Traditional Chinese Massage: A Complete Guide to Techniques and Benefits (2023)

Are you not a little curious about Chinese medicine, especially the field of massage with its uses and benefits?

With millions of users worldwide, traditional Chinese Medicine transcends generations, cultures and countries to provide people with vital health benefits every day.

Massage therapy has been a central part of Chinese medicine for thousands of years, with records dating back 2 centuries BC. Contrary to deep tissue massage or to Sports massage, which focuses on releasing knots and muscle tension by targeting blood flow to areas, Chinese massage techniques also aim to promote overall health by facilitating the flow of energy or Qi around the body.

Our guide explains everything you need to know about Chinese massage and its techniques and benefits in detail.


  • Traditional Chinese massage
  • Chinese massage is based on the principle of Qi or vital energy
  • What are the benefits of Chinese massage?
  • What are the Chinese therapeutic massage techniques?
  • Chinese massage Tuina or Tui Na
  • Chinese relaxing massage or acupressure
  • Acupuncture is Chinese massage
  • Chinese facial massage or Gua Sha
  • Chinese foot and hand massage or reflexology
  • What to expect from Chinese massage?
  • Choose massage therapists who are attentive to your situation.

Traditional Chinese massage

According to Catherine Tremblay’s website, Chinese medicine massage therapist, any imbalance can be resolved in the theory of this medicine. It is defined as a therapy interested in the disorders of the human body; he conceives the human body as a coherent system to which the energy flow connects each part, organ or system.

The term Chinese massage is an inadequate term because there is no such thing as traditional Chinese medicine, and it is not really a massage in the purest sense either. What it really is is Tui Na, which means “push and pull .”

It is more accurately described as therapeutic Asian bodywork, and it involves twisting, pulling, twisting, pushing, kneading, so it’s not just about relaxing muscles or relaxing someone under stress.

Chinese massage therapy is part of traditional Chinese medicine, including acupuncture and herbal medicine, it largely maintains the same principles. So, there is a wide range of knowledge bases that fall under Traditional Chinese Medicine, and all these different techniques are how they heal the body.

Today, Chinese massage is quite widely accepted as an alternative or complementary treatment for various ailments.

Traditional Chinese Massage: A Complete Guide to Techniques and Benefits (1)

Chinese massage is based on the principle of Qi or vital energy

Traditional Chinese Medicine massage therapists use their elbows, fingers, and hands to rhythmically stimulate acupuncture points, producing a vibration that influences the flow of energy through the body. Since the energy points correspond to our organs, a quality Chinese massage session positively affects our physical well-being.

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Massage techniques, which include kneading, chopping, rubbing, or pressing against the skin, are all meant to help balance and unblock the body’s channels so that Qi can flow naturally.

Qi (chi) refers to the life energy or the flow of energy inside every living being.

It is a holistic philosophy that permeates many elements of Chinese culture, from martial arts to calligraphy. Even if you don’t directly believe in Eastern philosophies, you can understand this principle as the desire to find a sense of calm and balance in your daily life.

Traditional Chinese Medicine states that the body has its own natural patterns of Qi that flow through channels, called meridians. Imbalances and blockages in these channels and Qi deficiencies in key organs cause symptoms of many diseases. Imbalances can be gently corrected through various techniques, including nutrition, exercise, acupuncture, and massage.

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What are the benefits of Chinese massage?

Chinese massage is an alternative therapy widely used around the world. There are many benefits of incorporating Chinese massage into your life.

1. Relieves pain

A few studies have been done on the effect of therapy on neck pain and lower back pain. For the record, this is one of the most common reasons people seek Chinese massage.

One study showed that a group of patients with chronic neck pain significantly improved their condition with regular treatments over a period of a few weeks. Another group showed less back pain when they received a Chinese massage paired with basic exercises. And a final group focused on carpal tunnel syndrome, where the recovery rate of study participants reached 81% when combined with acupuncture.

