In October 2013, I went to Beijing for a month to further my knowledge of Chinese medicine. As well as studying with my mentor Dr. Wang JuYi, I also had the opportunity to deepen my knowledge in an area which is of great interest to me, Tui Na.
Tui Na means “push and grasps” and this term is commonly used when talking about Chinese therapeutic massage. I first discovered Tui Na when I was studying for my acupuncture degree at the University of Salford (UK). As part of my curriculum, I had a bodywork module on Swedish massage and one of our teachers demonstrated a few Tui Na techniques. This was nice but it remained too superficial for me to use Tui Na in my practice. In October 2013, I went to Beijing with two of my colleagues, Alex Brazkiewicz and Mairi Caughey. Alex, who has used Tui Na for years in his practice, organised the training for us at the Beijing Massage Hospital.
In China, Tui Na is very popular. At the hospital where we trained, there are inpatients and outpatients and the whole place is dedicated to Tui Na. Each doctor sees between ten and fifteen patients every day. The place is very busy because Tui Na is very effective at treating many problems. This includes sports and soft tissue injuries and many other musculoskeletal problems. It can even be used to help conditions such as insomnia, headaches or gastrointestinal disorders.
For residents of Beijing, it is also incredibly cost efficient as treatments are very good value even by Chinese standards.
Tui Na is no ordinary massage. It is one of the three branches of Chinese Medicine alongside herbal medicine and acupuncture and is recognised as such in China. As you may know, Chinese Medicine is holistic which means that body and mind are seen as a whole system where everything is interconnected and working together. This means that when treating a patient, a Tui Na practitioner uses acupuncture channels and points to diagnose and treat patients. The manipulation techniques used are also specific such as Gun Fa (rolling), Tui Fa (pushing), Rou Fa (kneading), An Fa (pressing), etc. Also, different parts of the practitioner’s body can be used to massage like fingers, hands, forearms and elbows. Finally, acupressure is used for the full benefit of patients.
The massage, although holistic, is done with the aim of targeting and treating the patient’s main complaint. In my practice, a typical Tui Na session will last between 30 to 40 minutes. If it is your first session, I will establish a diagnosis to evaluate your problem (though it is not as detailed an assessment as for an acupuncture session). Once the initial diagnosis complete, the massage should last between 30 minutes to 1 hour and most patients report a significant improvement immediately after the treatment.
One thing you should remember is that Tui Na is not advised for acute injuries that are still inflamed. So if your problem is recent (less than 2 weeks) and still red, hot and swollen (inflamed), it is very likely that Tui Na will not be able to help you. Actually, like any kind of massage, it could worsen the injury. For acute injuries, acupuncture is recommended as it is much more effective and provides immediate relief.
Sometimes, Tui Na is used in combination with acupuncture. In my clinic, I use it with acupuncture treatments when necessary. In my experience, using the two therapies combined is really good at treating stubborn injuries or persistent musculoskeletal problems.
Finally, Tui Na is non-messy as oil is not used and patients do not need to remove their clothes.
Since I have started using it in my clinic, I have had very good feedback from my patients.
Offered on its own or as part of an acupuncture session, Tui Na is effective and non-messy and I would recommend it to anybody suffering from a sports injury or a musculoskeletal problem.