Contrary to what your physical therapist may tell you, many states (including Hawaii) do allow acupuncturists to perform manual therapy. This means if you have an insurance plan that covers manual therapy (call them and ask) you could be elligible to receive beneifts under your insurance plan. There are several types of manual therapy within the scope of Oriental medicine including qigong and tuina. Tuina is also called Chinese medical massage, while qigong is also known as energy medicine. Both therapies work to restore your body to balance according to the principles of Taoism and 5-element diagnosis. In China tuina is a study all to itself, and many Chinese physicians prefer it over acupuncture! Tuina is also safe and effecive for children, who may not be able to receive conventional acupuncture, and which has led to the common use of pediatric tuina.
What is Tuina:
Tuina (pronounced "twee nah") is a type of Oriental bodywork that has been used in China for thousands of years. It is a combination of massage, acupressure and other forms of body manipulation. The Tuina practitioner works by applying pressure to acupoints, meridians and groups of muscles or nerves to remove energy blockages that can prevent the free flow of qi. Removing these blockages restores the balance of qi within the body, leading to improved health and vitality.
In an ancient text known as The Yellow Emperor's Classics of Internal Medicine, which was written about 2,500 years ago, the details of Tuina therapy are documented and detailed. The popularity of Tuina grew steadily to the point that by the sixth century, many traditional Chinese medical schools had incorporated tuina into their programs as a separate department. In America tuina is often taught as a standard part of any ACOM-accredited acupuncture program, but in China tuina is currently taught as a separate but equal field of study. Tuina practitioners in China receive the same level of training (and enjoying the same professional respect) as acupuncturists and herbalists.
What to expect in a Tuina session:
Typically in a tuina session, the client will remain clothed but will wear loose clothing. As the client sits on a chair or couch the practitioner will ask the patient a series of questions to form his/her diagnosis before beginning treatment. Tuina practitioners may employ a variety of techniques to achieve their goal. Commonly used techniques include soft tissue massage; acupressure and manipulation. The tuina medicine has more specific names for these techniques such as kneading, pressing, plucking, and so on. Tuina practitioners may also use herbal compresses, liniments, ointments and heat to enhance the results of the manual therapy they provide.
What Conditions can Tuina treat:
Tuina is great for relieving chronic pain, musculoskeletal conditions and stress-related disorders that can affect the digestive and/or respiratory systems. Conditions most suited to tuina are are neck pain, shoulder pain, back pain, sciatica and tennis elbow. But because tuina is designed to improve and restore the flow of qi, treatment often ends up causing improvements to the whole body. There is some evidence that headaches, constipation, premenstrual symptoms and some emotional problems can also be effectively relieved through tuina. Because tuina tends to be more specific it can also be more intense than other types of bodywork. The goal of tuina is not to relax the client but rather to eliminate blockages and restore the normal flow of qi. The massage delivered by a tuina practitioner can be quite vigorous, and some people may feel sore after their first session. Some clients may also experience feelings of sleepiness or euphoria.
Contraindications for Tuina:
As with all forms of care, there are certain instances in which tuina should be avoided. Patients with osteoporosis, conditions involving fractures, infectious diseases, skin problems or open wounds should not receive tuina.
Qigong as Manual Therapy:
Many practitioners are also trained in a subtle exercise technique known as qigong. Qigong literally means "I am in the universe and the universe is in me". It is a series of exercises perfect over thousands of years that is known in China to improve health, stamina, and longevity. There are numerous stories of so called incurable diseases like cancer being spontaneously cured by dedicated qigong practice. According to qigong practitioners this is because qigong removes blockages in the body's subtle energy system and allows the body to return to its natural state of healthfulness. Qigong is not a religious practice, but is based in the taoist principles of returning to harmony by recognizing oneness with the universe. While qigong is a set of exercises that can be taught and prescribed much like physical therapy, some practitioners also use medical qigong. Medical qigong functions from the belief the that accomplished qigong practitioner can transfer some of his or her life force, or qi, using his/her intention. This transfer may have the intention of soothing excess qi, tonifying deficient qi, or simply balancing disharmonious qi. This may allow the client to experience greater healthfulness without engaging in the direct and regular practice of qigong exercises, although exercises will almost certainly be prescribe alongside any traditional medical qigong therapy.