2. Increase your energy level

Whether you need to ramp up your energy (yang) or slow down your energy (yin ‘), a massage therapist knows what vigorous or relaxing techniques to apply to help you regain inner peace. Chinese massage can also help improve the quality of your sleep, leaving you ready to face a new day with renewed enthusiasm.

3. Speeds up recovery from soft tissue injuries

If you experience pain or stiffness related to your lower back, frozen shoulder, or sciatica, soft tissue massage increases blood flow, leading to stiffness relief and pain reduction.

Chinese massage therapy is often used alongside physiotherapy to aid the recovery process. One study showed that it reduced inflammation when applied to skeletal muscle after injury, resulting in better recovery speed and performance.

4. Improves your blood circulation

The main meridians of the body also run along with the cardiovascular system, which means that Qi has physiological links with healthy circulation. Hand techniques, including perpendicular pressure and rolling fist, stimulate and re-energize blood circulation.

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Chinese massage can indeed improve your blood circulation. When you push and pull, you tell your body to bring more blood to the massage area. And when you do this right, your blood pressure goes down, not because there is less fluid in your system, but because your arteries dilate.

5. Supports emotional health

Supported by its philosophy of balance, Healing Touch Massage can be a particularly supportive and refreshing therapy for those feeling down or overwhelmed. On a physical level, muscle relaxation can reduce stress and promote sleep, while energy blockages can hold emotional tensions in the body that can contribute to anxiety and depression.

In one study, patients with Parkinson’s disease, which is a condition that often leads to poor coordination, leading to imbalance and frequent falls, showed that after three months of regular Chinese massage, their overall performance s ‘improved dramatically, even more than the strength training and stretching groups in the study.

What are the Chinese therapeutic massage techniques?

A highly trained Chinese medicine massage therapist can use any of the following to target your problems. It does this with different intensities and orders:

  • Palpate (mo)
  • Join (Jie)
  • To oppose (duan)
  • Rise (ti)
  • Press (an)
  • Knead (mo)
  • Push (tui)
  • Hold (a)

In traditional Chinese medicine, there are several types of Chinese massage and here are the most famous:

Traditional Chinese Massage: A Complete Guide to Techniques and Benefits (3)

Chinese massage Tuina or Tui Na

The Tui Na is the most popular Chinese massages and has some similarities to a deep tissue massage. It uses kneading, chopping and stretching movements to relieve sore spots and blockages in the body’s muscular system.

It is an integral part of traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture, acupressure, Chinese herbs, cupping, Tai Chi and Qi Gong. This massage is used in many hospitals in China as the first and only choice of health care.

This Chinese massage follows acupressure points, which are the same as acupuncture points. Points are targets throughout the body found around groups of nerve endings, mast cells, lymphatics, and capillaries, all capable of triggering biochemical and physiological changes in the body.

When the massage therapist works these points, whether, with acupressure or acupuncture, two main things happen

1. You create an endogenous release of opiates so that your body releases its own natural and wellness chemicals, such as serotonin, dopamine, and opiates.

2. You modulate downward sympathetic upregulation, which means you deny your fight-or-flight response.

(Video) Traditional Thai massage

There is an array of techniques used, such as kneading, probing, chopping, perpendicular pressure, and punching, which the massage therapist uses to remove tension or spasms in the muscles and Qi blockages in the channels.

This makes Tui Na a complete massage because it has two aspects:

  • First of all, just like Western massages, it works the muscles by helping them relax, removing stagnation and allowing blood to flow more freely throughout the area, giving the muscle the optimum chance to repair itself.
  • Due to his oriental origins, he works to restore the balance of Qi. Chinese Tui Na massage relies on certain acupressure points in the body’s meridian system to stimulate the body’s healing process.

After the Tui Na massage therapist has assessed your condition and explained Tui Na, the treatment is done. You are either lying or sitting, depending on your condition or age and, in the case of women, whether they are pregnant.

