What is Tui Na?

September 15, 2015

two hands on the abdomen of a client          one palm and the back of another hand on the abdomen of a client

One of the most common questions we get from prospective patients after they look at our information and specialties is “what is Tui Na?” This is understandable, because chances are if they are looking at our information, they are already familiar with the concept of acupuncture, or possibly have a passing knowledge of what herbal medicine entails. However Tui Na is still a relatively mysterious modality that deserves much more recognition as a practice that is just as powerful, and in some case can be more so, than acupuncture or herbal medicine.

Tui Na (pronounced ‘TWEE-NAH’) is a system of Chinese medical massage that is thousands of years old, much like acupuncture and herbal medicine. It uses hands-on techniques to help the body heal itself, and Tui Na is based off of many of the same theoretical foundations as that of acupuncture. There are a few key differences that one must keep in mind when it comes to this style of bodywork compared to some others.

My teacher, Dr. Li Lu, used to say “Tui Na is good for instant results.” It is based on the changing of “positive” tests, where there is some sort of dysfunction with turning the neck, or opening the hip for example, to “negative” tests, where the dysfunction is alleviated somewhat or altogether. It is a common occurrence in my experience practicing Tui Na that people are routinely shocked at how quickly it seems to work. Just last week, a patient came in with excruciating neck pain when she tilted her head back. Five to ten minutes of Tui Na therapy later, and she could move her neck with almost no pain. The next session, we were able to bring the patients pain level to a zero.

In China, Tui Na is regarded as its own separate specialty, apart from other modalities such as acupuncture and herbs. There are entire hospitals and teaching programs dedicated to Tui Na. People typically go see the Tui Na doctor for structural imbalances causing pain, however, Tui Na also works very well for internal disorders. Perhaps the most successful application for internal disorders that I have seen is for insomnia, anxiety, and digestive disorders which many times occur together. It is a wonderful addition to acupuncture and herbal medicine.

Because acupuncture is so popular in the west, many patients have not delved into Tui Na in the way it is practiced in China. As a stand-alone modality, it does no harm to the patient and is worth a try before more drastic measures are taken. This is perhaps the greatest advantage to Chinese medicine in general: most of the time, it works. But if it doesn’t, there are generally very few or no side effects to suffer from and you are in no worse shape than if you hadn’t visited a practitioner, be it for acupuncture, herbal medicine, or even Tui Na.

David Bonilla LA.c