Tui na or Chinese Massage is a form of Chinese manipulative therapy often used in conjunction with acupuncture, moxibustion, fire cupping, Chinese herbalism, tai chi and qigong.
Tui na is a hands-on-body treatment using acupressure that is a modality of Chinese medicine whose purpose is to bring the body into balance. The principles being balanced are the eight principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine (qv because TCM was codified by the PRC out of many ancient traditions.) 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 both the meridians and the muscles. The practitioner can then use range of motion, traction, massage, with the stimulation of acupressure points and to treat both acute and chronic musculoskeletal conditions, as well as many non-musculoskeletal conditions. Tui na is an integral part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (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 lesser differences in their approach to the discipline. It is related also to Chinese massage or anma.
In ancient China, medical therapy was often classified into "external" and "internal" treatments. Tui na was one of the external methods, 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. Tui na has been used extensively in China for over 2,000 years.
Tui na has fewer side effects than modern drug-based and chemical-based treatments. It has been used to treat or complement the treatment of many conditions; musculo-skeletal disorders and chronic stress-related disorders of the digestive, respiratory, and reproductive systems.
Massage techniques are ubiquitous in almost all early human cultures. Similar techniques date at least as early as 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 700 CE, 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 then popularized and spread to many foreign countries such as Korea and Japan.
As the art of massage continued to develop and gain structure, it merged (around 1600 CE) 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.
It is not unusual to see practitioners working on street corners and parks in modern China. Tui na is an occupation that is particularly suitable to those with physical disabilities and in China, many blind persons receive training in the art of tui na, where their heightened sense of touch is a great benefit.
The words Tui Na translate into "push-grasp" or "poke-pinch" in Chinese. Physically, it is a series of pressing, tapping, and kneading with palms, fingertips, knuckles or implements that help the body to remove blockages along the meridians of the body and stimulates the flow of qi and blood to promote healing, similar to principles of acupuncture, moxibustion, and acupressure. Tui na's massage-like techniques range from light stroking to deep-tissue work which would be considered too vigorous or too painful for a recreational or relaxing massage. Clinical practitioners often use liniment, plasters, herbal compresses and packs to aid in the healing process, which should be used with caution on sensitive skin. Tui na is not used for conditions involving compound fractures, external wounds, open sores or lesions, phlebitis, or with infectious conditions such as hepatitis. Tui na should not be performed on the abdominal portion of a woman in menstrual or pregnant periods, and it is not used for treatment of malignant tumors or tuberculosis.
In a typical adult tui na session, the patient wears loose clothing and lies on a massage table or floor pad. After answering some brief questions about the nature and location of the health problem as well as basic questions about general health, allergies and other existing conditions, the practitioner will concentrate on specific acupressure points, energy trigger points, muscles and joints surrounding the affected area. Occasionally, clothing is removed or repositioned to expose a particular spot that requires direct skin contact. The patient should always be informed before this act, and no inappropriate or unexpected contact should ever be made in a professional session. Treatment sessions last from 10 minutes to over an hour. Patients often return for additional treatments for chronic conditions.