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The Sussex College of Chinese Massage & Acupuncture

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Principles of Tuina

Tuina is one of the three main branches of traditional Chinese medicine, the other two being acupuncture and herbalism. It is a form of Chinese manipulative therapy, sometimes called Chinese massage or Chinese massage therapy and is often used in combination with acupuncture, moxibustion, cupping, Chinese herbalism, Tai Chi, and Chi Kung (Qi Gong). Tuina is a hands-on body treatment that utilises Chinese Taoist and martial arts principles in an attempt to bring the eight principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) into balance.


The eight principle patterns are also known as the Eight Faces of Yin and Yang’. It is a way of differentiating the nature between different types of conditions, such as whether a condition is ‘internal or external’, ‘deficiency or excess’, cold or heat or a combination of more than one. They are a way of grouping signs and symptoms into relative categories, thus helping to form a diagnosis.

The practitioner utilises many various manipulative techniques and massage strokes to the affected areas of the body such as the joints, muscles and/or meridians, in an attempt to increase the circulation of blood and qi within the meridians and muscles to encourage the healing process. The practitioner may then apply a variety of techniques such as tractions, meridian stretches and acupressure techniques to various acupoints to enhance the treatment.

Tuina techniques are suitable for the treatment of both acute and chronic musculo-skeletal conditions, as well as many other conditions such as asthma, headache, and chronic fatigue for example. This therapy is an integral part of TCM and is taught in TCM schools throughout China as standard. Many Chinese martial arts schools also teach it to their students for the treatment of injuries and pain caused by their training.

In ancient China, tuina was considered to be mainly suitable for the elderly and children. Today, this ancient therapy is considered a suitable treatment for all ages, with a variety of applications and specialised treatment principles for infants, adults, trauma, orthopaedics, rehabilitation, cosmetology, and sports therapy. It has been well received in the West for its relatively simple and easy to learn techniques and manipulations, together with its safe application and surprisingly curative effects.


It is very likely that massage may be the oldest form of therapy and healing. The first thing we do when we hurt ourselves is touch, rub or massage that area. This is our first instinct and surely would have been for our ancestors too. Tens of thousands of years ago human beings would probably have sustained many injuries from the hard existence they had to endure. They would have more than likely stroked or rubbed the injured part and after some time found some ease or comfort. From this they may have begun to understand how to relieve pain from touch, and from then on, early massage may have begun to develop and take shape.

Nobody really knows when the early development of Chinese Massage therapy and acupressure techniques dates back to. There are Chinese stories of famous practitioners around the 26th century B.C. One of the oldest known recorded works on medicine, a book titled, The Yellow Emperor’s Inner Canon (Huangdi Neijing), also known as The Inner Canon of Huangdi, composed of two texts each of eighty-one chapters in a question and answer format between the Yellow Emperor and one or more of his six ministers. It appeared around 300 B.C. One passage in the book refers to the people in the central plains in China, and how they are subjected to a lot of cold, wind and damp, and as a result, suffered from soreness, pain and numbness of the limbs and joints. It then goes on to say how ‘taoyin’ (respiration therapy) and massage are the best therapeutic methods to be used for treatment.

Another recorded story is of a known physician, around 500 B.C, called Bian Que who rescued a dying Prince with acupuncture and tuina therapy techniques. It was apparently widely spoken about at the time and became the first written successful case of the art and was listed in theRecords of the Historian. There are countless other recorded stories relating to the uses of tuina in ancient China though far too many to mention here. These records do however; indicate the valid effectiveness of this ancient form of manipulative therapy as a powerful therapeutic treatment.

As a Treatment

Tuina therapy may be seen as offering the combined benefits of physiotherapy, massage and acupressure all rolled into one treatment. It’s diagnostic and treatment principles are deeply rooted in traditional Chinese medicine theories and diagnostic methods, always with a view to maintaining the harmonious flow of Qi, our life force, in an attempt to bring back harmony and balance to the physical system.

Tuina, pronounced ‘twee nar’, actually translates to ‘push grasp’, two of the many different massage strokes used in this ancient form of massage. This gentle, but effective treatment, combines passive stretches, gentle muscular and skeletal manipulations and targeted acupoint stimulation more commonly known as acupressure.

The remedial approach of this ancient art is to eliminate tension, clear blockages, strengthen weaknesses, restore and maintain health, and to encourage good posture. A treatment helps to encourage the smooth flow of qi in the meridians. Qi is the body’s life force and aids the natural healing process. Blood circulation is also increased during a treatment which also provides the body with essential healing properties.


Tuina can benefit many common ailments and diseases but is particularly useful for the treatment of musculo-skeletal disorders such as muscle tension, stiff joints, sciatica and back pain etc. This form of massage therapy can be administered while the patient is wearing loose comfortable clothing making it more appealing to those who may feel uncomfortable with undressing. It will also benefit those with a fear of needles. Children in particular will benefit from this form of therapy for this reason. In the right hands tuina can be a very powerful treatment in its own right. A treatment session can last anything from thirty to sixty minutes or more, and cost anything from thirty pounds upwards.

Tuina has helped to improve many common conditions including;

Asthma, Anxiety, Arthritis, Back Pain, Bronchial Disorders, Carpel Tunnel Syndrome, Chronic Fatigue, Constipation, Cramp, Chronic Cough, Depression, Dizziness, Frozen Shoulder, General Aches and Pains, Gynaecological Disorders, Headaches, Insomnia, Joint Pain, Muscle Tension, Rheumatism, Sciatica, Sports & Traumatic Injuries.

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