What Is Tuina Massage? 5 Things You Never Knew About This Traditional Technique

An ancient massage technique, Tuina has gained popularity worldwide. Discover more about this incredible technique that can treat and restore the body.

A woman is having a tuina massage performed by licensed therapist

Many forms of Traditional Asian massage, in particular, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), can treat disharmony in the body as well as a variety of ailments.

One of the oldest systems of bodywork is Tuina or Tui Na, a deep massage technique that originated in ancient China that can treat both internal diseases and external injuries. Involving bodywork and energy medicine, it has its own history, technique, and guidelines that are rising in popularity all over the world.

Read along as we share more about the five incredible benefits of tuina massage and how it works.

What Is Chinese Tuina Massage?

Chinese Tuina massage is a hands-on manipulation treatment that provides the body with balance using many of the same principles of acupuncture. Duration of a session varies but is typically 30 minutes to an hour where you are fully clothed. The use of massage oils, creams, or heat may also be used in conjunction with a session.

Interestingly, this form of massage can be used on all individuals of all ages, from infants to older adults. It can provide balance to the body via compression techniques that place pressure along different energy channels of the body.

1. An Ancient Massage Technique

A therapist pressing muscles on the patient's back
Tuina involves the use of brushing, kneading rolling, pressing, and rubbing.

Tuina, pronounced “twee nah,” comes from “tui” (pushing) and “na” (grasping), two techniques used to massage a patient to treat numerous clinical conditions. It has been around in China for over 2,000 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. Not An Ordinary Massage

During a Tuina session, practitioners brush, knead, roll, press, and rub a patient’s body with their palms, fingertips, and knuckles. Using principles of TCM, tuina utilizes yin-yang (complementary forces), qi (vital life energy), and various meridian points to work deeply and remove blockages. This can restore positive energy to the body and bring it back to balance. Unlike a massage, a tuina practitioner massages a patient’s meridian channels to stimulate qi while addressing and healing injuries.

3. Tuina Practitioners Have Different Training

As more people understand tuina as a treatment or therapeutic option, you probably find more and more clinics offering tuina massage. The World Health Organization (WHO) published a book on the benchmarks for training in tuina to ensure that the therapies are up to standard.

After completing training, a tuina practitioner cannot treat a patient without a detailed diagnosis. They will only start practicing 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 Massage Benefits

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

  • Treats certain types of tendons – and bone-related injuries or pains such as fractures, dislocations, and internal injuries
  • Improves motor and sensory dysfunction, as well as reducing pain after a nerve injury
  • Strengthens the immune system
  • Improves blood circulation
  • Relieves pain such as with back pain, stiff neck, distension of shoulders, sciatica
  • Provides relief from insomnia, constipation, headaches, migraines, and irritable bowel syndrome
  • Provides a therapeutic effect on mood (physical and mental relaxation)
  • Enhances the flow of breast milk (for lactating women)
  • Helps alleviate myopia (nearsightedness) in children
  • Provides treatment of diarrhea in COVID-19 patients

5. It’s Safe For Everyone, With Some Exceptions

As long as you receive the correct diagnosis, tuina should be safe for everyone, including children. Usually, tuina can treat indigestion, constipation, cough, asthma, enuresis, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and dysplasia in children. While safe, tuina is not recommended for patients with the following conditions:

  • Pregnant women
  • Cancer patients
  • People with ligament tears, fevers, infections, malignant tumors, 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 can replenish the body, promote vitality and help provide energy.

How Is Tuina Different From Western Massages?

Deep massage performed by a therapist on the patient's lower back
Tuina is a deep and focused technique that is used to address problems on the body.

Western massages are generally used for relaxation, whereas tuina is specifically used to address problems in the body.

Meanwhile, tuina does share some similarities with Swedish massages as both forms use a range of applications, motions, and strokes to release tension in the muscles. However, tuina is more rigorous and emphasizes 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 offer many benefits to help your body heal and relax.

Many TCM clinics offer tuina as part of their treatment protocol. However, make sure you find a trusted clinic with professional practitioners who will address your specific ailments to provide you with the best course of treatment.

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

References

  1. Scientific Direct. 2011. Tui Na. [Accessed on January 25, 2022]
  2. Trails. 2014. Effectiveness of Chinese massage therapy (Tui Na) for chronic low back pain: study protocol for a randomized controlled trial. [Accessed on January 26, 2022]
  3. Pacific College of Health & Science. 2017. Benefits of Tui Na Massage. [Accessed on January 26, 2022]
  4. Medicine. 2019. Tuina for children with myopia. [Accessed on January 26, 2022]
  5. Medicine. 2020. Tuina (massage) therapy for diarrhea in COVID-19. [Accessed on January 26, 2022]
  6. Medicine. 2019. Acupoint-tuina therapy promotes lactation in postpartum women with insufficient milk production who underwent caesarean sections. [Accessed on January 26, 2022]

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