John Harvey Kellogg and The Art of Massage and massage myths

John Harvey Kellogg


John Harvey Kellogg

John Harvey Kellogg (1852-1943), best known for his corn flakes, was an American physician who pioneered health food movement in the late 19th century, and also wrote a book on the Art of Massage. He is also responsible for promoting the idea (myth?) of drinking 8 glasses of water a day.

Kellogg was the director of the Battle Creek Sanitarium in Michigan, a combination of spa, hospital, and hotel. Here he invented a range of exercise equipment and medical contraptions for the use of these paying guests. He also developed, patented a variety of new foods, including Corn Flakes; peanut butter, soy milk, and a variety of imitation meats. He also published some 50 books on various aspects of healthy living which advocated vegetarianism, regular exercise, plenty of fresh air and sunshine, drinking 8 to 10 glasses of water a day, and abstinence from alcohol, tobacco, tea, and coffee.

Kellogg and Massage

Kellogg also made a contribution to massage therapy and was called the American massage pioneer.

He wrote “The Art of Massage” (1895) to “eliminate the unnecessary and inefficient, and to develop and perfect those methods capable of securing most definite and prompt results.” Kellogg’s Art of Massage (1895) can be read here

Kellogg and the Origin of Massage Myths

Read some of the materials from this book, we can see that some of the massage myths may originate from his book, e.g., massage should always be towards the heart.

Excerpt from Art of Massage (Ch. 6):

Stroking is always done in one direction only, never to and fro. As a rule, the direction of stroking should be that of the blood current in the arteries, outward or downward from the heart. The direction, as a rule, is the opposite of that of friction. When applied to hairy surfaces, the stroking should be in the way the hair lies, not against the hair, as in “rubbing a cat’s back the wrong way.”

Cerebral congestion, and the insomnia resulting from it, may often be relieved by centrifugal friction applied to the extremities. The rubbing should be in a direction away from the heart, thus impeding the flow of venous blood and so retaining a considerable amount of blood in the lower extremities, and thereby affording relief to the congested brain.”


Moving forward with Science

Study Guide to Kellogg's Art of Massage

Study Guide to Kellogg’s Art of Massage for the Ohio Board Exam for Massage Therapy

It is understandable as research and science was quite at its infancy at that time. Kellogg was ahead of his time in the 19th century, emphasizing the importance of anatomy and physiology, in particular the nervous system. He outlined the physiological effects of massage from observations and evidences available at that time.

However the materials from Kellogg’s Art of Massage was being used by the Ohio State Medical Board for Massage Therapy Licensing exam until not that long ago.

No doubt Kellogg has contributed much to introducing and modernizing massage as part of the health system, however we also need to move forward in the science.

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