Ask anyone who’s had a Chinese massage, and they’ll tell you many things, including two facts. One, they felt a lot of pain during the massage. Two, they were relieved and energetic after recovering from the pain.
In this article, we’ll tell you all you need to know about this ancient aspect of Asian culture, starting with the big question: what’s a Chinese massage?
Table of Contents
What Is A Chinese Massage?
What chiropractors and wellness enthusiasts have named the “Chinese massage” is actually Tui Na (pronounced “twee nah”).
Tui Na is a therapeutic massage that has its roots in China. Practitioners use their hands, fingers, and elbows to apply pressure to specific points on the body and stretch and manipulate the muscles and joints.
The idea behind Tui Na is that the body has enough qi, or energy, to heal itself from pain. However, qi must flow to the energy pathways called meridians or Jing luo.
As qi flows, it balances out variations in energy levels throughout the body. This even energy distribution is thought to eliminate symptoms of sickness and pain in the patient.
Meridians don’t work in isolation. They’re interconnected in a vast network, spanning the inner arm, forehead, jaw, collarbone, toes, legs, fingertips, cheeks, abdomen, and other body areas.
When pressure is placed on a meridian, it can kickstart the energy distribution to the affected body part, thus relieving it from pain.
What Happens During a Chinese Massage?
Unlike western massages, Tui Na doesn’t require the client to be unclothed or lie on a table. Rather, they wear a loose garment and lie face down on a mat. Then the practitioner gets to work.
Tui Na masseuses use firm and gentle techniques, alternating the degree of pressure to suit the particular meridian they’re massaging.
For instance, they may be cautionary and passive when treating the gall bladder meridian (runs across the skull, ear, forehead, and outer eye) but apply vigorous stimulation to the kidney meridian (encompasses the sole, inner leg, and torso).
The less tense the client feels at the beginning of the Chinese massage, the better they handle the pain.
Popular Techniques Employed in a Chinese Massage
This is one of the oldest massage therapies in China. Acupressure aims to press certain acupuncture points to trigger energy flow through those regions. Applying this technique provides quick relief to the affected area.
Myofascial release (MFR)
The word “myofascial” is a synthesis of two phrases, “myo,” meaning muscle, and “fascia.”
Fascia is a term used to describe the system of connective tissues that envelope and interconnect the muscles, nerves, tendons, and ligaments. This network of tissues is composed of collagen, a protein that strengthens those parts of the body and increases their flexibility.
To understand the role of the fascia in your body, picture a meat pie and its filling. The fascia is like that splice of dough encasing the carrots and minced meat and sliced potatoes, and everything else inside the pie.
Osteopathic theories predict that the fascia is bound to become tense at one point in an individual’s life due to overuse, underuse, infections, or psychological factors like trauma.
When the fascia around a particular region tenses, it restricts blood flow, leading to pain. MFR aims to help the fascia relax by stretching and massaging areas of the fascia that appear stiff and rigid until they’re flexible and pliable.
This is the gentle application of gentle pressure to specific reflex points to help alleviate tension, improve circulation, and even boost your immune system.
Since reflexology involves no needles, it’s a completely non-invasive and natural approach to healing.
Other motions that your Tui Na specialist might apply include:
- Tui – pushing
- Na – holding
- An – pressing
- Mo – kneading or palpating
- Jie – rejoining
- Ti – lifting
- Duan – opposing
Benefits of a Chinese Massage
Improves Peripheral Circulation
Peripheral circulation refers to the flow of blood from the heart to the limbs and organs throughout the body. It is crucial in delivering oxygen and nutrients to cells and tissues and removing waste products like carbon dioxide.
Poor peripheral circulation can lead to numbness, tingling, and swelling in the limbs.
According to the Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Tui Na can enhance peripheral circulation. This conclusion was drawn from a clinical study of 45 people in China in 2010.
The study showed that applying medium force to the Cheng Jin (BL 56) acupoint for up to ten minutes increased blood flow through arteries in the knees.
Alleviates Neck Pain at an Affordable Price
In 2018, The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine published an article on the cost-effectiveness of Tui Na in treating chronic neck pain.
To support its claims, the article reported the outcomes of a clinical trial involving 80 female and 12 male outpatients with severe neck pain. Some received six Tui Na treatments within three weeks, while others managed their pain.
After the trial period, those who benefited from Chinese massages had less intense neck pain. However, no one has done any study comparing the effectiveness of Tui Na to alternative treatments for neck pain.
Can Heal Depression
There’s scientific proof that people hardly suffer chronic pain without it affecting their mood. They may feel hopeless, anxious, and even depressed.
Tui Na doesn’t target emotions, but it helps reduce physical pain. This makes it easier for people with depression to bounce back. Want more proof?
The Korean Society of Oriental Neuropsychiatry collated the results of 34 randomized clinical trials (RCIs) in 2015. Out of these 34, nine showed that Tui Na could be used as an antidepressant therapy.
Unfortunately, no further discoveries regarding Tui Na’s efficacy in treating depression are available. But if you have many blue days, you can discuss including Chinese massages in your treatment routine with your doctor.
Increases Breast Milk Supply
In 2012, 84 first-time nursing moms participated in an RCI. They were divided into two groups. Tui Na practitioners massaged the breasts and acupoints of moms in one group. Meanwhile, moms in the second group received conventional lactation treatments.
After the RCI, moms in the Tui Na group produced more milk than those in the conventional group. Also, their prolactin levels didn’t decrease quickly.
Helps Diabetic Feet Heal Faster
Let’s clear the air here: Tui Na hasn’t been proven to heal diabetic feet on its own. When used with a combination of Chinese medicine and foot baths, it can aid in curing stage 1 diabetic feet.
“And how is LBN so sure?” You ask.
We discovered this in a 2018 study featured in the Journal of Acupuncture and Tuina Science. 50% of participants with diabetic feet that participated in this study had access to Tui Na, Chinese medicine, and foot baths. The other 50% benefitted from conventional medication.
83.3% of participants in the Tui Na group showed signs of recovery, compared to only 29% of those in the conventional group.
While the results of clinical studies on the benefits of Tui Na are promising, they’re not enough to put a stamp on the effectiveness of the Chinese massage.
Besides, Tui Na may do you more harm than good if you’re extra sensitive to pain, have inflamed veins or open wounds or fractures, or have Bechterew’s disease. Before scheduling a Chinese massage appointment with a certified practitioner, speak with your doctor to know if it’s safe.