Tuina or tui na (Chinese: 推拏or 推拿; pinyin: tuī ná), is a form of Chinese manipulative therapy often used in conjunction with acupuncture, moxibustion, fire cupping, Chinese herbalism, t’ai chi, and qigong. It is a hands-on body treatment that uses Chinese taoist and martial art principles in an attempt to bring into balance the eight principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine. The practitioner may brush, knead, roll/press and rub the areas between each of the joints (known as the eight gates) to open the body’s defensive (wei) chi and get the energy moving in the meridians as well as the muscles. The practitioner can then use range of motion, traction, massage, with the stimulation of acupressure points; this is claimed to treat both acute and chronic musculoskeletal conditions, as well as many non-musculoskeletal conditions.
Tui na is an integral part of TCM and is taught in TCM schools as part of formal training in Oriental medicine. Many East Asian martial arts schools also teach tui na to their advanced students for the treatment and management of injury and pain due to training. As with many other traditional Chinese medical practices, there are several different schools with greater or smaller differences in their approach to the discipline. It is related also to Chinese massage or anma (按摩). In China, Tuina is currently taught as a separate but equal field of study, with practitioners receiving the same level of training (and enjoying the same professional respect) as acupuncturists and herbalists. It is also taught as part of the curriculum at the Arizona School of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, with the second year student interns performing skilled techniques and protocols.
In ancient China, medical therapy was often classified as either “external” or “internal” treatment. Tui na was one of the external methods, thought to be especially suitable for use on the elderly population and on infants. Today it is subdivided into specialized treatment for infants, adults, orthopedics, traumatology, cosmetology, rehabilitation, sports medicine, etc.
What to expect on your first visit
In a typical tuina session, the client remains clothed but wears loose clothing, and sits on a chair, couch or table. The practitioner will ask the patient a series of questions, then begin treatment based on the answers to those questions.
Tuina practitioners may employ a variety of methods to achieve their goal. Commonly used techniques include soft tissue massage; acupressure and manipulation. Practitioners may sometimes use herbal compresses, liniments, ointments and heat to enhance these techniques.
Conditions and Contraindications
Tuina is best suited for rectifying chronic pain, musculoskeletal conditions and stress-related disorders that affect the digestive and/or respiratory systems. Among the ailments tuina treats best are neck pain, shoulder pain, back pain, sciatica and tennis elbow. However, because tuina is designed to improve and restore the flow of qi, treatment often ends up causing improvements to the whole body, not just a specific area. There is anecdotal evidence that headaches, constipation, premenstrual symptoms and some emotional problems may also be effectively treated through tuina.
Because it tends to be more specific and intense than other types of bodywork, tuina may not necessarily be used to sedate or relax a patient. The type of massage delivered by a tuina practitioner can be quite vigorous; in fact, some people may feel sore after their first session. Some patients may also experience feelings of sleepiness or euphoria.
As with all forms of care, there are certain instances in which tuina should not be performed. Patients with osteoporosis or conditions involving fractures, for instance, should not receive tuina. Neither should patients with infectious diseases, skin problems or open wounds.
The details of tuina‘s techniques and uses were originally documented in The Yellow Emperor’s Classics of Internal Medicine, which was written about 2,500 years ago. Similar techniques date to the Shang Dynasty, around 1700 BC. Ancient inscriptions on oracle bones show that massage was
used to treat infants and adult digestive conditions. In his book Jin Gui Yao Lue, Zhang Zhongjing, a famous physician in the Han Dynasty (206 BC), wrote: “As soon as the heavy sensation of the limbs is felt, “Daoyin“, “Tui na”, “Zhenjiu” and “Gaomo”, all of which are therapeutic methods, are carried out in order to prevent […] the disease from gaining a start.” Around AD 700, Tui na had developed into a separate study in the Imperial Medical College.
The first reference to this type of external treatment was called “anwu”, then the more common name became “anmo”. It was subsequently popularized and spread to many other countries such as Korea and Japan.
As the art of massage continued to develop and gain structure, it merged (around 1600 AD) with another technique called tui na, which was the specialty of bone-setting using deep manipulation. It was also around this time that the different systems of tui na became popular, each with its own sets of rules and methods.
Today, the term Tui na has replaced anmo within China and in the West. The term anmo is still used in some surrounding countries such as Japan.
Naprapathy is also called Tui na massage
Finding a Practitioner
The American Organization for Bodywork Therapies of Asia (AOBTA) maintains a list of qualified tuina practitioners throughout the U.S. For more information, contact the AOBTA by phone at 856-782-1616, or online at www.aobta.org.