Tui na has some similarities to other modalities like shiatsu or deep tissue, but has a history, philosophy, and many movements of its own.
·October 7th, 2021
Tui na is an ancient form of massage that falls under the traditional Chinese medicine umbrella, focusing on the flow of qi through the body.
Tui na practitioners use hand and arm techniques to stimulate acupressure points, massage muscles and tendons, and help realign bones and ligaments.
Tui na can address many musculoskeletal symptoms, as well as other sources of pain like menstrual cramps and nerve injuries.
Sound Cycle’s practitioner search can help you find a tui na practitioner with the expertise to meet your needs.
While many of us enjoy getting massages for the relaxation benefits they offer, some forms of massage can also help address physical symptoms we’re experiencing or health conditions that we have. Tui na massage is one such type of Chinese massage that may be less familiar in the U.S.
Tui na is often found at studios that focus on Chinese massage therapy, though it may also be offered in acupuncture clinics as part of holistic medicine treatment plan. Tui na massages are generally an hour or less, and can be effective in a single visit or in a series, depending on your use case.
As a treatment modality, it has some similarities to other Western massages like shiatsu or deep tissue, but has a history, philosophy, and many movements of its own.
What is tui na massage therapy?
Tui na is by many accounts one of the oldest types of massage in existence, with records going back before 2000 B.C. It uses much the same theory of meridians, channels, and Qi that other schools of traditional Chinese medicine like acupuncture, moxibustion, and gua sha obey.
It is less a subset of acupuncture and herbal medicine and more an alternative treatment path within traditional Chinese medicine, though some acupuncturists may also be trained to administer tui na. Tui na practitioners use hand and arm massage techniques to massage muscles and tendons, stimulate acupressure points, or support bone/ligament realignment.
There are different schools of tui na, practiced both within China and internationally, each of which emphasizes different movements and techniques for balancing the body. It is not typically used as a relaxation massage but more to address patterns of disharmony in the body and thus is more similar to physical therapy in terms of its role in a healing process.
Typical movements in a tui na massage session may include rolling, pushing (the meaning of the Chinese “tui”), grasping/holding (the meaning of the Chinese “na”), pressing, kneading, stretching, and others. Tui na movements are often firm, but recipients can and should discuss firmness with the practitioner before and throughout the treatment session.
If you do receive a firm massage, light bruising is possible over the subsequent days.
What symptoms and conditions can tui na treat?
A number of musculoskeletal conditions, nerve conditions, and types of chronic pain can benefit from tui na. While some of the benefits of tui na can be obtained independently, others are obtained in combination with acupuncture, physical exercises, or medication.
Musculoskeletal pain: Several studies have demonstrated tui na’s efficacy in reducing pain and sometimes other symptoms associated with musculoskeletal injuries or conditions, in different parts of the body including the back, neck (including chronic neck pain), and extremities.
Muscle strength and tension in arthritic patients or those with musculoskeletal disorders or diseases: Along with a decrease in pain, a few studies have found that tui na can offer further benefits on joints and muscles, particularly among those who are arthritic or have specific musculoskeletal diseases. These studies have identified additional muscle strength and tension, but have not confirmed additional range of motion.
Menstrual cramps (dysmenorrhea): Tui na was shown to enhance the positive effects achieved by acupuncture in combating menstrual cramps. While acupuncture alone can achieve a meaningful reduction in pain caused by menstrual cramps, tui na may enhance the effect or help a broader share of people to see a benefit.
Nerve injuries, including peripheral and sciatic: Multiple studies have supported the positive impact of tui na massage on healing from nerve injuries. The exact mechanism and its impact is still being investigated, but it appears to improve functioning and reduce pain in nerve injuries of multiple varieties.
Post-stroke spasticity: A significant share of stroke patients, in some cases estimated as high as roughly 2 in 5, experience spasticity (uncontrolled muscle flexion) following their stroke. Limited conventional therapies exist to combat this symptom. However, a few studies have demonstrated that tui na may be an effective mechanism for reducing the frequency and severity of spasticity in patients who have experienced a stroke.
While tui na may be an effective treatment for a number of musculoskeletal conditions, nerve conditions, and types of pain, there are some conditions for which it can be risky, such as ankylosing spondylitis.
If you are considering tui na for an existing medical condition, it’s important to check with your doctor or traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practitioner to make sure it will be safe and beneficial. You may be able to find a tui na practitioner through Sound Cycle’s acupuncture and TCM provider search.