Tuina (tui na) also called Tui na massage or naprapathy is an ancient type of Chinese manual treatment often used in conjunction with qigong, tai chi, herbal medicine, cupping, moxibustion, and acupuncture. Tui na is a type of body therapy that applies martial arts and Chinese Taoist philosophy in order to bring into balance traditional Chinese medicine’s eight principles: yin and yang, deficiency and excess, external and internal, and cold and heat. The procedure involves rubbing, pressing/rolling, kneading, and brushing by the practitioner of the areas called the eight gates, which are the parts between each of the joints to open the defensive energy of the body (called wei chi) and promote the movement of vital energy (chi) in the muscles and meridians. The practitioner can then stimulate the acupressure points through the use of massage, traction, and range of motion; this method is believed to help treat both acute and chronic conditions involving the musculoskeletal as well as non-musculoskeletal systems.
A vital component of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), Tui na is part of the curriculum taught in TCM schools. In East Asia, several martial arts schools offer tui na courses to their advanced students for the management and treatment of pain and injury incurred from training. Each school has its own way of teaching this discipline, as with many other traditional Chinese medical practices. It is also related to anma or Chinese massage.
Thousands of years ago in China, medical treatment was usually categorized as either “external” or “internal” therapy. One of the external therapies was Tui na which was considered to be particularly suited for use on infants and the elderly. Now, it is further divided into specified therapies for sports medicine, rehabilitation, cosmetology, infants, adults, orthopedics, traumatology, etc.
A Typical Session of Tui na Therapy
Wear clothes that are loose fitting when you come in for treatment. You may be told to sit on a table, couch or chair. You will be asked a chain of questions by the practitioner, then depending on your answers to the questions, treatment will commence.
Practitioners of Tuina may utilize different procedures to obtain their goal. Manipulation, acupressure, and soft tissue massage are the procedures most commonly used. To augment the effects of these procedures, sometimes, the practitioner may also use heat, ointments, liniments, and herbal compresses.
Health Issues and Contraindications
Disorders of the respiratory and/or digestive systems associated with stress as well as chronic pain are some of the conditions in which Tuina therapy is at its most effective. When it comes to ailments, this therapy is works extremely well in relieving tennis elbow, sciatica, back pain, shoulder pain, and neck pain. But since tuina is meant to restore or boost the movement of chi, it usually brings about extra health benefits to the entire body, not just to a certain area. Anecdotal proofs exist that tuina can be an effective way to treat certain emotional problems, premenstrual symptoms (PMS), constipation, and headaches.
Tuina is not a treatment designed to relax tor sedate a person since it is one of the most intense and specific types of bodywork around. A tuina healer administers a type of massage that can be quite vigorous; in fact, in their first treatment, some patients may feel soreness in the areas of treatment. Interestingly, there are patients who actually feel euphoria or sleepy during and after a session.
As with all types of therapy, there are cases in which tuina therapy should not be used. It should not be administered on people with open wounds, skin problems, infectious diseases, fractures, or osteoporosis.
The specifics of methods used in Tuina have been first recorded over 2,400 years ago in The Yellow Emperor’s Classics of Internal Medicine. Other methods similar to tuina date to about 1700 BC, during the Shang Dynasty. Ancient oracle bones bore inscriptions saying that adult and infant digestive conditions were treated with massage. In 206 BC, during the Han Dynasty, a famous healer named Zhang Zhongjing wrote a book entitled Jin Gui Yao Lue. In the book he stated that the treatment techniques of “Gaomo”, “Tui na”, and “Daoyin“ are administered as soon as the heavy sensation of the limbs is felt, in order to prevent the onset of a disease. In the Imperial Medical College about 700 AD, Tui na evolved into a study of its own.
The first reference to this external form of therapy was called “anwu” that became more commonly called “anmo”. Later on, it became widely and its fame spread to countries such as Japan and Korea.
Around AD 1600, as physiotherapy or massage therapy continued to gain structure and evolve, it blended with another approach called tui na, which specialized in bone-setting through deep manipulation. During this time, different styles of tui na, each with own sets of methods and rules, also developed.
Now, in the West and China the term anmo has been replaced with Tui na although in Japan and a few other countries, it is still referred to as anmo.
Cynthia Chamberlain is a licensed acupuncturist in Overland Park, KS.