Chinese Massage Techniques

In our clinic, we do both Swedish massage and Chinese massage(Tui Na).

Compare to Swedish massage, Chinese massage has more hand techniques (more than 70). Some of them are similar to Swedish massage techniques, others are unique. It often combines with acupressure to direct the flow of Qi.

Techniques are at the heart of any system of bodywork. They are what define its feel and therapeutic qualities. Most textbooks on Chinese Massage list between 30 and 70 shou fa or hand techniques. These cover not only a range of soft tissue techniques, but also many percussion and joint manipulation methods including spinal adjustments similar to Osteopathy, although there are important differences. Some of these shou fa resemble western massage, others are quite unique. For example in gun fa, the back of the hand is rotated rapidly back and forth over the skin with an effect like a heavy rolling pin.

Broadly speaking shou fa are classified into yin (sedating) and yang (stimulating). However each technique is further classified according the therapeutic principles it achieves. For example mo fa (rubbing) stimulates yang qi, tui fa (pushing) regulates counter flow. The skilled therapist combines these techniques in just the same way a herbalist combines herbs in a formula ensuring that therapeutic principles are achieved with a proper balance of yin and yang. So in a situation where yin sedating techniques are primarily called for, the therapist will use some yang stimulation to activate qi and blood just as a herbalist adds ginger to a cooling formula.

The massage therapist has other tools to draw on. Shou fa can be applied to particular areas, channels, acupoints or ashi points achieving similar results to acupuncture needles. They can also be applied in different directions. Working with or against the flow of the channels, towards or out from the dan tien, clockwise or counter clockwise, all have different effects.

Equally important is the way the techniques are carried out. It emphasizes that Shou fa must be gentle and soft yet deep and penetrating. The strokes must be applied rhythmically and persistently. The controlled use of very deep, moving pressure is one of the secrets of Tuina massage. A Tuina therapist might spend the same time on one frozen shoulder as a western masseur would spend on an entire body treatment. The repeated application of a single technique many hundreds of times with deep penetration and qi communication is often termed "finger meditation".

Jing Luo theory - the basis of Chinese Massage

Like acupuncture, Chinese Massage is based on the theory of jing luo or channels and collaterals. According to this theory the body is networked by a system of pathways which function to transport qi and blood, to regulate yin and yang, to protect against external pathogens and to link the internal organs with the exterior. Blockage of the jing luo causes pain and is intimately connected with all health problems. Chinese Massage is primarily focused on the jing luo and on xue (acupoints) where qi gathers and can be easily manipulated. Massage techniques are understood to affect the jing luo by:

• Activating qi and blood ( Increasing its activity)
• Regulating qi & blood ( Dispersing stagnation and guiding counterflow)
• Dredging the channels ( Removing external pathogens like cold and damp)

Massage also relaxes the jin (refers to the function of all soft and connective tissue in relation to movement and flexibility) to ease spasm and increase flexibility and straightens the joints. Both jin and joints closely affect the flow of qi in the jing luo. What is particularly interesting is that these effects create movement in one form or another. Since in TCM terms pain is simply a lack of free flow of qi and blood, this is why Chinese Massage is such a powerful treatment for pain.