Therese Pfrimmer did not have an easy life. According to Theodoor Godron, author of the Handbook of Therese C. Pfrimmer Technique of Deep-Muscle Therapy, Therese and her family immigrated to the US from French-speaking Belgium when she was just a young child. Her father—who worked as a miner and tinsmith in Wisconsin—died when Therese was 13, leaving an already struggling family destitute. Therese was forced to fend for herself and went to work cutting and hauling firewood.
Eventually she married a Canadian man and moved to South-Western Ontario, where they started a dry-cleaning business. From there, she ended up studying physiotherapy and massage at a college in Chicago, where she could only afford to eat one meal a day. This training in muscle therapy would prove providential in connection with a future health crisis of her own.
At some point, her husband left her, taking with him the “sizeable loan” they had taken out for their dry-cleaning business. Therese was left having to work two jobs just to repay the loan, with no hope of saving the business. It was at this point, at around age 40, that the paralysis set in. Godron states: “…she had exerted herself to such a degree that she went lame in one leg!”
Unable to accept the hopeless prognosis of her doctors, Therese became her own first patient, using the therapy techniques that she’d learned in Chicago … and taking it a step further. (It is at this point in the story where we pick up with her words quoted at the opening of this article.) By manipulating her own leg muscles in a way that intuitively made sense to her, she reversed her own paralysis, and gave birth to a new field of muscle therapy—one which addresses and corrects damage and disease.
Therese was unwilling to charge for her work until she understood why it was helping people. Her research took the form of working voluntarily on patients in nearby hospitals who were suffering from similar conditions. This met with varying reactions from doctors. Godron describes: “Some doctors allowed her to work in this fashion while others ridiculed her work.” He continues: “Working this way, it took her about three years to develop her technique. She only did this in the evening because during the day she made her living as a short order cook in a restaurant. There, examining one day a particularly tough piece of meat, she noticed that she could soften it considerably by rolling it back and forth on the counter going across the direction of the muscle fibres [italics ours]. This experience helped to establish in her mind what the basic movement, used in Deep-Muscle Therapy, should be. Having had success with her hospital patients, she was now ready to start a practice.”
It was the applying of specific strokes across the muscle fibers that had the effect of separating the adherent (stuck) fibers; which allowed the moisture (interstitial lymphatic fluid) to return to the muscles; which, in turn, allowed the tough, dry flesh to return to its natural state. The desire to help people with this discovery became the driving force in Therese’s life. She would do up to 14 clients a day at her Bayfield, Ontario clinic. She would travel great distances in her pickup truck, helping people all over rural Canada and the United States (often guided by truckers, who gave her the handle “Healing Hands”). And this “driving force” was not limited to human beings; one race horse that she treated for a fractured bone in the left hind leg went on to win ten races—“Muscles are muscles,” she would say.
Her work became known as Deep Muscle Therapy, Canadian Massage, and Pfrimmer Deep Muscle Therapy. Therese held her first class in 1971, with two professionals attending (one of which was the above-quoted Theodoor Godron, seen below at Therese’s right). Between 1971 and her death in 1980, she taught approximately 70 students at her Bayfield clinic. To the right is an article from her 11th class, praising her work and their experience studying under her.
Her book Muscles—Your Invisible Bonds is packed with case histories, testimonials, discoveries, and words of wisdom, of which a few paraphrased examples follow. ‘The body will heal itself, if given the right opportunity.’ ‘When proper circulation is restored to tough, dry, adherent portions of flesh, it again becomes self-maintaining.’ ‘Manipulating muscle restores more than just muscle; it restores other body systems.’ ‘When muscles are clogged with toxins and adherencies, the natural blood flow is cut off; if fresh, oxygenated blood cannot reach the muscle, the muscle cannot contract; when muscles can’t contract, you end up carrying them around, instead of them carrying you around!’
As her health declined, Therese selected a professional therapist and comrade, Mary Kish, to assist her in teaching and to be responsible for inviting future Pfrimmer instructors. That resulted in the two Master Pfrimmer Instructors, Victoria Ross and Ruthann Hobbs, and the two Pfrimmer Institutes in operation today. (For more information on this, see IICMT Institute.)
On page 12 of her book Therese said, “I have developed this Deep Muscle Therapy, which has satisfactorily brought results. There should be clinics of this kind spread throughout so that it would be available to more people. …This is a new field and people will have to be educated to it. Educated—that something can be done to help them. It is a new field as well as a big one because I have only begun to scratch the surface.”
Below are several articles about Therese from the early days, which give the flavor of her personality and her work.