It is not necessary to take off your clothes, only your coat, shoes and jewelry. You are covered with a cotton sheet, as this facilitates the techniques used. Therapeutic oils are only used on the hands, feet and neck. After the treatment, the massage therapist can offer you exercise and stretch, diet and lifestyle advice if requested.

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Chinese relaxing massage or acupressure

It is said that acupressure is an alternative medicine technique similar to that of acupuncture.

It is mainly based on the concepts of vital energy that flows through the meridians of the body. Physical pressure is applied to acupuncture points during a Chinese massage to remove blockages in these meridians. Pressure can be applied by the hands, elbow, and various other devices.

As with any form of massage, a huge benefit of acupressure is relaxation, which you can achieve even if you doubt the existence of meridians. Acupressure is often used for pain relief, and studies have suggested that it can help with back pain, period cramps, and headaches. The practice is used for many other purposes that have been less studied, including the immune system and supporting digestion.

Some studies have suggested that acupressure applied by a massage therapist is an effective tool for managing nausea and vomiting. It also helps a patient to get rid of lower back pain, tension headache, upset stomach.

The acupuncture points used in the treatment may or may not be in the same body as the targeted symptom. The theory of traditional Chinese medicine for selecting these points and their effectiveness is that they work by stimulating the meridian system to provide relief by rebalancing the yin, yang and Qi.

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Acupuncture is a Chinese massage.

Obviously, acupuncture is an important part of Traditional Chinese Medicine, so it is often used along with Chinese massage and other treatments.

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Depending on the diagnosis and recommendation from your massage therapist, you may have a combination of these two treatments with additional techniques. But they can be used independently. So if you don’t want to try acupuncture and your massage therapist believes you can benefit from the principles, then Chinese massage is not for you.

Traditional Chinese Massage: A Complete Guide to Techniques and Benefits (6)

Chinese facial massage or Gua Sha

The Gua Sha is a facial for skincare, and this Chinese massage is used to improve circulation and expel stagnant toxins developed in the body. It is used tenderly on the skin of the face, neck and can also be used all over the body.

The technique involves scraping off toxins using the Gua Sha tool. This age-old technique is the secret to glowing, flawless and anti-ageing skin. Technically, a Gua Sha facial treatment involves scraping the skin using flat jade or rose quartz stone in upward strokes to relax muscles and promote tissue drainage.

The benefits of Gua Sga massage

  • A natural facelift therapy
  • Increases the flow of supplemental rich and oxygenated blood to the skin and tissues
  • Drains lymphatic fluid out of cells
  • Tightens the skin, reducing the first signs of ageing
  • Lifts sagging skin and stimulate collagen production for elasticity
  • Help reduce dark circles around the eyes
  • Amplifies skin lightening, reduces dark spots and hyperpigmentation
  • Promotes skin recovery after rashes and pimples

Traditional Chinese Massage: A Complete Guide to Techniques and Benefits (7)

Chinese foot and hand massage or reflexology

Chinese massage techniques are used in a wide range of treatments, including reflexology massage and energizing massages. As these types of massage can be used in many different ways, it is important to make sure that you receive the right treatment for your personal goals, so always discuss your needs with your massage therapist for advice.

Although Chinese massage may involve pressure or pinching when releasing blockages, it should never be so intense that it becomes painful. It would help if you left your treatment feeling refreshed and revitalized, and you may find that the benefits are cumulative over multiple appointments.

Traditional Chinese Massage: A Complete Guide to Techniques and Benefits (8)

What to expect from Chinese massage?

Like most western massages, Tui Na sessions usually take place on a massage table. Techniques such as sliding, kneading and rolling are used to provide a relaxing and medicinal experience. Loose clothing is recommended for comfort.

Each session focuses on a specific region of the body.

To begin with, the massage therapist will ask you if you have any physical discomfort or health issues.

