You’re probably familiar with common Western massage techniques like Swedish massage, deep tissue massage, prenatal massage, and sports massage. You may have also heard about Tui Na massage, a Chinese massage modality that is becoming increasingly popular in the United States.
But what exactly is Tui Na massage?
Tui Na massage: A definition
Tui Na (also called Tui-Na or Tuina massage) is a form of bodywork based on the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Working along meridians (energy channels) throughout the body, the Tui Na practitioner taps into these energy points, using stretches, pressure points, and joint rotations, to balance the body’s vital energy (qi).
The name of this massage therapy modality comes from the two words describing actions in the treatment: tui means “to push” and na means “to grab or squeeze.” Tui Na has been called a combination of Shiatsu—a Japanese bodywork practice—and acupressure massage.
Myths about the practice and benefits of Tui Na abound, so here are six important Tui Na facts.
Tui Na massages can be similar to Western massage modalities
Tui Na massage sessions usually last been thirty minutes and one hour, and normally take place on a massage table. Tui Na is intended to be both relaxing and invigorating. Some techniques and strokes used in Tui Na are much like those used in a relaxing Swedish massage, such as gliding, kneading, rocking, pulling, friction, and rolling.
Tui Na massage differs from Western massage in other ways
Because it is based on Chinese medicine, Tui Na is also quite different from Western massage therapy. Unlike Western massage techniques, Tui Na goes beyond the muscles, bones, and joints to work with the body on a deeper, energetic level. Tui Na practitioners intend to sense the energy of the client with their hands, and affect the flow and distribution of that energy during the session. Tui Na massage is often used in concert with other TCM therapies including acupuncture, Chinese herbal remedies, moxibustion, and cupping.
Tui Na is traditionally a clothed massage technique
Like Thai massage and Shiatsu, Tui Na is traditionally practiced on fully clothed clients. You should wear loose, comfortable clothing to ensure the practitioner can move your joints through the full range of motion. In a Tui Na massage, massage oils are only used on the neck, hands, and feet.
Achieving balance with Tui Na massage
Traditional Chinese Medicine philosophy treats patients holistically, focusing on physical, mental, and spiritual wellness. Tui Na is intended to restore physiological and emotional balance by unblocking channels of qi through the body that have been blocked by tension, bad habits, and poor health.
Tui Na is good for chronic neck pain
One study shows that Tui Na massage is a welcome relief for those with chronic neck pain. Study participants who received Tui Na massage for neck pain experienced significant relief from their pain and discomfort.
Training for Tui Na practitioners
Most massage therapy schools in the U.S. do not include any education in Tui Na massage except for a brief introduction. If you are interested in training in Tui Na massage or finding a certified Tui Na practitioner, contact the American Organization for Bodywork Therapies of Asia (AOBTA) for more information.
Tui Na is medicinal
Tui Na is a standard treatment in TCM hospitals and clinics throughout China, and continues to be used in modern TCM hospitals to this day. It can be used to either encourage overall wellness (through harnessing qi) to treat specific conditions like low back pain. Tui Na massage, combined with herbs and acupuncture, is a vital part of Traditional Chinese Medicine.