Tui Na

Physical Therapy

Tui Na or An Mo Tui Na is the Traditional Chinese Medicine bodywork or manual therapy system. “Tui Na” actually means “push/pull-lift” and refers to two of the primary techniques in this complex system. Tui Na is comprehensive and includes modalities such as massage, acupressure, physical therapy and osseous manipulation. Tui Na is unique to Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM) because it is not only a manual therapy, but also the application of such therapy based upon the system of TCVM diagnostics.

For example, two dogs may have pain in their hips or coxofemoral joints. In the TCVM diagnostic system, one of the dogs may have pain due to Liver Blood Deficiency and Blood Stagnation. The other may have pain due to Kidney Yin Deficiency and subsequent osteoarthritis. The treatment for the two dogs, who may look similar to a western-trained veterinarian, would actually be somewhat different. The first dog would have Tui Na techniques done that would tonify Liver Blood and relieve Blood Stagnation. The second dog would receive Tui Na techniques that would nourish Kidney Yin and benefit the bones.

Another wonderful aspect of TCVM Tui Na is that it may be applied by the veterinarian, veterinary technician, or animal caretaker. In fact, I commonly teach companion animal caretakers basic Tui Na techniques that they can use at home to facilitate the health and healing of their animal friends. I find that involving caretakers in the daily health-care of their animal companions increases the bond between them as well as empowers people to be part of the health care team.

Tui Na techniques can be classified into 6 general categories. The first group of techniques is those that involve rotary movement of the practitioner’s hand or fingers. The second group uses the hands or fingers to apply direct friction to the skin, subcutaneous or deep connective and muscular tissues depending upon the diagnosis. The third group of Tui Na techniques uses perpendicular pressure at different depths and areas to effect a change in body tissues and activate acupuncture points. The fourth group of techniques involves different types of vibration and shaking techniques that penetrate deeply into joints or the body to invigorate stagnant Qi or Blood. The fifth group of techniques is those that achieve passive range of motion and traction-like actions on the limbs and waist. The final group encompasses a few distinct techniques that include boney or osseous manipulations.

Tui Na is a complete bodywork system that I have studied in China and teach to licensed veterinarians in America. I utilize Tui Na on most of my patients and teach some of the simpler techniques to willing animal caretakers. Combined with acupuncture, herbal medicine and food therapy, Tui Na offers us a final piece of the puzzle to solve complex and commonly chronic disease processes in our beloved companion animals.

Special thanks to my friend and mentor Dr. Bruce Ferguson who graciously allows me to use this article.