An Intro to Chinese Medicine Part III: Chinese Massage

By Christina Morris, L.Ac.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is becoming a more popular form of medicine in the United States. A growing number of people find themselves searching for natural approaches to medicine and preventative healthcare. Traditional Chinese Medicine is composed of three main forms of practice, including: acupuncture, herbology, and massage. This article will focus on Chinese massage.

Chinese massage, called tui na (pronounced “twee nah”) is used to treat a variety of ailments and diseases and is also used as a preventative therapy. For thousands of years massage has been used to heal the body and mind. There are many forms and styles of massage from all over the world. Tui na is a form of massage commonly used throughout China and is used to treat a variety of ailments including, musculoskeletal disorders- injuries of the tendons, muscles and bones- headaches, migraines, gastrointestinal, respiratory, gynecological disorders, obstetric, pediatric diseases and diseases of the eyes, ears, nose and throat. This form of massage can boost the immune system and is used to treat people of all ages including infants and the elderly. Tui na is also a popular modality utilized for cosmetic purposes. Face tui na strengthens the face muscles and increases blood supply to the face, thus preventing wrinkles, sagging skin, dark circles and puffiness under the eyes.

Traditional Chinese Medicine believes that there are specific energy pathways circulating throughout the body. These flows of energy are called meridians. Diseases occur through imbalances in this energy system. There are certain areas and points on the body which can be manipulated to correct these imbalances. Tui na is an effective form of therapy to balance the energy of the meridians and to regulate the functions of the internal organs.

Tui na is an external form of treatment incorporating various manipulations according to the particular ailment, age, constitution and TCM diagnosis of the individual. Tui na applications focus on areas of pain, acupuncture points, meridians, muscles and joints. Manipulations often used on adults, include pressing, kneading, rolling, rubbing, grasping, patting, rotating, pulling, and extending. Hippocrates, the “father of medicine”  wrote in his Corpus Hippocraticum: “The physician must be experienced in many things but assuredly in rubbing…For rubbing can bind a joint that is too loose, and loosen a joint that is too rigid.” Research studies indicate that tui na increases blood and lymphatic circulation as well as increases gastrointestinal peristalsis and digestive gland secretion. Recovery time of soft tissue injuries is often reduced when tui na is incorporated into the patient’s rehabilitative care. Tui na is an effective form of treatment for a variety of ailments including preventative care and is often used in conjunction with acupuncture and herbology. Tui na is safe and effective when performed by a qualified practitioner.