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Massage Today
April, 2005, Vol. 05, Issue 04

Visit to Sweden a Rewarding Experience

By Michael McGillicuddy, LMT, NCTMB

Last year while attending the International Symposium on the Science of Touch in Montreal, Canada, I met Rolf Elmstrom, editor of the Swedish Massage Magazine and educational consultant; Lena Austin, director of studies for Axelsons Massage School in Sweden; and Renee Liden Naprapath, massage therapist and director of education for Axelsons.

They were at the conference promoting a program they started in Sweden called Peaceful Touch, a program that teaches massage therapists how to instruct schoolteachers to incorporate massage in preschools and elementary schools.

(Editor's note: See related story "Massage at Preschools and Schools" by Rolf Elmtrom in the April 2003 issue,

Michael McGillicuddy, Lynda Solien-Wolfe and Hans Axelson. - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark Michael McGillicuddy and Lynda Solien-Wolfe treat Hans Axelson (seated) to chair massage. I attended their three-hour presentation on Peaceful Touch at the Montreal symposium and was excited about learning more. My friend, Lynda Solien-Wolfe, had met Rolf previously; when he and Axelsons invited us to visit Sweden, we could not pass up the opportunity.

Sweden was home to Per Henrik Ling (1776-1839) who is considered the father of Swedish gymnastics and physiotherapy. Swedish gymnastics was a combination of exercise and massage techniques that formed the basis of modern Swedish massage. We visited Ling Hill, the burial ground for the Ling family and home of Per Henrik Ling, now owned by a Swedish Airline and used for VIP dinners and events.

Rolf introduced us to Hans Axelson, the physical therapist that started the Axelsons massage schools over 40 years ago. Axelsons has become the largest massage school in Europe with campuses in Sweden, Norway and Japan; Axelsons also operates an animal massage school and a spa school. We learned that the massage therapy training at Axelsons consists of 600 hours and the curriculum is similar to that in the United States. I credit Hans with increasing the professional image of massage in Sweden.

Swedish Preschool children and teachers sit in a circle performing shoulder massage on each other. - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark The most important reason for visiting Sweden was to learn more about the Peaceful Touch program, which has become a mission of the Axelsons Institute. Lena and Renee arranged for us to attend a one-day workshop with Swedish schoolteachers to gain firsthand knowledge about how the program is taught. The teachers learn to ask the children if they want to be massaged before touching them, and games and stories are taught to make massage fun and respectful.

We then visited two schools to watch the concept in action. In the elementary school, children took turns massaging each other while reading. They also got in a circle and massaged each other to a story. We also visited a preschool where the teachers massage the children after lunch during a quiet naptime. As a result of the Peaceful Touch program, children are less aggressive and violent toward each other in Swedish schools.

"This was a great opportunity to see Peaceful Touch being practiced successfully in a school system. It was a powerful feeling to watch these children massage each other. The visit to Sweden was a wonderful experience," shared Lynda.

If you are interested in learning more about Swedish massage, Per Henrik Ling, and the Peaceful Touch program, join Rolf, Lena and Renee at the Florida State Massage Therapy Association Convention in Boca Raton, June 30 - July 3. Rolf will be the convention's keynote speaker, and Lena and Renee will be teaching a Peaceful Touch workshop.

To register for the convention, visit

Click here for previous articles by Michael McGillicuddy, LMT, NCTMB.


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