How Chinese Massage Might Help With Muscle and Joint Pain

Ancient Chinese medicine experts and practitioners believe that energy in the body has to flow continuously to help relieve stress and prevent diseases. Chinese massage therapy, also known as tui na, is a part of Chinese medicine that has been used for thousands of years.

Chinese massage, known as tui na, aims to help relieve tension and pain in the body. Credit: julief514/iStock/GettyImages

Read more: 8 Traditional Chinese Medicine Practices That Seem Strange But Work

What Is Chinese Massage?

The goal of Chinese massage involves creating a balance of qi (a term for energy) and blood flow in the body, according to an October 2014 study published in Trials. According to the theory of Chinese massage, pain is caused by a blockage or obstruction of this qi.

Practitioners of tui na use their fingers and hands to apply pressure at specific points on the body, similar to acupuncture, according to the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine. They use gliding and kneading motions to promote the flow of blood and qi, with the goal of healing and alleviating pain.

Tui na techniques typically involve stretching, kneading and pushing the muscles, according to the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine. However, the practitioner uses specific methods like compression, vibration, friction, pinching and joint manipulation intentionally, deciding which technique is best depending on their client's needs, according to Fremont College.

Read more: Sore Muscles? 8 Tips to Ease the Pain

Benefits of Chinese Traditional Massage

A typical Chinese massage therapy session lasts between 30 minutes and an hour and targets sore and injured muscles, according to the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine. Unlike other types of massage that aim to provide overall relaxation, Chinese massage tends to focus on alleviating pain in certain areas of the body.

Massage in general may help reduce stress and may be helpful for managing anxiety, according to the Mayo Clinic. Regular massage sessions may also help soothe headaches, digestive disorders or stress-related insomnia.

Chinese Massage for Healing

While there is no scientific evidence that Chinese massage can heal injuries, the practice has been shown to have pain-relieving affects for certain conditions. When combined with core stability exercises, tui na proved beneficial for lower back pain in a February 2015 study published in Complementary Therapies in Medicine.

Chinese massage may also help in alleviating joint stiffness in patients with knee osteoarthritis, according to a small August 2015 study published in The Journal of Traditional Medicine. While researchers found that tui na did not improve the patients' range of motion, the therapy did help alleviate knee pain and improved gait speed and step width.

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