Tuina is an Oriental Bodywork Therapy that has been used in China for 2,000 years. Tuina
uses the traditional Chinese medical theory of the flow of Qi through the meridians as its
basic therapeutic orientation. Through the application of massage and manipulation
techniques Tuina seeks to establish a more harmonious flow of Qi through the system of
channels and collaterals, allowing the body the naturally heal itself.
Tuina methods include the use of hand techniques to massage the soft tissue (muscles
and tendons) of the body, acupressure techniques to directly affect the flow of Qi , and
manipulation techniques to realign the musculoskeletal and ligamentous relationships
(bone-setting). External herbal poultices, compresses, liniments, and salves are also used
to enhance the other therapeutic methods.
Tuina has a variety of different systems that emphasize particular aspects of these
therapeutic principles. The main schools in China include the rolling method school which
emphasizes soft tissue techniques and specializes in joint injuries and muscle sprains,
the one finger pushing method school which emphasizes techniques for acupressure and the
treatment of internal diseases, and Nei Gung method school which emphasizes the use of Nei
Gong Qi energy generation exercises and specific massage methods for revitalizing depleted
energy systems, and the bone setting method school which emphasizes manipulation methods
to realign the musculoskeletal and ligamentous relationships and specializes in joint
injuries and nerve pain.
In a typical session, the client, wearing loose clothing and no shoes, lies on a table
or floor mat. The practitioner examines the specific problems of the client and begins to
apply a specific treatment protocol. The major focus of application is upon specific pain
sites, acupressure points, energy meridians, and muscles and joints. Advanced Tuina
practitioners may also use Chinese herbs to facilitate quicker healing. Sessions last from
30 minutes to 1 hour. Depending on the specific problems of the client, they may return
for additional treatments. The client usually feels relaxed but energized by the
Tuina is now being popularized in this country as a powerful therapeutic extension of
traditional western massage methods. Tuina's simplicity and focus on specific problems,
rather than a more generalized treatment, make it both an excellent alternative and/or
extension of the Swedish-style massage. By utilizing treatments of shorter duration, it
can be used in a variety of settings, including home, office, clinic or hospital. It is
well suited for both the professional massage therapist or the active, health conscious
Tuina practitioners can be found by calling Acupuncture Colleges of the American
Oriental Bodywork Therapy Association.
Tuina dates back to the Shang Dynasty of China, 1700 B.C.E. Oracle bones show that tuina
massage was used to treat children's diseases and digestive complaints in adults. By 600
C.E. Tuina was included in the Imperial Medical College as a separate department. Tuina
flourished throughout China until the Qing Dynasty where it was suppressed along with
other Chinese cultural arts. Following the Communist revolution, Tuina was restored along
with other traditional medical arts and was included in the creation of the current system
of Traditional Medicine Colleges.
Currently, Tuina is taught as a separate but equal field of study in the major
traditional Chinese medical colleges. Tuina doctors receive the same demanding training as
acupuncturists and herbalists and enjoy the same level of professional respect.
Benefits, Limitations, Contraindications
Tuina is well suited for the treatment of specific musculoskeletal disorders and chronic
stress-related disorders of the digestive, respiratory and reproductive systems. Effective
treatment protocols have been tested in a practical setting. Tuina is not especially
useful for those seeking a mild, sedating and relaxing massage since it tends to be more
task focused than other types of bodywork. Contraindications include conditions involving
fractures, phlebitis, infectious conditions, open wounds, and lesions.
Bill Helm, O.B.T., T.S., AOBTA Certified Instructor
Bill has been studying martial and healing arts since 1965. He specializes in Tuina,
Qi Gong, and herbal medicine. Bill studied in China at the Shanghai Traditional
Chinese Medicine College and at the Beijing Olympic Training Center, and in the United
States with Taoist Master Share K. Lew and Dr. Yu Da Fang. Bill has taught Tuina since
1978 and the Dean of Allied Arts at Pacific College of Oriental Medicine and Director of
the Taoist Sanctuary of San Diego.
Mr. Helm offers Tuina workshops.
You may request additional information on these by contacting: