Ancient Chinese Tui Na Massage

Learn massage healing techniques from Tui Na, the Ancient Chinese Massage practice focusing on the balance of qi within the energy currents of the body.

| July 2018

  • Tui Na massage applies pressure to the meridians and specific points on them called ‘qi-points’ or acupressure points.
    Photo by Getty/Minerva Studio
  • “The Tui Na Manual” by Maria Mercati guides readers through step-by-step Tui Na massage theraphy techniques for whole body health.
    Cover Courtesy Inner Traditions

The Tui Na Manual (Inner Traditions, 2018), by Maria Mercati is a guide dedicated to teaching the hands on healing of Ancient Chinese medical massage, Tui Na.  This healing method requires no special equipment and can be done simply at home or in the workplace as a means of achieving whole-body health through the rebalance of qi flow throughout the body.

Although Tui Na has been practised in China for more than 4,000 years, and is available today in many hospitals and clinics throughout that country, it is only now becoming known in the West. The name, Tui Na, comes from Chinese and conveys the vigorous nature of this hands-on healing system: ‘Tui’ means ‘push’ and ‘Na’ means ‘grasp’. The Chinese script on the opposite page means Tui Na. Tui Na as practised in China treats conditions that in the West would require an osteopath, chiropractor, physiotherapist or sports therapist. Unlike these techniques, it works not only on the muscles and joints but also at a deeper level, affecting the flow of vital life energy in the body. In Chinese theory, this life energy is called ‘qi’ (pronounced ‘chee’). Qi is the activating energy for all life processes. In the body, qi flows in clearly defined energy currents. These are called ‘meridians’ or ‘channels’ and they carry qi to all the organs and tissues of the body.  

Tui Na massage applies pressure to the meridians and specific points on them called ‘qi-points’ or acupressure points. Acupuncturists call them ‘acupoints’. Tui Na affects the flow of qi so that it moves freely, evenly and powerfully around the body. The distribution and intensity of qi within your body have profound effects on all aspects of your well-being – the emotional, intellectual and spiritual, as well as the physical. Chinese medicine views all disease as caused by weakness, imbalances and blockages in the flow of qi. When your qi-flow is balanced you feel full of energy, stress-free and able to cope with the pressures of daily life. You will be free from stiffness, aches and pains, and so full of vitality that you ‘sparkle’. Hopefully most of us have experienced this wonderful feeling of well-being at some point in our lives. The secret of Chinese medicine is how to maintain it.

Factors Affecting Qi-Flow

Many physical and emotional factors disturb the flow of qi in the body, and these can be divided into two broad categories: excesses or deficiencies. Excesses, common in the Western lifestyle, include stress, overwork and general overindulgence, while common deficiencies are poor diet, insufficient exercise and lack of sleep. Pressure to cope with deadlines, be successful and achieve status within a peer group can create an imbalance between the output necessary to reach your goals and the input that will restore mind and body. Such an imbalance can lead to overconsumption of sugar-rich foods and stimulants such as coffee or fizzy drinks to enhance the ‘output’. Alcohol, recreational drugs and even too much sex can be substitutes for relaxation.



In the Chinese view, extreme emotions negatively affect organ function and qi balance throughout the body. It’s healthy to experience emotion, but too much excitement can overstimulate the flow of qi, causing feelings of restlessness and insomnia, for example, while holding on to worry, feelings of anger and frustration can lead to depression.

All excesses and deficiencies are disruptive to the qi-balancing process. In contrast, good sleep, relaxation, regular exercise, good diet and happy relationships all promote and strengthen the smooth flow of qi. Although the ideal is to create balance and harmony in every aspect of our lives, this can be extremely difficult to maintain. Tui Na is a powerful way of helping to achieve that balance and harmony.

Healing Powers In Practice

Tui Na works holistically to promote qi-flow throughout the body. A practitioner will ask questions about a patient's health and lifestyle, while observing their physical condition. This will reveal their qi, jing, shen, blood, body fluid and yin/yang status so that appropriate meridians and qi-points can be the focus of the Tui Na treatment.

For musculoskeletal pain, the practitioner palpates the painful areas to identify the most affected meridians and the qi-points that must be used for the treatment. During the massage, feedback from the patient on what feels good, or painful, guides the practitioner to the qi-points and the amount of pressure to use.

Tui Na For Everyone

Throughout China, Tui Na is practised from cradle to old age. Babies and younger children do not have fully mature meridian systems, and additional points and techniques have been developed for them. It is a very safe therapy: if pressure is applied in the wrong place, for example, it may not achieve the desired results but no harm will be done. Massage treatment may not be suitable, however, for people with certain serious health conditions.  Wherever a treatment described is contraindicated for certain conditions, it carries a caution note.

Tui Na’s unique techniques that focus on the meridians and specific qi-points make it particularly effective for treating muscle and joint pain resulting from sports injury, wear and tear, arthritis or any other cause. All massage therapies aid relaxation, but, in addition to relaxing the muscles, Tui Na also manipulates qi-flow in the meridians and their qi-points to balance the underlying energetics of the body to achieve healing and regeneration.

Tui Na has the power to boost energy where there is qi and blood deficiency, as well as to clear blockages that have caused qi and blood stagnation.

Tui Na is excellent for a variety of ailments and conditions, including stress-related disorders. It also boosts vitality and well-being, which in turn stimulates the immune system and improves general health. This book shows you useful techniques to help relieve pain and the symptoms of many common ailments. However, it does not replace professional healthcare and you should always consult a qualified practitioner or doctor if symptoms persist.

A Tui Na Treatment

The massage is best given through cotton clothing to facilitate its effectiveness. Traditional Tui Na techniques do not require the use of oils. The room should be warm. During the massage, the receiver either sits on an upright chair or lies on a massage couch, depending on which part of the body is being treated.

To be effective, many Tui Na techniques are vigorous and need to be applied with reasonable pressure. If there is a significant problem, they will initially feel slightly uncomfortable or even painful. This discomfort will ease as the massage progresses and more qi and blood are brought to the affected area to remove stagnation. After the treatment, the tissues and muscles should feel relaxed, invigorated and less painful.



Uniquely, Tui Na, with its focus on meridians and qi-points, stimulates the entire musculoskeletal system, while also supporting healthy function of all the internal organs. Since Tui Na rebalances qi-flow, the mind and the emotions will also be affected. In most cases, a Tui Na treatment will leave the recipient feeling rejuvenated and relaxed. The massage can sometimes release blocked emotions, with the effect that the receiver may feel ‘weepy’ or emotional after the treatment. If this should happen, the Chinese way is to acknowledge these emotions, and then to let them go.

This book explains the Chinese view of health and the causes of disease, and shows you how to give a holistic whole-body Tui Na treatment to a partner, as well as techniques for treating common ailments and conditions.

Concentrating on the basic techniques used in Tui Na massage. It starts with soft tissue techniques: applying either static pressure or pressure with movement to the body tissues, in order to improve qi and blood flow to strengthen the body and remove stagnation. These soft tissue techniques include pulling, pushing, squeezing and kneading. The second part deals with joint manipulation techniques, which are similar to those used in osteopathy and chiropractice but give the added benefit of regulating qi and blood flow.

The whole-body routine provides step-by-step instructions for giving a Tui Na treatment to a partner. The routine starts with treatments on the neck and shoulders, and then works on the arms, back, legs and feet, ending with Tui Na on the trunk and head.

One of the strengths of Tui Na is its application to muscle and joint injury. This method also presents treatments for some common ailments and conditions, and Tui Na that is particularly suitable for infants, adolescents and the elderly. There are some techniques and qi-points that you can use effectively on yourself. These are described in a self-massage routine, which, used daily, will increase your energy levels, boost your immune system and promote health and well-being.

Shiatsu – A Derivative of Tui Na

Around 1,000 years ago Tui Na was introduced into Japan, where it was modified to become what is now known as Shiatsu. Both systems aim to balance the flow of qi throughout the body and the meridians. Shiatsu uses relatively few techniques that apply slow and sustained static pressure, whereas Tui Na uses a wide range of vigorous and penetrating techniques, such as squeezing, pushing, kneading and manipulation, to achieve improved energy flow in the tissues.

The Tui Na Manual by Maria Mercati © 2018 Healing Arts Press. Printed with permission from the publisher Inner Traditions International.






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