Chinese massage therapy has gone through many ups and downs during its long and tortuous historical development. Due to the influences from different academic sources, regional cultures and practical experiences, many different schools and branches were established. They all contributed hundreds of bodywork techniques for clinical application. These schools are mainly distinguished by their particular context and objectives, as the theory and basic techniques are rather similar. Below are the most influential schools in China:
Massage techniques are mainly focused on realigning and repairing tendons and ligaments and restoring the mobility of joints after traumatic injury or diseases of the spine and limbs. In addition, massage can soothe pain, relax stiff muscles, and reduce the swelling of lesions. Based on accumulated experience, modern TCM has evolved special manipulations called anesthesia massage, which means that patients can undergo surgery while still in a conscious state.
This type of massage is based on the meridians. Massage therapists use the fingers to strike, press, knead and pinch in order to stimulate the acupoints along the meridians. The techniques are mainly used in the treatment of certain internal diseases.
This usually targets children below six years old. Based on the physiological characteristics of children, practitioners select appropriate acupoints or regions to perform massage techniques, which are gentle, soft and delicate in nature. This type of massage comprises some unique skills to treat children's diseases, such as chiropractic massage along the spinal column.
This is done by practitioners who are also qi-gong masters. Practitioners will first prepare themselves by entering a certain qi-gong state before giving the massage and then perform some general massage techniques like pushing or rubbing the body surface. It is claimed that while they are massaging, practitioners emit external qi (vital energy) to the patient's body for additional healing effect.
Instead of hands, practitioners mainly use the feet to perform massage. During the massage, practitioners apply techniques such as kneading, pushing, treading and stepping with either a single foot, both feet, toes or heels on their patients' bodies. Common selected regions are the back or lower limbs, since these areas need deeper pressure.
Foot massage, also called reflexology, is a method of applying finger pressure to the feet. TCM notices that there is a mirror site in the sole of the foot that directly connects to specific organs and structures throughout the body; thus, imbalances and disorders can be cured by massaging the correct reflex points on the soles.
This ancient method includes patting and beating the body surface with tools. Practitioners pat and beat regularly along the line of selected muscles, tendons or meridians. This is claimed to relieve certain spinal and limb problems.
This is an important component of sports medicine. TCM specialists transform traditional techniques and incorporate them into a modern way of enhancing sports performance.
Before competition, particular manipulations are used to both to relax the muscles and to enhance muscular toughness, promoting the flexibility of joints and tendons. They also help to ensure that the athlete is in optimum condition both mentally and physically. During competition, the highly excitatory state, fatigue, spasms, stiffness and soreness all benefit from a massage. Massage can also relieve fatigue and loosen muscle tightness after competition, helping the athlete to recover quickly.
Furthermore, for abdominal pain commonly seen in sports like sprints and long-distance running and for chest or rib pain from ball games and weight lifting, there are a special set of protocols for alleviation. Bone-setting massage can also be used to treat sports injuries.
These are simple massages that you can do yourself. The head, neck, check, abdomen, lumbar area and limbs are the most common areas for massage. Many massage or wellness centers provide courses in these kinds of massage for relaxation and refreshment.