It then begins with slow movements to stimulate blood circulation and speed up the pace along the way. By manipulating soft tissues and stimulating specific energy points, it aims to loosen the tensions accumulated in the body. Due to the repetitive movements along the problem area, you may feel slight pain.

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It’s also common for the massage therapist to correct the alignment of your spine by twisting and cracking a few bones here and there.

Choose massage therapists who are attentive to your situation.

If you want a unique massage to relax or free yourself from your pain, discomfort, pain or suffering, isn’t it wise and sensible to turn to massage therapists who know what you are doing? Live?


What are the 5 basic strokes? ›

Swedish technique consists of five basic strokes: effleurage (stroking), petrissage (kneading), friction, tapotement (percussion) and vibration, though all of these strokes are not used on every part of the body.

What are the 4 basic techniques in massage? ›

Basic Massage

The first thing that every student must master is “the basics.” The four basic massage strokes are effleurage-(light or deep stroking), petrisage-(kneading), tapotement-(gentle slapping), and friction.

What do you do after a Chinese massage? ›

Post-Massage Care: Getting The Most Out Of Your Massage
  1. DRINK WATER. Massage increases your blood circulation and hydrates your muscle tissues. ...
  2. STRETCH. ...
  3. EAT. ...
  4. REST. ...
  5. HAVE A BATH. ...
Jul 11, 2016

What do they do in a full body massage? ›

A full-body massage usually includes your arms, legs, hands and feet, your neck and back, your stomach and buttocks. The area around the breasts is usually massaged but not the breasts themselves. You can always say you hate having your breast area or buttocks or whatever touched.

What massage technique is best? ›

So, without further ado, here are five of the most popular massage therapy techniques used today.
  • Kneading. ...
  • Effleurage (Light/Deep Stroking) ...
  • Rubbing. ...
  • Tapotement or Tapping. ...
  • Vibration Or Shaking.

How often should you have massages? ›

A general recommendation is every 1-3 weeks, especially "if they have specific strain or tension or any area," says Amey. Pregnant women can greatly benefit from regular massages as well, particularly near the end of the pregnancy.

What should you eat after a massage? ›

Post-massage fare high in nutrients and minerals is ideal. Think more fresh fruits and vegetables, steamed vegetables (the more colors, the better), even lightly stir-fried vegetable medley with some brown rice, or a baked sweet potato is super. You could even do a little meat, like some grilled chicken on a salad.

What type of massage is best for stiffness? ›

Swedish Massage.

Swedish massage is the most common type of massage, and what many people think of when they hear the term “massage.” Swedish massage involves long, fluid stroking of muscles and tissues, and is meant to reduce soreness and stiffness in muscles and joints, to reduce anxiety and to improve circulation.

What is the most gentle massage? ›

Shiatsu massage is best for people who want to feel relaxed and relieve stress, pain, and tension. It's a Japanese type of massage that: promotes emotional and physical calm and relaxation.

What direction should massage flow from? ›

Stroke direction does matter in massage. Massage should be performed in movements going towards the heart, because it helps your circulatory system return blood to your heart and lungs to be re-oxygenated.

What should you not do during a massage? ›

What NOT to Say / Do with Your Massage Therapist
  • Ask your massage therapist to go see a movie / come to your house / etc. ...
  • Excessive noises. ...
  • Comment on our looks/attractiveness. ...
  • Poke your head out of the room to let us know you're ready. ...
  • Start undressing while we are still in the room. ...
  • Touch us.
Jul 3, 2020

How do you massage for beginners? ›

Four Basic Massage Techniques For Beginners - YouTube

What happens if you dont drink water after a massage? ›

What happens if you don't drink water after a massage? The simple answer is you might experience pain, fatigue, and what is commonly called the DOMS, or Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, after your massage.

