One type of Chinese massage is Tui Na (pronounced 'twee-nah' and sometimes spelled tuina). Tui means “push” and Na means “grasp.” This deeply penetrating massage therapy includes a series of pressing, rolling, tapping, and kneading techniques.
The massage frees blocked energy and enhances flow of qi through the energy pathways (meridians) of the body and is part of the larger system of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).
The movement of qi shows up as changes in muscle and fascial tone, circulation of blood and fluids, and sensations such as tingling or warmth. Massage techniques focus on freeing blocked energy to relieve pain and to let the body heal itself. As such, Chinese massage practitioners need to understand the underlying concepts of TCM to choose which points along the meridians to massage.
Techniques include massage of muscles and tendons, stimulation of acupressure points to directly affect the qi flow, and techniques to realign muscles, bones, and ligaments. Although some of the massage techniques are similar to Swedish massage, they are done with the intention of harmonizing yin and yang.
To receive Chinese massage, you typically wear loose clothing and no shoes and lie on a table or a mat on the floor. The practitioner uses a specific treatment protocol based on your specific problems. The practitioner may also use compresses, external herbal poultices, liniments, and salves, as well as cupping and moxibustion (burning a herb called moxa).
Different systems of tuina focus on particular aspects of the therapeutic principles. In China, the main systems include:
Note that some of these techniques go beyond the scope of massage therapy and cannot be practiced by a typical massage therapist. However, the massage aspects are quite powerful and appropriate even for children. See Tui Na Massage for a Healthier, Brighter Child for more information.
Naomoi Serviss, "Tui Na: Asia’s Medical Massage," Massage Magazine, Sept/Oct 2005, pp. 99-102.
Sarah Pritchard, Chinese Massage Manual.
Vesna Vuynovich Kovach, The Tui Na Touch: The Intensity of Chinese Medicine at Your Fingertips, Massage & Bodywork, April/May 2003, pp. 23-29.