What is Tui Na?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Images By: Guillaume Baviere, Sorin Georgescu
  • Last Modified Date: 30 December 2019
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Tui Na or Tuina is a type of Asian bodywork which focuses on balancing the flow of energy in the body, and it is one of the oldest forms of massage, dating back to at least 1700 BCE in China. It is an important aspect of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), and it is used to treat a variety of conditions as well as systemic problems. Typically, Tui Na complements other TCM treatments, with many patients returning for regular treatments. After a Tui Na session, the patient usually feels energized but relaxed.

As is common with Asian massage, Tui Na is performed on a fully clothed client. The client wears loose, comfortable garments and lies on a floor mat. As the practitioner works with the patient, he or she may periodically move clothing to expose areas where direct skin contact is needed; the client is usually warned before this occurs. A session may be brief or lengthy, depending on the needs of the patient.


There are several schools of Tui Na, with all practitioners of TCM receiving training in massage techniques to benefit their patients. Many people compare Tui Na to Western style massage, since it uses many similar techniques. A Tui Na practitioner starts by brushing, kneading, rolling, and pressing to get the flow of energy moving. He or she may also tap, pinch, or lightly beat the body. Many of these movements are familiar to fans of Swedish massage, one of the most common forms of Western massage.

However, Tui Na is not just relaxing. As the practitioner moves over the patient's body, he or she is focused on the flow of blood and energy, trying to stimulate qi, or life force, so that it flows strongly throughout the body. The practitioner also stimulates acupressure points during a Tui Na treatment, and he or she may engage with the patient to stretch the body in long, flowing motions. The treatment is non-invasive, smooth, and flowing, and the patient may begin to feel like he or she is floating; some patients have reported that they can actually feel changes in the flow of their body energy.

Along with Tui Na, clients may use techniques like Tai Chi and Qigong to balance and distribute their energy in home practice. Cupping, acupuncture, Chinese herbalism, and other techniques may be used by a practitioner to supplement Tui Na massage. The end goal is a healthy, balanced body. Tui Na is used to treat a number of conditions which can be adjusted through external manipulation as well as to promote general health.


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