What should I wear to a massage? ›

You don't have to wear anything out of the ordinary, whatever is comfortable for you. Some people prefer to wear a sweatsuit to be comfortable and others come in their business suit and heels. Your massage therapist has no preference so whatever you prefer is perfectly fine.

How many hours after a massage can I take a shower? ›

Don't Shower Immediately. Many of our customers admit that they shower as soon as their massage session has ended, mostly to wash off the oil. This is a big mistake. Truth is that the massage simply heats up the essential oils, and they still need another hour to get absorbed into the skin cells.

How do you massage your partner? ›

Right Way To Relax Your Partner | Best Massage Tips - YouTube

What should I do before a massage appointment? ›

Here are some tips for your next massage.
  1. Stay Hydrated. Being well hydrated before your massage is very important for the elimination of toxins that are released into the body's circulation during treatment. ...
  2. Eat Lightly. ...
  3. Take a Hot Shower. ...
  4. Dress Comfortably. ...
  5. Arrive in Advance. ...
  6. Communicate your Needs. ...
  7. Relax during the massage.
May 11, 2018

Do you tip for a massage? ›

We spoke to two etiquette experts, who suggested leaving a 15% to 20% tip, if you're able. Twenty percent is generous for the massage therapist and easy on the brain, which may be feeling more relaxed than ever after a massage. The math is straightforward. To find 20%, start by finding 10%, then double that amount.

What massage is best for back pain? ›

Deep Tissue Massage

Deep tissue massage uses many of the same techniques as Swedish massage, but with a much deeper pressure level, as its name implies. It's recommended primarily for people who experience severe or chronic back pain, since it penetrates deep into muscles.

What massage gets rid of headaches? ›

Press your thumbs firmly towards each other and into the bridge of your nose, just underneath your forehead. Hold for 10 seconds, breath deeply. Repeat 5 times. Take your thumbs and place them just underneath your forehead, with the pads very close to the bridge of your nose.

How do you massage your breasts to firm them? ›

Place four fingers on the top and bottom of one breast. Apply gentle pressure while moving the fingers of both hands in smooth, circular motions. Position the fingers on each side of the same breast and continue to massage in a circular pattern. Repeat on the other breast.

When should you not get a massage? ›

Here are the conditions that fall into these category;
  • Fever. Anytime you have a fever, whether from a cold, the flu or some other infection, you should not get a massage. ...
  • Contagious Diseases. ...
  • Blood Clots. ...
  • Pregnancy. ...
  • Kidney Conditions or Liver Conditions. ...
  • Cancer. ...
  • Inflammation. ...
  • Uncontrolled Hypertension.

How long is too long for a massage? ›

If relaxation is your goal, then a 50 or 60 minute massage is generally appropriate. You can certainly do a longer session of 80 or 90 minutes if you like, but anything much longer than that may tend to feel a bit repetitive or may leave you groggy afterward. Specific work is generally more time-consuming.

What are the disadvantages of body massage? ›

Most Common Side Effects
  • Lingering Pain. Due to the pressurised techniques used in a deep tissue massage, some people have suffered from some version of pain during and/or after their therapy session. ...
  • Headaches/Migraines. ...
  • Fatigue or Sleepiness. ...
  • Inflammation. ...
  • Nausea.

What is best to drink after massage? ›

It's absolutely key that you drink a lot of water after your massage. When you massage tight muscles they loosen and release toxins, so drinking water helps flush all of this out of your body.

What vitamins should I take after a massage? ›

Take Supplements or Vitamins with Omega-rich Foods

Supplements like Omega-Meal can also help to provide those omega acids and other nutrients that your body may be craving post-massage.

Should I drink water before a massage? ›

Drinking water before a massage is recommended because a hydrated, soft muscle is easier to manipulate then a dehydrated, rigid one. Picture one of your muscles as a sponge. A dried up sponge is hard and rigid but once it's submerged in water, it becomes supple.

