Tuina (pronounced "twee nah") is a form of Oriental
bodywork that has been used in China for centuries. A combination of massage,
acupressure and other forms of body manipulation, tuina works by
applying pressure to acupoints, meridians and groups of muscles or nerves
to remove blockages that prevent the free flow of qi. Removing
these blockages restores the balance of qi in the body, leading
to improved health and vitality.
The details of tuina's techniques and uses were originally documented
in The Yellow Emperor's Classics of Internal Medicine, which was
written about 2,500 years ago. Its popularity and recognition grew steadily
to the point that by the sixth century, many traditional Chinese medical
schools had incorporated tuina into their programs as a separate
department. In China, tuina is currently taught as a separate but
equal field of study, with practitioners receiving the same level of training
(and enjoying the same professional respect) as acupuncturists and herbalists.
It is also taught as part of the curriculum at every ACAOM-accredited
school in the United States.
What to Expect on Your First Visit
In a typical tuina session, the client remains clothed but wears
loose clothing, and sits on a chair or couch. The practitioner will ask
the patient a series of questions, then begin treatment based on the answers
to those questions.
Tuina practitioners may employ a variety of methods to achieve
their goal. Commonly used techniques include soft tissue massage; acupressure
and manipulation. Practitioners may sometimes use herbal compresses, liniments,
ointments and heat to enhance these techniques.
Conditions and Contraindications
Tuina is best suited for rectifying chronic pain, musculoskeletal
conditions and stress-related disorders that affect the digestive and/or
respiratory systems. Among the ailments tuina treats best are neck
pain, shoulder pain, back pain, sciatica and tennis elbow. However, because
tuina is designed to improve and restore the flow of qi,
treatment often ends up causing improvements to the whole body, not just
a specific area. There is anecdotal evidence that headaches, constipation,
premenstrual symptoms and some emotional problems may also be effectively
treated through tuina.
Because it tends to be more specific and intense than other types of
bodywork, tuina may not necessarily be used to sedate or relax
a patient. The type of massage delivered by a tuina practitioner
can be quite vigorous; in fact, some people may feel sore after their
first session. Some patients may also experience feelings of sleepiness
As with all forms of care, there are certain instances in which tuina
should not be performed. Patients with osteoporosis or conditions involving
fractures, for instance, should not receive tuina. Neither should
patients with infectious diseases, skin problems or open wounds.
Finding a Practitioner
The American Organization for Bodywork Therapies of Asia (AOBTA) maintains
a list of qualified tuina practitioners throughout the U.S. For
more information, contact the AOBTA by phone at 856-782-1616, or online