Chinese Therapeutic Massage Techniques

Therapeutic massage is an all-natural relief without drugs.

Like acupuncture Chinese Massage is based on the theory of meridians or channels and collaterals. Our body is networked by a system of pathways (meridians) which function to transport qi (energy) and blood, to regulate yin and yang, to protect against external pathogens and to link the internal organs with the exterior. Blockage of the meridians causes pain and is intimately connected with all health problems.

Chinese Massage is primarily focused on the meridians and on acupoints where qi gathers and can be easily manipulated. Massage techniques are understood to affect the meridians by:

Activating qi and blood ( in the sense of increasing its activity)

Regulating qi and blood ( in the sense of dispersing stagnation and guiding counterflow)

Dredging the channels ( in the sense of removing external pathogens like cold and damp)

Massage also relaxes the jin ( sometimes mistranslated as tendons, jin actually refers to the function of all soft and connective tissue in relation to movement and flexibility) to ease spasm and increase flexibility and straightens the joints. Both jin and joints closely affect the flow of qi in the meridians.

What is particularly interesting is that these effects create movement in one form or another. Since in TCM terms pain is simply a lack of free flow of qi and blood, this is why Chinese Massage is such a powerful treatment for pain.


Massage Techniques

Techniques are at the heart of any system of bodywork. They are what defines its feel and therapeutic qualities. There are over 40 hand techniques. These cover not only a range of soft tissue techniques, but also many percussion and joint manipulation methods including spinal adjustments similar to Osteopathy, although there are important differences. Some of these techniques resemble western massage, others are quite unique. For example in gun fa, the back of the hand is rotated rapidly back and forth over the skin with an effect which one of my patient's once described as like a heavy rolling pin.

Press and rub - massage for rejuvenation and health maintenance. Widely used in the home and in martial arts, qi gong and sports training.

Push and grasp - (Tuina) sophisticated medical massage used to treat injuries, joint and muscle problems and internal disorders.


Acupoint press - familiar as acupressure. Uses simple pressure techniques. Very much a home remedy but also used by acupuncturists when needles are not suitable.

Broadly speaking techniques are classified into yin (sedating) and yang (stimulating). However each technique is further classified according the therapeutic principles it achieves. For example rubbing stimulates yang qi, pushing regulates counterflow. I combine these techniques in just the same way a herbalist combines herbs in a formula ensuring that therapeutic principles are achieved with a proper balance of yin and yang. So in a situtation where yin sedating techniques are primarily called for, I will use some yang stimulation to activate qi and blood just as a herbalist adds ginger to a cooling formula.

Techniques can be applied to particular areas, channels, acupoints achieving similar results to acupuncture needles. They can also be applied in different directions. Working with or against the flow of the channels, towards or out from the center of body energy gi (dan tien), clockwise or counter clockwise, all have different effects.

Equally important is the way the techniques are carried out. My treatment is gentle and soft yet deep and penetrating. The strokes are applied rhythmically and persistently. The controlled use of very deep, moving pressure is one of the secrets of Chinese massage. If needed I might spend the same time on one frozen shoulder as a western masseur would spend on an entire body treatment. This repeated application of a single technique many hundreds of times with deep penetration and qi communication is often termed "finger meditation".

Chinese Massage can be given with the patient either laying down or sitting. Most of the time treatment is often given through clothing. However some therapist still preserved the older tradition of working on the skin which facilitates qi communication and allows herbal applications.


Other popular techniques of massage that I practice

Acupressure - Originated from Chinese massage. This is acupuncture performed without the use of needles. Instead, it's administered by using the pressure of the fingertips on the pressure points.

Shiatsu - This is similar to acupressure, but instead of just the fingertips, the pressure may be applied using hands, knees, elbows or feet.

Reflexology - This is also known as zone therapy and is massage using pressure points in the hands and feet.

Swedish massage - This is the most popular method of massage used today. It involves long strokes, kneading and tapping of the muscles and soft tissue.

Rolfing - This is a more painful form of massage as it is aimed at the deeper soft tissues of the joints.