What Is Tuina?

Published | Updated February 8, 2019


Tuina (or Tui Na) is a Chinese therapeutic massage. This hands-on body treatment uses Chinese Taoist principles in an effort to bring the eight principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) into balance. The name Tui Na comes from the combination of the two words: tui – which means “to push” and na – which means “to lift and squeeze.”

The techniques used by the practitioners are many, as brushing, kneading, rolling, pressing, and rubbing the areas between each of the joints. These areas are known as the eight gates, and they are manipulated in order to open the body’s defensive chi (Wei Qi) and get the energy moving into the meridians and the muscles. Other strokes include shaking and tapotement.

Tui Na is a holistic bodywork modality that can be used in combination with other treatments of TCM as Acupuncture, Moxibustion, Fire Cupping, Chinese herbalism and nutrition, T’ai chi, and Qigong. It is not generally used just for relaxation, but rather as a deep tissue treatment for a variety of internal diseases and external injuries.

Where does it come from?

Tui Na is considered the oldest form of bodywork in the world; archaeological studies have discovered evidence of Tui Na dating back to around 2700 BC. Primitive man instinctively knew that rubbing painful areas on the body would cause the diminishing of pain and discomfort. After the discovery and evolution of acupuncture meridian theory, Chinese massage therapy also evolved, first known as An Mo (also called Anmo, which exists until today, and it is used more for relaxation purposes). After technical and theoretical knowledge had increased, it was during the Ming dynasty (AD 1368-1644) that this type of manual therapy took the name of Tui Na. However, it was only in 1949 when the Chinese government officially recognized the medical benefits Tui Na bodywork.

Tui Na has always had a close relationship to Chinese martial arts, as traumatic injuries (such as dislocations, sprains, fractures, etc.) are commonplace in any combative training environment. In modern China, this treatment is widely popular and many hospitals include Tui Na as a standard aspect of treatment, with several specializations, as for infants, adults, orthopedics, traumatology, sports medicine, among others. In the Western world, Tui Na, as other Asian bodywork modalities, has become increasingly popular over the last decades and it is frequently taught as a part of the curriculum at some acupuncture schools.

How is it given?

Tui Na treatment is given on a mat on the floor or on a table, and usually on the clothed body. 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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