Tui Na Bodywork
Massage was almost certainly the oldest form of medical intervention. As soon as a person first rubbed an injury site to relieve pain they started the earliest form of self-massage. From these kinds of basic concepts, every culture and tradition around the world have developed their own forms of medical massage each based on similar concepts. The general aim is to clear stagnation and pain from the body, soften the tissues and then return flow of Blood or energy to the body. Tui Na is one such system; it is the main medical massage system of China and is the system taught widely in hospitals across the country. It is based upon two key concepts – to Tui or ‘Push’ the body and to Na or ‘Grasp’ the body. These two methods form the basis of the way in which we manipulate the tissues of the body and all other methods are essentially derivatives of these two.
What makes Tui Na a little different from many other massage systems is that it is still based upon the comprehensive theory and diagnostic methods of the rest of Chinese medicine. This means that a Tui Na therapist still goes through a full diagnosis based upon palpation, observation and questioning prior to beginning the massage. If the treatment given is not based upon a sound diagnostic platform then it is no longer Tui Na.
Qi and Blood
The main aim of Tui Na massage is to return Qi and Blood flow to the patients’ body, primarily their channel system. Stagnation is cleared, channels are opened and Qi and Blood are directed through the body. Rather than having an aim of removing ‘knots’ from the muscles or simply relaxing the patient; the Tui Na therapist goes straight to the heart of the issue and works with the core ‘substances’ upon which much of our health is based.
In much the same way as Acupuncture, the level of cultivation (and indeed health) of the practitioner is very important as their own Qi is also used to govern that of their patient. If the therapist’s Qi is weak then their treatment will be too. It is for this reason that Tui Na practitioners need to have a regular training programme that ensures they develop strong tendons, a healthy flow of Qi and a solid level of vitality; especially since many Tui Na treatments can be quite hard work to give as well as receive!
Adjusting the Structure
An advanced aspect of Tui Na involves manipulating the joints and bones of the body in much the same way that a chiropractor might. The difference between the two methods lay in the way in which this is done. Whilst a chiropractor may seek to give a very clear and defined ‘adjustment’ to the skeletal system, a Tui Na therapist will spend a lot of time softening the body first, restoring Qi flow and generally assuring that the body is ready for any such adjustment to take place. Only when (and if) the body wants to be adjusted does the Tui Na therapist go ahead and do so. Force is not used, but rather direction and intent, to give the bones time to move into place if they wish to. Traction, rotation or simply gentle vibration is then sent into the joint to cause an adjustment to take place. Based on the ancient principles of ‘bone setting’, this aspect of Tui Na enables postural issues to be tackled along with damage to the joints.
As well as Acupuncture and Tui Na, students are likely to study several supporting therapies which may include vacuum and fire cupping, moxibustion, Gua Sha ‘scraping’ therapy and even some Blood-letting which can be very effective if used under the correct conditions. The Blood is either bled directly from the patient’s channel or else it is drawn from the body using a vacuum cup.
All of these methods are based in very old systems of medical practice and have sound theoretical principles behind them.