(1887) Massage as a Mode of Treatment – by Dr. William Murrell M.D.

Lecturer on Pharmacology and Therapeutics at the Westminster Hospital; Examiner in Materia Medica to the Royal College of Physicians in London; Late Examiner in Materia Medica in the University of Edinburgh

Table of Contents:

I. Introduction
II. The History of Massage
III. The Method of Performing Massage
IV. The Masseur and the Masseuse
V. The Physiological Action of Massage
VI. Massage in Paralysis
VII. Massage for Constipation
VIII. Massage a Remedy for Rheumatism
IX. Massage and Neurasthenia
X. Spinal Irritation and Massage
XI. Massage in Organic Diseases
XII. Massage in Surgical Affectations
XIII. Massage in Poisioning
XIV. Massage in Uterine Complaints

For many reasons, Massage as a field has had a tough time breaking into the medical community and offering itself as a reliable tool for physicians and healthcare providers to refer out to in cases where manual corrections may be applicable. Dr. William Murrell was one of the very first Western physicians to address the topic of Massage in a systematic way from the clinical viewpoint of a doctor who oversees the entire care of a patient. He comes across as a very serious man with an empirical mindset and a sense of duty to patient care. He prefaces his book with an admonishment to those who practice their craft irresponsibly, making hollow claims of efficacy and not continuing education in the field.

“The fact of two large editions of this work having been exhausted in about nine months may be regarded as a proof that the subject has attracted some attention. The difficulty is not that Massage fails to receive due credit, but that it is employed in a number of cases for which it is essentially unsuited. No discrimination is exercised, but its use is advocated for all sorts of chronic ailments. This grave mistake is greatly to be deplored. The work, too, is often carried on by people who know little or nothing about it, and who have not even mastered its most elementary details. They regard it as a special system of treatment, whereas in reality it is only one of a number of therapeutic agents at the disposal of every physician. They practice without knowledge and often do incalculable harm. It is not pleasant to hear of an aneurysm being ruptured by the efforts of a too zealous Masseur, and such mishaps should be avoided.”

It is all too common for massage therapists to be overconfident, overzealous, or ignorant of the needs of their clients. The clients of these therapists almost feel tortured as the therapist proceeds to pound on their tissues without a plan and without regard to their medical history. In this book Dr. William Murrell presents a complete system of medical massage therapy and its indications while challenging conventionally held beliefs about how massage therapy should be conducted for the ultimate benefit of the patient. He immediately tosses out the basic idea of even having a routine or a session format. He says, “A very prevalent mistake is to suppose that each seance should last an hour. How this absurd idea originated is difficult to say.” While he states his point indelicately, it is difficult to argue that a full hour is always necessary or even recommended in many cases where massage might be an effective treatment.

“In the following pages I have endeavored to give a concise account of the Mezgerian or Von Mesengeilian system as practised in Holland and Germany, together with certain indications as to the class of cases in which it is most likely to do good. The ignorant rubber of course thinks that it will cure of everything, but as a matter of fact its sphere of action is limited. If carried out under the direction of a scientific physician, who has had experience in this mode of treatment, it yields excellent results, but if allowed to drift into the hands of an ignorant empiric it soon degenerates into the most arrant quackery.”

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(1887) Massage as a Mode of Treatment by Dr. William Murrell M.D.

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