Tuina - A Chinese system of medical manipulation

Tui Na

‘Pushing and pulling’


Tui na is an integral part of the practice of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which can comfortably date its original back to 1766 BC from written records. Indeed writings at this time suggest a prior history of around two thousand years even before then. With roots that have been traced back to the stone age there is little doubt that Tuina is part of an ancient art of healing but one that was largely passed on verbally, through tribal and family teachings. Whilst the later practice of writing helped to maintain, pass on and evolve the art, this practice had its own dangers. If family records were lost or destroyed and unable to be replaced then whole styles and methods were lost.

Tui na was widely practiced throughout the Eastern region, not solely in China, and in more modern times its influence has undoubtedly spread throughout the world, particularly once practitioners travelled and taught their art in their new home country.

Whilst the practices and methods seem odd to those who have not experienced them before, in fact many TCM methods are those that we use naturally when we suffer with an ailment; rubbing the temples and forehead for headaches, rubbing the base of the skull where it joins the neck for tension and stress and even nervous or involuntary hand, wrist or finger rubbing when we are anxious. The key differentiator, and root of success of TCM, was that those ‘habits’ and patterns of treatment were recorded and enhanced to develop natural self-healing methods into a strong and effective healing art.


Massages are usually carried out on clothed or lightly covered (with a towel or similar) clients, although use of oils or tools such a cups, scrapers, moxibustion (heat) or needles is not uncommon and usually enhance the treatment. Typical massage techniques include:

Hand rolling – relaxed but firm pressure is applied to the body with a loose rolling hand action, this is used to soften and warm the area to be treated. Tui-na is best applied to muscles that are warm and supple and ice is very rarely applied to areas as this constricts blood flow and reduces mobility.

Squeezing and squashing – forces stagnant blood and fluids out of an area so they can be excreted using the natural cleaning and defence systems (liver, kidneys and lymph systems). Once the ‘bad’ is forced out of the area then fresh blood, plasma and energy (qi) are able to enter and help with healing.

Pushing and pulling – unlike more widely known massage methods (such as Swedish), which stretch along the length of the muscles, Tui Na works laterally across the muscles to maximise the stretch and gain optimal results. Practitioners can also isolate muscles and joints to increase the stretch on connecting tissues even further.

Hacking and cupping – light impacts from a loose hand to shake and vibrate tissue, bone and joints. This loosens areas that are stuck or trapped, without the need for strong manipulations.

Relocation of joints – using an intimate knowledge of the human body based on over 3000 years of practice and evolution a practitioner can relocate joints that have been shifted out of place due to injury or poor posture and results in clicking, popping and often pain. Common problem areas that are treated include hips, shoulders, elbows and the jaw.

Pressure point / meridian manipulation – to stimulate the energy systems of the body that flow through and around the tissues and organs of the body. In TCM the energy system is key to a healthy body and it is taught that where energy can’t flow there is pain. By stimulating and boosting the energy system of the body a practitioner can optimise injury repair and improve the long term health of a client.

Applications and benefits

  • Deep tissue massage

    • Good for knots, strains and tight joints and muscles; for example painful lower back, frozen shoulder, RSI and neck pain that may be accompanied by headaches.

  • Muscular-skeletal improvements

    • Such as clicking hips or shoulders, problems with the feet, limited range of joint movement and speeding healing of newly broken bones.

  • Meridian / energy flow repair and stimulation

  • Pain relief, instant results without the use of chemicals or medication

  • Reduction of scarring over multiple treatments, both dermal (skin) and internal.

  • Helps reduce stagnation and improve poor circulation. Helps to get rid of ‘spider veins’, redness and swelling.

  • Benefits the organs from both direct massage pressure and meridian / energy manipulation

    • Stimulates healthy heart, lungs, digestive system and natural cleansing and defence systems. Regular treatments are shown to reduce suffering from colds, flu and hay fever.

  • Helps to alleviate emotional conditions. Due to the links between the physical body and the emotional mind.

  • Can improve rest and relaxation by calming the mind, easing pain and reducing cases of insomnia. We heal in our sleep so simply getting a good night sleep can help to improve mental and physical ailments.

You may have heard about this "wonder therapy" which can do many things from cure chronic backache to helping athletes increase their personal best in competition..... but what is it?

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© Total Therapy 2016.  Do not reproduce in any part on your own site without crediting and linking to this page.

© Total Therapy 2016.  Do not reproduce in any part on your own site without crediting and linking to this page.