There are incredible health benefits to be derived when combining massage with Chinese herbal medicine in Cleveland. Besides facilitating and boosting the action of herbal remedies, massage therapy can help the practitioner can determine a great deal of diagnostic information about the patient and touch adds a warm and tender dimension to the process of healing. Moreover, the lotions, oils, liniments, etc used in massage present an additional conduit for herbs to work.

Adding massage therapy, based on the holistic and energetic principles as herbal medicine, to herbal practice is highly likely to increase the healthful benefits of the patient. We need to turn to the glorious ancient civilizations of the East to find this type of healing system. Chinese massage is an ancient advanced living therapeutic tradition based on the Chinese medicine concepts of fluid-blood-chi, the five elements, and Yin-Yang. It has the power to alleviate tension, relax the body, and treat disease.

Chinese massage and acupuncture are very similar systems in that both use the meridian system. Both systems are deemed to work very well for a similar variety of health conditions. However, Chinese massage should not be considered inferior to acupuncture. Chinese massage is one of the basic therapeutic modalities of Traditional Chinese Medicine. It a comprehensive and efficient therapy and is highly esteemed as qi gong, diet, and herbs.

Massage therapy is a very old tradition and is believed to have already been practiced by our prehistoric ancestors. It is mentioned in the Nei Jing, reputedly, the world’s oldest medical document written around (618-907 AD) during the Tang Dynasty. According to the Nei Jing, 56 massage physicians were working in the imperial hospital which was more than the number of total acupuncturists and herbalists in the hospital.

Chinese massage was brought to Japan around this time where it eventually evolved to Japanese Shiatsu. Later on, Peter Henrik Ling developed Swedish massage, the source of Western bodywork, which he learned from Chinese masters.

Traditional Chinese massage was developed from four sources:

1. Taoist and Buddhist monks who used massage to help support their spiritual yoga

2. Martial artists who complemented their ability to heal injuries with their profound knowledge of qi.

3. Ordinary people, usually blind practitioners who offered massage for relaxation and pleasure

4. Physicians who integrated the advanced medical principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine to massage.

Chinese massage has from the time of Mao Tse Tung, gradually developed and has imbibed western ideas into its traditional structure. It is taught in medical schools and is now widely practiced in hospitals in China as a vital component of primary healthcare. We can partly attribute the impressive performance of the gymnasts and athletes of China to the inclusion of traditional Chinese massage in their training.

There five therapies that make up Chinese massage. These are:

1. Dian Hsue – This is similar to acupressure where the therapist utilizes basic pressure techniques. This is sometimes used by acupuncturists when needles are not appropriate. It is usually used at home.

2. Infant Tuina – This type of massage is one of the most common ways Chinese people heal babies and young children. The meridians and pressure points used are not the same as the standard ones.

3. Wai Qi Liao Fa (Healing using external qi) – In this type of treatment, the therapist does not touch the body of the client; he instead discharges qi from a certain distance. Only qi gong masters possess this healing ability and only after undergoing several years of rigorous discipline and training.

4. Tuina – This is a type of Chinese massage that utilizes a push and grasp technique. It is used to treat internal disorders, muscle and joint problems, and injuries.

5. Amno – This massage is to maintain health and rejuvenate the body. It can be used at home, for sports training, qi gong, and in martial arts.

All these techniques share the same theory but in practice they differ in their goals and procedures. Their greatest feature is that each technique not only affects the physical body but also the energy or qi (the acupoints and energy channels/meridians) and the mental aspect (spiritual faculties, thoughts, emotions) of a person. Massage can treat these three aspects since both physical health and mental health rely on an abundant and unblocked flow of Qi.

The Foundation of Chinese Massage – Jing Luo Theory

Chinese Massage, like acupuncture, works on the basis of the collateral or channels (jing luo). This theory states that within the body there a network of channels (called meridians) in which blood and qi flow. The function of this network is to connect the exterior body to the internal organs, to protect the body against pathogens, and to balance yin and yang; any obstruction to the jing luo leads to pain and to all other health problems.

Chinese Massage mainly focuses on the acupoints (hsue) and jing luo. The hsue is where qi can be accessed and manipulated. Jing luo can be influenced by Chinese massage techniques through the:

• Scooping of the meridians (eliminating external pathogens like damp and cold)
• Regulating of blood and qi (directing counterflow and diffusing stagnation)
• Stimulation of blood and qi (boosting its movement)

The jin (the connective and soft tissue associated with flexibility and movement) can also be relaxed through Chinese massage which straightens the joints, improves flexibility, and relieves spasm. Both the joint and the jin directly influence the movement of qi in the jing luo.

