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November 23, 2010

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Tuina massage offers much more than just a feel-good experience

TRADITIONAL Chinese medicine differs from Western medicine in a number of ways. This includes how a diagnosis is made as well as the curative methods.

Most people are now familiar with acupuncture as it has become more common in the West. Herbal medicine is also becoming more popular.

Tuina is the name for the massage therapy used in TCM. It is not as well known even though it has existed just as long as Chinese medicine.

The first records of tuina date back to the Shang Dynasty (1700 BC), where oracle bones show it was used to treat children's diseases and digestive complaints in adults.

Tuina uses the TCM theory of channels and collaterals sometimes known as meridians or pathways through which qi, or energy, flows. These channels are the basic therapeutic focus of tuina. By massaging these meridians, tuina helps the qi flow through the system of channels and collaterals.

Clinical practice shows that tuina brings changes in the body through stimulation, induced by manipulation and movement of various parts of the body, without using drugs or other invasive options. Experiments indicate that the nutrients in the body can be adjusted and harmful agents eliminated with tuina by strengthening phagocyte cells, which are capable of absorbing bacteria.

Tuina methods include a range of techniques such as soft tissue massage (muscles and tendons), acupressure to directly influence the flow of qi and manipulation techniques to realign the musculo-skeletal system (bone setting).

These techniques can be divided into two categories - reinforcing manipulation and reducing manipulation.

Massage along the meridians with slow, light and short strokes is known as a reinforcing manipulation.

A massage with quick, heavy and long strokes is a reducing manipulation.

It was believed that Bodhidharma from ancient India contributed greatly to the development of tuina.

Bodhidharma came to China to study massage in AD 507. He served as a monk in the Shaolin Monastery with a veteran monk as his teacher.

He learned the manipulations of pressing, rubbing, pushing and pulling. Based on this knowledge he developed 10 techniques and invented the flicking manipulation.

These techniques are still used today. They include pushing, stroking, grasping, pressing, pinching, rubbing, rolling, shaking, rotating and pulling.

Tuina focuses on a specific problem rather than a generalized treatment. Tuina can be used to treat a variety of medical conditions. The doctor will focus on specific pain sites, acupressure points, energy meridians, muscles and joints.

During your treatment, you may feel comfortable or experience some discomfort when your therapist uses different manipulations.

In order to get the best effect, your therapist will stimulate the aching areas and use special manipulations if necessary.

If you tell your therapist you are experiencing discomfort, he/she will decrease the movements.

Tuina differs substantially from Western physiotherapy and relaxing massages.

Even though similar manipulations are employed in other types of massage, you should be aware that tuina is a therapeutic TCM intervention.

Also tuina should not be used when the patient has fractures or open wounds, internal bleeding or other serious medical conditions.

Your doctor should be made aware of medical conditions before beginning tuina treatment.

(Doris Rathgeber, founder of Body & Soul Medical Clinics)


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