The term “Medical Gymnastics” is used to express the treatment of disease by movements. Ling, an officer in the Swedish Army, and the originator of this system, received his first inspiration on the subject by finding that fencing cured the lameness in his own arm. From this simple fact he was drawn on to think, why should not other affections be also cured by means of movements. So he went through a complete course of anatomy, physiology, and pathology, and gradually evolved the whole of his system, which embraces, not only medical, but also military and hygienic or educational gymnastics. The object of hygienic gymnastics is to preserve the balance of power in the body; that of medical gymnastics is to restore the balance when it has been disturbed by loss of proportion between the parts. The blood is the carrier of life and of disease. If the stream to any part be above or below the normal supply, disease is the result. Can the flow and the actual quality of the blood be regulated by gymnastics ? The experienced gymnast at once answers “Yes.” The very fact that the hands and feet become warm through exercise shows that the sluggish circulation has been quickened, and that more and fresh blood has been brought to them from some other part which has in consequence become poorer, perhaps to its own benefit. Ling, by his marvellously clear insight into anatomy and physiology, was able to think out and arrange movements for all parts of the body, by means of which the supply might be decreased or increased, or the nutritive quality improved, all according to the exigencies of the case. Nor is the control of the circulation the only weapon in the hand of the gymnast. By constant pressure the form and direction of the parts may be changed, and swellings caused by accumulation of matter may be reduced and absorbed.
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