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Discovering Tui Na - Chinese Massage

Updated: Dec 6, 2022


What is Tui Na?

Tui Na (pronounced twee nah) is a Traditional Chinese Medicine therapeutic bodywork and is included in many of Scott's clinic sessions to complement acupuncture.

Before we had the wonder of modern medicine humans around the world relied of a variety of ancient therapeutic methods and herbal medicines to prevent and treat disease. Traditional Chinese Medicine is one of these ancient therapeutic systems of medicine which has continued to thrive and evolve over the course of time. It’s ancient principles and techniques remain strong today and its very foundations formed the basis of Korean and Japanese traditional medicine that branched from it.

The History of Tui Na

Early Tui Na was developed from the need to offer healing and pain relief to people undertaking strenuous physical work. In this pre-historic era humans engaged in hunting, collection of stones, building of shelters and traveled far. All these activities made them prone to cuts, strains and bone breaks. At this time the ancient massage therapy was called An Mo which translates directly to An (pressing) and Mo (rubbing) The technique of An Mo was found to stop bleeding by applying pressure (An) and relieve pain sensation and inflammation by rubbing (Mo) Supporting the belief that this early form of massage is the oldest recorded bodywork in the world is Archaeological evidence dating back to 2700BC.

Oracle bones such as this bear the earliest recordings of Traditional Chinese Medicine

Throughout history amazing ancient massage practice continued to be well documented as it evolved and developed to include the use of specifically developed herbal liniments that complimented the healing benefits of massage. Over time it became a widely used therapy in Traditional Chinese Medicine particularly in the treatment of paediatric disease and bone setting.

The term Tui Na was first documented in the Ming Dynasty. Tui Na is literally translated to mean “pinch and pull” only a slight variance from its original name. During the Ming Dynasty there was a fresh surge in the popularity of Tui Na and many texts were written at this time with a focus on its application in paediatric health.

Tui Na continued to evolve with many different schools of Tui Na being developed in China, each with variances in their focus and approach. Today Tui Na makes up one of the four main branches of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Much like Qi Gong, Herbal Medicine and Acupuncture, Tui Na is a therapy that lends itself to variations of style and application dependent on the practitioner, patient and presenting complaint.

How does Tui Na work?

As a branch of Traditional Chinese Medicine Tui Na therapy shares the view that our experience of dis-ease, pain and illness are the result of an imbalance of yin and yang and blockage of Qi. Tui Na massage much like Acupuncture is used to stimulate optimal Qi flow promoting balance and harmony.

Tui na, while similar in sensation to many other forms of massage is a standout therapy in its application in the treatment of internal dis-ease along with its uses in resolving musculoskeletal imbalances. It is both a physical bodywork and an energetic medicine. Along with manual manipulation Scott utilises and directs Qi through his hands, much like an incorporation of Qi Gong into his treatment.

Using stimulation of acupoints, meridians and channels with targeted manual movements specific to Tui Na Scott can work to achieve the following change:

- Promote low of blood and Qi

- Expel pathogens

- Regulate Qi

- Harmonize Yin and Yang

- Nourish and Tonify the Qi and Blood

- Release and relax the sinews

- Lubricate the joints

- Calm the Shen

By use of Tui Na to massage to manipulate the muscles and tendons Scott aims to draw the body into optimal alignment this supports restored function of the muscles and joints. This makes Tui Na a brilliant ‘tool’ either in conjunction with Acupuncture or as a standalone therapy.

How does Tui Na feel?

Even if you are new to Tui Na you will find it has a familiarity about it. A variety of hand techniques and movements specific to Tui Na you may recognize as very similar to massage techniques found in acupressure treatment, reflexology, osteopathy, bowen therapy, chiropractic and myofascial release.

These techniques include:

Many of the techniques used in Tui Na will feel familiar to other bodywork you may have experienced in the past

Roll Method – Gun Fa Press Method – An Fa Finger Pressing Method – Dian Fa Suppressing Method – Ya Fa Stationary Circular / Kneading Method – Rou Fa Revolving Method – An Rou Fa Round Rubbing – Cou Fa Shaking Method – Dou Fa Holding, Grasping, Squeezing Method – Na Fa Rubbing Scrubbing Method – Ca Fa Pushing Method – Tui Fa Wiping Method – Ma Fa Plucking Method – Bo Fa Vibrating Method – Zhen Fa

Each of the techniques listed has its own therapeutic qualities and creates a unique energetic pattern. This energetic pattern serves to affect the Qi, travel through the meridians and to the desired points around the body. Some may be tonifying, some warming or perhaps designed to move stagnant Qi. Each technique or collection of techniques will be selected based on the individual needs of each patient.

Tui Na, like many Traditional Chinese Medicine therapeutic tools will vary from practitioner to practitioner. Each practitioner develops an individual style of treatment and unique application in treatment. It is said that Tui Na tends to be delivered with either a Yin or Yang approach.


A Yin approach, as the name suggests tends to be a gentle, more energetic treatment. Its meditative and almost passive in its approach. In a Yin approach Qi is soothed, I would be directing my attention and Qi into areas requiring nourishment. This can be a good approach to select where the patient is suffering from chronic or ‘deep’ imbalance.

Yang on the other hand is dynamic. This can be a stronger and more intense therapeutic approach. Active deep tissue massage techniques are utilised, and points and channel stimulation are strong with the desired result being muscle release. This is a great approach when there is a need to invigorate Qi, break up stagnation and move the blood. Common examples of conditions that would respond well to a Yang style of treatment are musculoskeletal and joint problems, Bi syndrome such as arthritic conditions or fibromyalgia or any conditions presenting with blood stagnation (pain).

"I find myself drawn to a more Yang style of treatment in clinic however as always, the needs and the optimal approach for each individual patient would dictate how I incorporate Tui Na into a treatment." Scott Stephens

What conditions would I get Tui Na massage for?

Stand alone Tui Na sessions, or Tui Na sessions with some minimal needle insertion tend to attract people who are looking for a massage. This may be remedial, relaxation or otherwise.

With the Yang style of dynamic treatment lending itself to acute or chronic musculoskeletal conditions and joint pain at Red Bridge Family Acupuncture we tend to find patients presenting with concerns such as neck pain, back pain, sporting injury, tennis elbow, arthritic conditions and stress are the most common.

That said Scott does incorporate Tui Na techniques into most treatments because of its wonderful ability to compliment the work of the acupuncture needle and promote further healing when it comes to the treatment of internal disease and imbalance.

Read more about treatment for pain here.

Paediatric Tui Na

Shonishin and Tui Na are wonderfully gentle yet effective ways to support your child's health

I have a strong interest in paediatric care and provide Shonishin, which is Japanese Paediatric needle free acupuncture, to my younger clients at Red Bridge Family Acupuncture. To be able to provide optimal care for these younger patients I have also undertaken further training in Paediatric Tui Na.

Shonishin therapy supports paediatric health by using of a variety of specialised tools to use to tap, rub and massage the skins surface in turn activating the meridians, channels and points. Paediatric Tui Na is an excellent addition to this treatment using gentle and specific massage techniques to promote deep healing.

Learn more about these treatments by clicking here.


If you are interested in finding out more about Tui Na massage treatments at Red Bridge Family Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine get in touch with me today online or by calling (03) 5906 1494.

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