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5 Things to Know about Tuina

Tuina has gained popularity worldwide. We will reveal the five things everyone needs to know about this ancient Chinese massage.

A close-up shot of a woman getting a neck massage

Tuina is rising in popularity all over the world. But this Chinese massage is more than just a trend; it’s a tradition with its own history, technique, guidelines, and more. Read along as we unveil the five things you need to know about tuina.

1. Tuina is an Ancient Massage Technique

Tuina is pronounced “twee nah”. The word comes from “tui” (pushing) and “na” (grasping), two techniques that masseuses use to massage a patient. An essential component of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), it is a form of massage therapy used to treat numerous clinical conditions and has been around China for over 2000 years. Ancient practitioners called it “an mo”, “an qiao”, and “qiao mo” long before the term “tuina” was first recorded in the Ming dynasty.

2. Tuina is Not an Ordinary Massage

A close-up shot of a woman getting a neck massage
A tuina practitioner massages a patient’s meridian points according to TCM principles.

Tuina practitioners would brush, knead, roll, press and rub a patient’s body with their palms, fingertips, and knuckles. That may sound like a very usual massage method that any masseuse would use. But tuina is different in that it utilises TCM principles such as yin-yang (complementary forces), qi (vital life energy) and meridian points. Unlike a masseuse, a tuina practitioner would massage a patient’s meridians to stimulate qi and heal injuries.

3. Not Anyone Can Practice Tuina

As more people accept tuina as a treatment or therapeutic option, you probably find more and more clinics offering tuina massage. Before performing the massage on their patients, tuina practitioners must train in Taoist and martial arts philosophies. Additionally, the World Health Organization (WHO) has published a book on the benchmarks for training in tuina to ensure that the therapies are up to standard.

Even after completing their training, a tuina practitioner cannot treat a patient without a detailed diagnosis. They will only start the therapy when they have determined the cause of an injury, its nature, affected areas, the duration of the symptoms, whether there’s swelling, and the condition of the patient’s limb and joint function.

4. Tuina’s Exceptional Benefits

Tuina practitioners work directly on the problem areas of the patient’s body, which differentiates it from other TCM practices like acupuncture. The benefits of tuina include:

  • Treating certain types of tendons- and bone-related injuries or pains.
  • Improving motor and sensory dysfunction, as well as reducing pain after a nerve injury.
  • Strengthening the immune system.
  • Improving blood circulation.
  • Relieving pain.
  • Having a therapeutic effect on mood (physical and mental relaxation).
  • Enhancing the flow of breast milk (for lactating women).

5. It’s Safe for Everyone, with Some Exceptions

As long as a correct diagnosis precedes the practice, tuina should be safe for everyone, including children. Usually, tuina can treat indigestion, constipation, cough, asthma, enuresis, vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, and dysplasia in children.

Although it is safe, tuina is not recommended for patients with the following conditions:

  • Pregnant women.
  • Cancer patients.
  • People with ligament tears, fevers, infections, malignant tumours, acute spine injuries, and spinal cord compression.

To complement and accelerate the progress of the therapy, tuina practitioners may prescribe additional exercises to their patients. Eating healthy food is essential as well. As an option, patients can consume ginseng tea, which offers many health-boosting benefits.

How Is Tuina Different from Western Massages?

A close-up shot of two hands kneading on a woman’s back
Tuina involves brushing, kneading, rolling, pressing, and rubbing the patient’s body.

Compared to other types of Eastern massages, tuina shares the most similarity with Western massages. For example, both tuina and Swedish massages use a range of motions and strokes to release tension in the muscles. However, tuina is more rigorous and emphasises specific areas in the body to promote healing. On the other hand, Western massages use more broad strokes with lighter intensity to relieve stress and relax the body.

Other types of Western massage include deep tissue massage, which is closely related to Swedish massage but focuses on using deep pressure techniques to relieve working muscular tissues. Lymph massage is also a popular technique that employs small pressures to remove fluid buildup in the body.

Regardless of their differences, tuina and Western massage modalities offer many benefits to help your body heal and relax. In Malaysia, many TCM clinics offer tuina as part of their treatment protocol. However, make sure you find a trusted clinic with professional practitioners to receive the optimal benefits of this traditional massage.

This is an adaptation of an article, “Tuina: Ancient Chinese Healing Techniques”, which first appeared on Eu Yan Sang website.

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