On weekday afternoons my two colleagues and I are attending the Beijing Blind Massage Hospital to learn Tuina massage.
Tuina is a form of medical massage that has been used in China for 2,000 years to treat both internal disease and painful muscular–skeletal conditions. It uses the traditional Chinese medical theory of the flow of Qi through the meridians. Through the application of manipulation techniques to the general area of the meridians, and specific places on them, Tuina aims to establish a more harmonious flow of Qi, allowing the body to naturally heal itself.
The Massage Hospital was established in 1958, and is the city–s largest hospital specialising in Tuina, with both In– and Out–Patient Departments. On average, 2000 patients, with all kinds of muscular skeletal pain, are treated each day by 180 blind, partially sighted and fully sighted Doctors of Chinese Medicine. With such high numbers of patients it could be chaos, but it isn’t — it is well organised, cost–effective and enormously popular with the patients.
The Hospital’s teaching programme allows completely new students to learn the basic Tuina manipulations, and helps experienced practitioners to develop their technique and diagnostic skills. So, for our first week we received lectures on Tuina theory and the basic manipulations, and thereafter we have each been assigned to observe and practice with one of three doctors who speak good English. Spending several afternoons each week with the doctors gives us plenty of opportunity to observe their treatment routines and to ask questions. For example, we noted variations in style and preferred manipulations between doctors, and learned that Tuina practised in Beijing is stronger than the southern style Tuina, as practised in places like Nanjing. One of the Doctors who taught us had learned the southern style and, although it seemed fairly robust to us, we felt it was more suitable for Ireland and the UK, where patients do not usually tolerate much pain.
Each Doctor sees an average of 22 patients per day — which is physically very demanding — treating the following conditions:
- Neck, shoulder, elbow and wrist pain
- Hip and low back pain
- Knee and ankle pain
- Digestive problems
At the end of the month I will sit an exam based on lectures and hands–on experience, and be able to offer Tuina massage to my own patients when I return home — especially those who are not fond of acupuncture needles!