Tuina or tui-na (pronounced twee-nah) massage originated in ancient China and is believed to be the oldest system of bodywork. It’s one of the four main branches of traditional Chinese medicine, along with acupuncture, qi gong, and Chinese herbal medicine. It’s based on the theory that imbalances of qi, which is the body’s vital life force or energy, can cause blockages or imbalances that lead to symptoms such as pain and illness.
Tuina massage stimulates the flow of qi to promote balance and harmony within the body using many of the same principles of acupuncture. It’s similar to acupuncture in the way it targets specific acupoints, but practitioners use fingers instead of needles to apply pressure to stimulate these points. Tuina massage is often used in combination with acupuncture.
How it Works
The philosophy and principles of tuina massage are based on traditional Chinese medicine, which focuses on emotional and physical components of a person’s well-being, as well as aspects such as climate, relationships, and diet. The underlying philosophy of tuina massage is that true health is achieved when one has found harmony and balance inside the self and their environment.
The goal of tuina massage is to create harmony in the yin and yang of the body by getting rid of blockages and disturbances that manifest as illness, disease, and emotional issues. Similar to acupuncture, tuina massage uses the same energetic meridians and acupoints to balance the qi and blood in your body, leading to better health. Qi that’s flowing incorrectly can cause blockages, such as poor blood circulation in the affected area. The main therapeutic goal of tuina massage is to remove the energetic blocks that are causing qi stagnation.
During a session, practitioners use oscillating and pressure techniques that differ in force and speed. Tuina massage can be done as a stronger deep-tissue massage or a more gentle, energetic treatment.
Some techniques are more yin, which is more gentle, passive, and meditative. The yang approach is more active, dynamic, and physical, creating more intense sensations by stimulating deep blockages and knots.
The practitioner massages the muscles and tendons and uses manipulation techniques to realign the body. Passive joint movements are used to restore function to muscles and joints. Depending on your practitioner as well as your specific needs, various techniques will be used in a session. To enhance the effects of the treatment, herbal poultices or compresses, lotions, and salves are used.
Tuina massage uses massage techniques such as acupressure, myofascial release, and reflexology. Sometimes, techniques that are common to osteopathy and chiropractic, such as stretching and joint mobilizations, are also used.
What does it Treat?
Tuina massage can be used to treat specific health concerns or areas in the body. Since tuina massage is considered to be an alternative treatment, it’s essential that you talk to your doctor before using it to treat any medical condition. Tuina massage can be used to treat pain and illness, or to maintain good health. The technique is effective in reducing stress, encouraging relaxation, and deepening sleep. It’s often used for conditions and injuries related to the musculoskeletal and nervous systems.
Here are some conditions tuina massage can treat:
neck and back pain
fatigue and insomnia
Tuina massage is a safe treatment and is generally well-tolerated. However, remember that it’s not a gentle or relaxing massage, and you may feel some discomfort during or after a session. Slight bruising is possible.
It’s not recommended for people who have fractures or are prone to fractures, vein inflammation, or any type of open wound. It’s also not recommended for people with previous chronic back issues, such as ankylosing spondylitis.
The Bottom Line
Tuina massage is a healing technique that offers an array of benefits. If you’re interested in trying it, contact a certified practitioner through the American Organization for Bodywork Therapies of Asia.
As with many healing modalities, tuina massage works well when combined with other natural treatments and a healthy lifestyle. Your practitioner may encourage you to do self-massage, stretches, and exercises on your own to increase the benefits of each treatment.