What did you do the last time you got sick or injured? If you’re like most Westerners, you probably took some medication for your symptoms. For example, if you had a headache, you might have swallowed some ibuprofen. If this sounds familiar, have you ever considered taking a more holistic approach to your health?
Western medicine teaches us to treat symptoms rather than underlying problems. However, other cultures understand health in terms of energy imbalances, not just anatomical disorder. In this article, you’re going to learn about a form of massage therapy based in a completely different perspective.
What is Chinese massage?
The phrase “Chinese massage” is an umbrella term that includes several distinct types of massage practices and complementary therapies. However, they are all built on a similar set of underlying principles.
Chinese massage falls in the sphere of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), which has a 4,000-year history. TCM is based on several fundamental concepts. These include “qi” and “meridians.” Practitioners believe that all living beings carry a life force, or “qi.” This is said to flow along pathways in the body, known as meridians. Qi translates to “air” in English.
TCM practitioners believe that when one or more of the meridians are blocked, an individual will experience illness. Qi builds up at particular points throughout the body. When these points – known as “acupoints” – are manipulated, the therapist can deliberately move qi around. The purpose of TCM – and, by extension, Chinese massage therapy – is to harmonize the body.
The concepts of yin and yang are also fundamental in TCM. A healthy person has balanced quantities of yin and yang energy. Yin is feminine, restful, dark energy. Yang is associated with masculinity, energy, and activity. Too much yin or yang gives rise to illness. For instance, someone with too much yang may have a fever or inflammation.
The different types of Chinese massage
Tui na massage
“Tui na” translates as “lift” and “press.” Therapists use a range of strokes including grasping, lifting, rubbing, and pushing motions. It is a fast-paced massage based on continuous moving pressure over the body.
The client remains fully clothed or draped during Chinese massage. Tui na therapists sometimes use oils, but only on the feet, hands, and back of the neck. The treatment is given on a massage table or stool and lasts around 30-60 minutes. Therapists identify areas of tension and blocked energy and may devote entire sessions to treating a single area of the body.
You can see a demonstration of Tui na massage here:
Chinese pediatric massage
According to the University of Minnesota, Tui na is a popular alternative to acupuncture and is suitable for children up to the age of twelve. The sessions are shorter, lasting up to 20 minutes.
An mo massage
“An mo” translates as “press and stroke.” It aims to restore the balance of yin and yang in the recipient’s body. It relies on stimulating massage then soothing massage techniques that promote the flow of yang and yin respectively.
Dian xue massage
Dian xue is similar to acupuncture but is given using pressure via the hands rather than needles. The therapist usually presses on two points at the same time. They may stretch the skin and muscles between two points to facilitate the proper flow of qi.
Reflexology is based on the principle that areas on the feet correspond with particular parts of the body. Reflexology is part of TCM. It entails applying pressure to the foot to balance yin and yang, improve circulation, and promote relaxation.
Cupping may be used alone or in conjunction with another treatment. It entails the application of glass jars or cups to the skin. The seal between the glass and the skin lifts the upper layers of tissue. Practitioners believe that this helps disperse stale energy and promotes good circulation. Cups may be placed over pressure points along the meridian lines.
The benefits of Chinese massage
People with chronic pain often report that their condition improves after a few sessions of Tui na. A Chinese study published in 2015 concluded that Tui na “significantly reduces pain and discomfort” in patients with neck pain. Tui na is an effective treatment for constipation and sluggish digestion. It stimulates the central meridians, pushing waste through the body.
Chinese massage techniques can help with weight loss and encourage the breakdown of fat when used on the abdomen. A therapist can use their hands to generate heat and, in doing so, prompt the body to release excess adipose tissue.
According to the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, cupping lessens fatigue, lowers blood pressure, and aids relaxation. It can also help weight loss and reduce cellulite by breaking down toxins and increasing blood flow to the skin.
An article published in the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine suggests that cupping has other benefits. It can reduce pain, treat acne, and help reduce the symptoms of the herpes zoster virus.
Dian xue may be an effective treatment for anyone who struggles to sleep soundly. Acupressure has been shown to promote restful sleep in adolescents with sleep problems. Dr. Marco Carotenuto and colleagues state that it is a “noninvasive, safe, and effective” method for treating insomnia.
Finally, acupressure can help women with painful periods. A case study published in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics describes the experience of a woman with dysmenorrhea. Meridian acupressure therapy relieved her pain completely in the short term. The authors believe that the therapy could offer other women the same benefits.
Are Chinese massage treatments safe?
These treatments are perfectly safe when practiced by a trained therapist. Your therapist will ask you for a brief medical history before your first session. They may need to vary their approach slightly if you have an injury or illness. In general, these approaches are suitable for most people. If you want to nourish your spirit along with your body, why not try it for yourself?