The Benefits of Chinese Tuina

Young woman having back massage, close up
Benefits of Tuina. Veronique Beranger / Getty Images

Tuina (also known as "tui na") is a type of alternative therapy long used in traditional Chinese medicine, a form of alternative medicine that originated in China. Tuina involves the use of several types of bodywork, including massage and acupressure.

How Does Tuina Work?

Tuina is thought to help stimulate the flow of vital energy (called "chi") throughout your body. According to the principles of traditional Chinese medicine, health problems occur when the flow of chi is blocked at any point along a meridian (an invisible line that connects your organs with other parts of your body).

By removing these blockages, tuina is said to restore your body's balance of chi and, in turn, improve your health.

Uses for Tuina

In alternative medicine, tuina is said to aid in the treatment of the following conditions:

In addition, tuina is said to alleviate pain, enhance energy, and reduce stress.

Benefits of Tuina

Although research on the health effects of undergoing tuina is fairly limited, there's some evidence that tuina may help treat certain health problems. Here's a look at some key findings from the available studies on the potential benefits of tuina:

1) Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Tuina shows promise in the treatment of chronic fatigue syndrome, according to a study published in Chinese Acupuncture & Moxibustion in 2010.

For the study, 90 patients with chronic fatigue syndrome were split into three groups: one group underwent tuina, one group practiced tai chi, and one group received Fluoxetine (an antidepressant medication sometimes used in the treatment of chronic fatigue syndrome).

After a month, members of the tuina group showed the greatest improvements in free radical metabolism.

The study's authors note that this effect may reduce fatigue and, in turn, help treat chronic fatigue syndrome.

2) Menstrual Cramps

A small study published in the Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine in 2008 shows that a combination of acupuncture and tuina may help alleviate menstrual cramps. In tests on 60 women, researchers determined that tuina-plus-acupuncture was more effective than acupuncture alone for menstrual cramp relief.

3) Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

A study published in the Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine in 2012 indicates that a combination of tuina and warm-needling (a form of acupuncture) may help treat carpal tunnel syndrome. In tests on 98 people with carpal tunnel syndrome, the study's authors found that those assigned to the combination therapy experienced greater improvements than members of a control group given medication.

4) Fibromyalgia

A combination of tuina and yoga may benefit people with fibromyalgia, suggests a small study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine in 2007.

For eight weeks, 40 women with fibromyalgia took part in weekly sessions involving either yoga or a combination of yoga and tuina. In their analysis of findings on the 33 women who completed the study, researchers found that members of the yoga-plus-tuina group experienced greater improvements in pain.

5) Cervical Spondylosis

Tuina may not be useful in the treatment of cervical spondylosis (a disorder caused by chronic wear on the cervical spine), according to a report published in the Journal of Clinical Nursing in 2008. In their analysis of seven previously published studies on the use of tuina for the treatment of symptoms associated with cervical spondylosis, the report's authors found that no evidence that tuina can help improve symptoms such as headache and vertigo.

Caveats

It's important for people with cancer and certain conditions (including heart disease and arthritis) to consult their physician prior to undergoing tuina and other forms of bodywork.

Using Tuina for Health

Although it's too soon to recommend tuina as a treatment for any condition due to the limited research, it may offer benefits for some. If you're considering trying it, talk with your physician first. It's also important to note that using tuina in place of standard care for a condition or major illness may have serious consequences.

Sources

Cai DF. "Warm-needling plus Tuina relaxing for the treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome." J Tradit Chin Med. 2010 Mar;30(1):23-4.

da Silva GD, Lorenzi-Filho G, Lage LV. "Effects of yoga and the addition of Tui Na in patients with fibromyalgia." J Altern Complement Med. 2007 Dec;13(10):1107-13.

Guo A, Meng Q. "Acupuncture combined with spinal tui na for treatment of primary dysmenorrhea in 30 cases." J Tradit Chin Med. 2008 Mar;28(1):7-9.

Liu CZ, Lei B. "Effect of Tuina on oxygen free radicals metabolism in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome." Zhongguo Zhen Jiu. 2010 Nov;30(11):946-8.

Wang MY, Tsai PS, Lee PH, Chang WY, Yang CM. "Systematic review and meta-analysis of the efficacy of tuina for cervical spondylosis." J Clin Nurs. 2008 Oct;17(19):2531-8.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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