What does Chinese massage consist of? ›

The two types of Chinese massage are further fairly different. “Tui na” consists of kneading, stretching, and pushing of the muscles. Meanwhile, “Zhi Ya” entails pressing on acupressure points.

What's the difference between Thai and Chinese massage? ›

Thai massage like Tui Na, is concerned with balancing the intrinsic energies of the body, mind and spirit. Unlike the Chinese system, Thai massage lacks a sophisticated theoretical background – 14 meridians with 365 acu-points and diagnosis.

What's the difference between a Chinese massage and a Thai massage? ›

Unlike Deep Tissue or Sports Massage, which focus on releasing tight muscular knots by targeting blood flow to the area, Chinese Massage techniques also aim to promote overall health by easing the flow of energy, or “qi”, around the body.

What is Chinese massage called? ›

Tuina or tui-na (pronounced twee-nah) massage originated in ancient China and is believed to be the oldest system of bodywork. It's one of the four main branches of traditional Chinese medicine, along with acupuncture, qi gong, and Chinese herbal medicine.

Is Chinese massage deep tissue? ›

Tui Na, (pronounced “twee na”) is a deep tissue Chinese massage, and is a fundamental part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), along with Acupuncture, Acupressure, Chinese Herbs, Cupping, Moxibustion, Tai Chi and Qi Gong. Tui Na is used in many hospitals in China as the first and only choice of healthcare.

What happens when you get a massage? ›

The physical manipulation in massage has two major physical effects: Increase in blood and lymph circulation. Relaxation and normalization of the soft tissue (muscle, connective tissue, tendons, ligaments), which releases nerves and deeper connective tissues.

How do you massage a person? ›

How To Give A Deep Stress Relief Back Massage - YouTube

Which massage is best for back pain? ›

While the typical Swedish and deep tissue massages are good for relief from back pain, a particularly effective technique for lower back pain is Shiatsu massage. Shiatsu massage applies pressure to different parts of the body in a rhythmic sequence.

How often should you get a massage? ›

A general recommendation is every 1-3 weeks, especially "if they have specific strain or tension or any area," says Amey. Pregnant women can greatly benefit from regular massages as well, particularly near the end of the pregnancy.

Is Thai massage better than deep tissue? ›

For example, if you have been struggling with muscle pain, tension, and knots, then a deep tissue massage is ideal. However, for your general health, improved movement and joint relief, including a number of other benefits, Thai massage is the way forward.

What is Chinese head massage? ›

Chinese head massage involves affecting acupressure points located on the head area, this has a relaxing effect on the whole body because many energy channels are situated on the head. Every day we use mimicry muscles involving facial expressions, so relaxing them is also important.

What is an MO massage? ›

An Mo Massage is used to balance, calm and relax the entire body by using yang techniques. Chinese Massage therapy is a wholistic approach to health care that aims to provide relief from physical ailments, and also relaxes and revitalizes the body and mind.

Why is massage beneficial to your body? ›

Benefits of massage

Reducing stress and increasing relaxation. Reducing pain and muscle soreness and tension. Improving circulation, energy and alertness. Lowering heart rate and blood pressure.

How does massage relieve pain? ›

Therapeutic massage may relieve pain by way of several mechanisms, including relaxing painful muscles, tendons, and joints; relieving stress and anxiety; and possibly helping to “close the pain gate” by stimulating competing nerve fibers and impeding pain messages to and from the brain.

What should I not do after Tui Na? ›

After Tui Na Massage
  • Rest. After a Tui Na massage session, your body will be going through a rebalancing as it responds to the treatment. ...
  • Avoid Vigorous Exercise. For several hours after the treatment, avoid strenuous exercise to keep your body in relaxation mode.
  • Avoid Stress. ...
  • Drink Water.
May 21, 2021


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3. Traditional Chinese Massage – Chinise Massage Techniques To Reduce Pain and Relieve Stress
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4. What You Need to Know about Cupping
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