With so many different types of massage available today, you can get lost trying to remember which each one is, and what they're all individually useful for. The good news is that Tui Na massage, like most other types of massage, works by rubbing, kneading, or applying pressure in some way to your muscles, in order to effect a therapeutic outcome. The main difference with Tui Na is that it is based on Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), and so its approach is a little different than other types of massage.
It is believed that Tui Na, as a modality of TCM, developed in ancient China, approximately 5,000 years ago. In China today, it is considered a main form of medicinal therapy, and is considered as the basis for other therapies that exist in western society as well, such as shiatsu and acupressure.
TCM looks at your body as a whole; not individual parts working separately but rather a continuous being that is connected not only to itself in every way, but also to the universe and all that exists within the universe. A Tui Na massage works on the same muscles and parts of your body as do other massages, but you can begin to see how a holistic approach immediately makes the treatment even subtly unique. Furthermore, TCM is defined in part by meridians (pathways of energy and nutrients), as well as theories such as the Theory of 5 Elements which help to determine your individual diagnosis for treatment purposes.
An example might help to highlight the differences: if you have pain in your neck and shoulders, one meridian that is probably affected is your Gall Bladder meridian ('Gall Bladder' is capitalized here to differentiate from the scientific definition of the organ). Knowledge of the TCM meridians will tell your Tui Na practitioner that a few points on your feet or lower legs may also help the treatment. Also, knowledge of the Theory of Five Elements may tell your practitioner to use a point or two on your wrist and hand. Other types of massage would not necessarily treat the same points, and would certainly not use the same reasoning.
Tui Na massage is not necessarily better than other massage techniques, just simply different in application. In western society, the TCM massage is often used as an adjunct to acupuncture, cupping therapy, Qi Gong, and/or herbal medicine, and so your Registered TCM Practitioner may include some type of Tui Na in your treatment. Be sure to find a qualified therapist who is knowledgeable about the wide array of different TCM modalities.
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