What is Tui Na?


Tui Na—pronounced "TWEE-nah"—is an ancient form of therapeutic body work with over 2000 years of history, and is one of the within the branches within Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

Often referred to in conjunction with An Mo, a generic term in Chinese for massage, Tui Na is a unique form of body work that goes beyond relaxation. Following the acupuncture principle of meridians, Tui Na is an effective treatment for targeting specific conditions, such as chronic pain, migraines, IBS, constipation, PMS, and other stress disorders.

Using a combination of special massage techniques along the body's meridians, Tui Na can promote blood and energy (Qi) flow to stagnant areas, or to tonify a weak part of the body.


Some of the first descriptions of Tui Na's techniques are first seen in The Yellow Emperor's Classics of Internal Medicine (buy from Amazon), which dates back some 2,500 years. Because of its effectiveness and adaptability in  cases where acupuncture may not be appropriate, such as in the treatment of infants or children, Tui Na gained popularity as an important part of study for any student in TCM.


The first page of the Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine. Image: National Library of China


By the sixth century, Tui Na was recognized by many TCM schools as a dedicated field of study, with as much focus as acupuncture and herbal medicine. Today, Tui Na is taught in the Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine curriculum of every school accredited by the ACAO-M.

How Tui Na Works

Although many techniques in Tui Na may be similar to massage therapy, Tui Na operates under a TCM concept known as "meridians."

Similar to the 12 cranial nerve pairs identified in western medical science, the Chinese have identified 12 specific meridian pathways along which the body's energy, or Qi (pronounced "CHEE") flows. Because the function of every organ in the human body depends on Qi, the blockage or stagnation of Qi is the cause of most health ailments.

Unlike nerve pairings, however, Qi meridian pathways are not anatomical structures that can be dissected and viewed under a microscope. Rather, like currents in the ocean, they exist and play an important part in the body without a physical vessel. The Chinese have known about meridians for more than 2000 years, and it is the base upon which TCM operates; to understand meridians is to understand the underlying theories and workings of TCM.

While terms such as "Qi" and "stagnation" used in classical TCM texts may be difficult to follow, modern research has provided an understanding in the Western world that meridians are low resistance fluid channels where various chemical and physical transports take place. These channels have been identified in Western science as low hydraulic resistance channel (LHRC) and volume transport (VT).


Meridian points, sometimes referred to as "acupoints," are regular intervals along meridians through which Qi flows. These points are associated with functions or organs throughout the entire body. When the flow of Qi through these meridian points are imbalanced, sickness, stiffness, or pain—including emotional pain— can arise. By stimulating these points through pressure, acupuncture needles, or heat, Qi flow through these points can either be relieved (for areas which are stagnated) or tonified (for areas which are weak).

Conditions Treated

Tui Na is internationally respected as an effective form of treatment against a wide range of medical and psychiatric conditions including:

  • Chronic lower back pain (CLBP)
  • Neck and shoulder pain
  • Insomnia
  • Migraine
  • Rheumatism, Arthritis
  • Sports injuries
  • Repetitive strain injuries
  • Sprains and bruises
  • Fatigue
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  • Constipation
  • Failure to thrive in preterm infants
  • Major depressive disorder
  • Substance abuse
  • Immune and autoimmune disorders
  • musculoskeletal disorders, and more.

Depending on the condition, the greatest benefits are seen when combined with other therapies such as acupuncture, auricular therapy, and herbal medicine.


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EducationTim Chow