What Is Tuina? | Tui Na

Published | Updated April 12, 2020


Tuina (or Tui Na) is a Chinese therapeutic massage and one of the most commonly used massage modalities in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). It’s a manual, hands-on body treatment technique with the goal to promote health and to treat various clinical health conditions. It includes techniques such as pushing (Tui) and grasping (Na) of soft body tissue.

In China, Tuina has been used for more than 2 000 years. Its predecessor was called “An Mo”, “An Qiao” or “Qiao Mo,” which was already mentioned in The Yellow Emperor’s Internal Classic Huang Di Nei Jing, which is thought to be written in the period 475-221 BCE. The Huang Di Nei Jing was the first complete medical text about TCM. The name “Tuina” came about during the Ming dynasty (1368 – 1644 CE).

Tuina techniques used by the practitioners are many, such as brushing, kneading, rolling, pressing, shaking, tapotement, acupressure, and rubbing the areas between the joints. The core idea is to open the body’s defensive mechanism, unblock the meridians, regulate the Zang-Fu organs, and get the Qi energy moving into the meridians and the muscles. The Tui Na treatment is generally used to treat neuromusculoskeletal conditions. Additionally, patients can be asked to do prescribed exercises as a supplementary therapy at home.

Today, apart from being an individual manual soft and deep tissue massage treatment, it’s also concurrently applied with modern allopathic medical care, for instance, to heal bone fractures and joint dislocations, but also used in conjunction with internal medicine, gynecology and pediatrics. Tuina is generally not used for relaxation, but rather as a deep tissue treatment for a variety of internal diseases and external injuries.

Tuina is a holistic bodywork modality that can be used in combination with other treatments of TCM, such as Acupuncture, Moxibustion, Cupping, Chinese herbalism and nutrition, Tai Chi, and Qigong. It’s important to notice that Tuina is practiced consistent with the philosophy of TCM, guided by principles such as Yin and Yang, the Five Elements, Qi, blood and body fluids, and by the identification of syndromes and patterns.

Tui Na has always had a close relationship with the Chinese martial arts, as traumatic injuries (such as dislocations, sprains, fractures, etc.) are commonplace in any combative environment. In modern China, Tuina is widely popular and many hospitals include is as a standard modality of treatment, with several specializations for infants, adults, orthopedics, traumatology, sports medicine, among others.

In the past decades in the Western world, Tui Na, like other Asian bodywork modalities, has become increasingly popular and it is frequently taught as part of the curriculum at some Western acupuncture schools. Therapists are known as Tuina practitioners, Tuina therapists or Tuina doctors.

Usually, Tui Na treatments are given clothed on a mat on the floor, on a massage table, or chair. The receiver should wear loose and comfortable clothes, preferably with top and pants/skirt as separate articles of clothing, to facilitate the exposure of an area that may require direct skin contact.

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Disclaimer: All content on this website is for informational purposes only and not intended to serve as a substitute for the consultation, diagnosis, or medical treatment of a qualified physician or other professional healthcare provider.

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