What Is Chinese Acupoint Massage?

Chinese massage is closely related to acupuncture in its use of the meridian system and is considered to be effective for a similar range of health problems. It is an effective and comprehensive therapy and is regarded alongside herbs, diet, qigong and one of the fundamental arts of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Massage is of course as old as human kind. However even with this perspective the pedigree of Chinese massage is impressive. There are massage textbooks as far back as the Nei Jing (722-481 BC) the most ancient medical texts.

Chinese techniques were imported to Japan and eventually gave rise to Japanese Shiatsu. Later still Peter Henrik Ling learned from Chinese masters before developing Swedish Massage the origin of Western bodywork.

The development of the Chinese tradition came from the synergy between four groups, doctors who brought the sophisticated medical theories of TCM to massage, martial arts who combined deep experience of qi with great ability to heal injuries, Bhuddist and Taoist adepts who used massage as an essential support to their spiritual yoga and laymen often blind practitioners offering massage for pleasure and relaxation.

It is widely practised and taught in hospital and medical schools and is an essential part of primary healthcare. The astounding success of China’s athletes and gymnasts is due at least in part to the use old traditional massage in their training. Chinese massage is in fact not a single therapy but encompasses three related and overlapping areas.

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 - 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.

Meridians (jing-luo) theory - the basis of Chinese Massage

Like acupuncture Chinese Massage is based on the theory of meridians or channels and collaterals. According to this theory the body is networked by a system of pathways which function to transport qi 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 jing luo.

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.