Chinese massage therapy known as Tuina (推拿), which literally means to ‘push and grasp’, is a form of therapy that utilizes various techniques to help people achieve muscle relaxation, better blood circulation, and stronger immunity. It has been widely propagated in China mainly because of its convenient procedures that are not limited to any specific time or place, but rely on simply two hands to heal.
Chinese medical massage therapy has techniques guided by Chinese medical theories. It is considered a quintessential domain of therapy as well as one area of clinical Chinese medicine that tends to be stronger both in theory and practical application. Therapists need to be familiar with basic Chinese medicinal theories such as the five elements of yin-yang, meridian channels of the zang-fu organs, nutrition and defense of qi and blood, causes and crucial aspects of each disease, the classification of the eight principles of the body into four categories, the flow of the fourteen meridians, as well as the position and function of common acupuncture points etc. in order to execute a wholesome analysis and determine relevant healing principles.
The diagnosis of diseases and the execution of techniques on specific parts of the human body can balance yin-yang, adjust qi and blood, remove air and moisture, warm the meridians, dissipate chills, stimulate blood circulation, and reduce swelling and pain.
Bian-que, Hua-tuo and other renowned doctors of ancient China have also used massage therapy to treat several illnesses. Bian-que once passed through the Guo state, and seeing that the citizens were all in a state of sorrow, asked what the matter was. They replied saying: “Our crown prince is dead.” After hearing this, he rushed over, and upon one touch with his hand, discovered that there was still remaining heat under his armpit. Bian-que said to them: “Your prince has not yet died.” After that he called his accompanying apprentices to carry out massage and acupunctural therapy. After a moment’s work, the Guo prince regained consciousness.
Massage therapy also flourished in the Wei, Jin, Sui and Tang dynasties, with the scope of medical therapy expanding to involve internal medicine, maternal medicine, pediatrics, external medicine, and other clinical areas of expertise. When it came to the Ming and Qing dynasties, massage took yet another step forward especially in the development of a unique system of massage therapy for children. The name “tui-na” for massage therapy also developed from the progress in massage therapy during this period of time.
Modern medicine also agrees that massage therapy can stimulate the sebaceous glands, sweat glands, hair follicles, blood vessels and nerve endings beneath the skin, giving rise to a series of changes in biophysics and biochemistry as well as directly or indirectly permeating deep layers of muscles, tendons, nerves, blood vessels, lymph nodes and other body structures. Through the regulation of nerves and bodily fluids, it stimulates biological and pathological changes, thus creating improvements in the body’s functions as well as restoring it to its normal state.
Although there are many schools of massage therapy, each with different styles, the basic requirements are evenness, gentleness, persistence and strength, which result in the thorough achievement of objectives. Evenness refers to the harmony of speed, scope of movement and pressure; gentleness means that movement that is consistently mild but agile, light but not shallow, heavy but not sluggish; persistence refers to the maintenance of technique and preservation of the connection between form and strength over a sufficient period of time; strength means that each movement is executed with a degree of strength.
Massage therapy is not merely for the surface of the body, but can also have effects that pass through to the tissue, reaching deep areas of muscles, blood vessels, bones, tissue and even the organs. Strength is the foundation, technique is the key, and with both one can achieve better therapeutic outcomes.