Science of Living." The Chinese added the use of medicinal plants to the treatment of illness by rubbing and gymnastic exercises. The Egyptians were and are proficients in the art of manipulation, anointing with oil and friction being part of the cure employed. The Greeks employed gymnastics and massage in order to preserve health as well as to restore it.

Pythagoras taught his disciples to practice moderation, to use vegetable diet and gymnastic exercises.

The gymnasiums and palæstriums of the Greeks were famous. Plato writes, "The object of gymnasiums is to instruct youths and men how to preserve health and keep their frames in good condition."

Before the Greeks took part in the national games, they had to undergo a course of preparation—bathing, friction, anointing, and also rubbing with sand. Fine sand from the Nile was preferred, and was imported from Egypt for the purpose; there were many rules for carrying out the process properly, and it was performed in various ways.

Among the many editions of the works of Hippocrates, there is a French one by Littré, in which the following passage occurs:

"A physician must possess experience of many subjects, among others, of massage."

Among the Romans, as, indeed, every child knows, the constant use of baths, followed by friction and anointing with oil, was customary. In illness, rubbing with warm oil, other kinds of friction, and "movement-cures," were used. Asclepiades also recommended exercise and friction. Celsus, the author of eight books on the science of healing, took for his motto, "The best medicine is to take no medicine." In inflammation of the brain, if he wished to induce sleep, he ordered rubbing for a considerable time (would this be animal magnetism?). He also advises rubbing to cure acute pains in the head, though not during an attack, and recommends friction to strengthen weak limbs.

Celsus lays much stress on passive movement for invalids. "The gentlest is exercise in voyaging on a ship, either in harbor or on a river. If being driven in a carriage is too fatiguing, he recommends the invalid to be carried on a couch or in a chair, and advises that the patient should be rocked in bed if too feeble to rise. Galen, who lived in the second century after Christ, approved highly of massage and gymnastics, but he did not advise athletics. He ordered friction in the evening, to remove fatigue. The body was to be rubbed with a woolen cloth, afterward with oil till the surface became red, and then with the bare hands in various directions. Rufus of Ephesus, who lived in the reign of Trajan, writes, "Women and maidens should sing and dance, not only to do honor to the gods, but in order to preserve their health." He adds, "It is important that physicians should not confine their attention to the bodily health, but should do all they can to develop the mental strength and well-being of children and young people, of men, and even of old men."

"We must pass over notices of many treatises that appeared during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, only remarking that Hoffman, in 1708, seems to have advocated the principles that govern the German schools of gymnastics in the nineteenth century.

Hoffman wrote that the conditions under which health is to be maintained are simple: exercise of various kinds, in alternation with rest, cold water, and strict attention to diet. One of his maxims was, that "work and tiring exercise are universal panaceas."

Between the years 1756 and 1786, Tronchin, a scholar of Boerhaave's, was in great repute in Paris; he was physician to the Duke of Orleans and to Voltaire, and it was owing to his advice that Voltaire went to live at Ferney. People came to consult him from distant countries; his success was extraordinary. His system consisted in ordering friction, movements of various characters, exercise, long walks, and certain precautions in diet.

Fuller wrote, about the same period, on the value of exercise in the cure of various illnesses, and especially in hypochondriacal and hysterical affections. He also laid great stress on riding; indeed, be established a riding-cure, which had great success among very distinguished persons. Tissot, of Lausanne, wrote a treatise on the health of the learned, strongly impressing on the studious and sedentary the duty of exercise; he advises games of billiards, ball, shuttlecock, hunting, shooting, swimming, wrestling, dancing, leaping, riding, walking, traveling, exercising the voice, speaking, reading aloud, declaiming, and singing. Here Dr. Hünerfauth remarks that many great physicians in old times considered reading aloud, declaiming, and singing highly beneficial to the general health. Plutarch mentions that daily exercise of the voice conduces greatly to health.

A system of gymnastics was established in Sweden by Peter Ling, between 1805 and 1839. He was the son of a pastor, and devoted his life to the study of exercises for the development of the human frame. Swedish exercises are much used now in England.

Massage and gymnastic exercises have more votaries in France than in England. The love of sport that seems inherent in English people is supposed to have obviated the necessity for a widely extended system of gymnastics. Now, however, gymnastic exercises and musical drill are being introduced largely, and have been much appreciated, not only by men and boys, but by women and girls.

The system of massage practiced by Dr. Metzger has drawn crowds to Amsterdam, and has afforded relief to great numbers of sufferers, several reigning sovereigns—among others the Empress of Austria—being among his patients. Dr. Hünerfauth carries out the same system at Homburg with equal success, and a member of his family devotes much of her time to relieving from charity the sufferings of the peasants.

It is necessary to beware of masseurs who have no real knowledge of the art, as disastrous results follow from the violent treatment to which ignorant persons subject their patients. Dr. Hünerfauth deprecates massage by machinery, as he considers that much delicacy is necessary in treating the complicated nervous system of the human frame. It is curious to find how much benefit many sufferers derive from a revival of the same remedies practiced in by-gone ages and in distant climes. Truly, there is nothing new under the sun.

It has occurred to me that women might, after being properly instructed, find the practice of massage a useful and profitable employment. I believe the usual time employed at one sitting is from twenty minutes to half an hour. To relieve, for instance, the oppression produced by irregularity of the action of the heart, gentle continuous rubbing would be practiced for ten minutes from the left to the right side in a downward direction, then from right to left. The patient should lie on a reclining board, and the masseuse stand so as to be able to rub firmly, though without inflicting the least pain. To calm nervous agitation and to induce sleep, it has been found that rubbing the spine is an almost certain remedy, and sufferers from neuralgia have often derived great benefit from massage.

Friction with pine-oil is a favorite cure for rheumatic affections in Germany, and also for bronchial and throat complaints. The aromatic, astringent fragrance of the oil, which is made from resinous portions of the fir-trees, has a salutary effect in pulmonary cases.

I happened lately to read an account of an institute in London whence "masseurs" are sent to private houses. I know nothing of the system carried out there, but I see that four guineas a week is the charge for daily visits at the patient's own house.

Such an expense would be out of the question for most people, as a course of massage should be continued for six weeks or two months. Indeed, there are many invalids, of great position and wealth, who have a masseuse attached to their households. Doubtless there are numbers of women who would gladly practice this healing art for moderate remuneration, and find much happiness in soothing pain and relieving weariness.—Nineteenth Century.