Since pain is basically the slow or lack of movement of blood and qi in Traditional Chinese Medicine, the effects of Chinese massage bring about movement in one form or another making this therapy a very potent remedy for pain.

Techniques Used in Chinese Massage

At the core of all bodywork systems are the techniques. They are what characterize its therapeutic qualities and feel. Chinese Massage textbooks usually list around 30 to 70 hand techniques or shou fa. Besides discussing a variety of soft tissue techniques, they also teach joint manipulation and percussion techniques including spinal adjustments. Some of these hand techniques are unique and some are similar to western massage methods. The gun fa technique, for example, rapidly rotates the back of the hand back and forth over the skin in a manner similar to a heavy rolling pin.

Shou fa are generally considered as either sedating (yin) or stimulating (yang). Each technique is further classified based on the healing effects it produces. Pushing or tui fa, for instance, regulates counterflow, while rubbing or mo fa stimulates yang qi. In the same manner an herbalist mixes a blend of herbs in a formula a skilled therapist combines these techniques to see to it that treatment is achieved with the appropriate balance of yin and yang. Hence, when a condition arises in which yin sedating techniques are mainly recommended, the therapist will adopt yang stimulation techniques to stimulate blood and qi just as an herbal therapist will include ginger to a cooling herbal remedy.

The massage therapist can apply Shou fa to specific ashi points, acupoints, or energy channels and can achieve similar results as acupuncture treatment. Shou fa can be performed in various directions. It can go with or against the movements of the meridians/channels, out from or towards the dan tien, or counter clockwise or clockwise. Each of these methods has different effects.

Equally relevant is the manner the techniques are done. Shou fa is performed in a penetrating and deep yet soft and gentle manner. The application of strokes needs to be persistent and rhythmical. One of the best features of Tuina massage is the controlled use of moving and very deep pressure. A Tuina practitioner might spend a considerable amount of time treating a frozen shoulder condition as a western massage therapist would spend on a full body treatment. “Finger meditation” is the term to describe the repetitive administration of a single technique for several hundreds of times using qi communication and deep penetration.

Chinese Massage Practice

Chinese Massage is often administered with the client sitting on a stool or lying on a couch. Treatment is usually performed through clothing in the public clinics of Chinese hospitals. Some areas in China, however maintain the ancient tradition of massaging the naked skin and using herbal treatment to help speed up qi communication.

To relax a client, an anmo massage therapist will perform a balanced full body treatment that combines yin techniques to relax and calm with yang techniques to stimulate flow and treat stagnant qi. Then a series of routines is administered based on the condition and constitution of the client. If there is strong qi communication, a session can last as long as two hours and can be a very profound experience.

For specific illnesses, Tuina massage therapy will be based on a complete Traditional Chinese Medicine medical history utilizing the four examinations to diagnose a problem and its root pattern, and then plan a treatment. This comprehensive Traditional Chinese Medicine diagnostic system is what gives Tuina its strength and elevates it above other forms of massage. Specified techniques are used simultaneously to address the presenting problems and the underlying pattern based on the plan of treatment.

The following is an example that demonstrates the extraordinary ability of Tuina to treat chronic pain.

A woman came to the clinic of a tuina therapist complaining of stiff shoulder pain. Traditional Chinese Medicine diagnostic examination showed cold damp bi syndrome that affected the yang ming and hand tai yang meridians coupled with underlying kidney and liver deficiency. The therapist began treatment by performing firm but gentle kneading on the shoulder and along the problematic meridians to stimulate blood and qi. When the area was relaxed and warm, persistent and deep techniques were administered on acupoints and ashi points to scoop damp and cold. Next, rotating and shaking manipulation techniques were applied to increase mobility and open the joints followed by intense rubbing with an herbal ointment to warm the meridians. Lastly, to force the cold damp pathogens down and out of the meridians and to balance qi, external qi projection and soft stroking were performed.

A couple of sessions after, the symptoms of the client significantly improved. Later, treatment was started that concentrated on the stomach and back in order to strengthen the kidney and liver.

Tuina massage is a powerful treatment that works very well for a wide range of problems. According to reliable Chinese sources, there are over 140 medical conditions that respond well to this form of massage. These include several internal diseases and almost all kinds of musculoskeletal problems. For instance, in treating digestive and stomach problems associated with Liver stagnation or Spleen deficiency, we have discovered that when combined with herbs, abdominal Tuina can make a huge difference in the improvement of a client’s condition.