Traditional Chinese Medicine: Bodywork

by Lauren Swanger, holistic health enthusiast and research journalist

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Bodywork is an important part of Traditional Asian medicine and deals with the principle of healing touch. Practiced in conjunction with other holistic ideologies, bodywork can provide deep relaxation as well as relief from chronic pain. It speaks to the correlation shiatsubetween muscle tension, or improper alignment, and their contribution to physical, mental, and internal imbalance. When tension is released within the body, the body is better equipped to naturally heal and promote improved health and well-being. Many use the terms bodywork and massage interchangeably, but their philosophies are vastly different. What sets bodywork apart from “massage” is its relationship with Traditional Asian Medicine and healing through touch. There are many types of bodywork practiced today: massage therapy, Shiatsu, Tuina, rolfing, and reflexology. Each of these therapies bring the body to a state of relaxation in order to facilitate its improved functioning.

Massage therapy is a western term that encompasses many styles and techniques such as deep‑tissue massage, scalp massage, and tendo-muscular massage. These will either focus on particular areas of the body or influence various levels of the body.

Shiatsu is a traditional Japanese therapy based on anatomical and physiological theory. It comes from the Japanese “shi” (finger) and “atsu” (pressure). The practitioner uses touch, comfortable pressure and manipulative techniques to adjust the body’s physical structure and balance its energy flow. The application of the shiatsu technique is holistic in that it seeks to treat the whole person. Finger pressure is applied to specific areas of the body in order to alleviate discomfort, treat disease, and maintain physical and mental health.

Tuina (Tui Na) uses the traditional Chinese medical theory of the flow of Qi. Through the practice of soft tissue massage and manipulation techniques, Tuina helps unblock the flow of Qi that is causing discomfort. It is often used in tandem with herbal compresses and salves to enhance its therapeutic advantages.

Rolfing focuses on the connective tissue in the body, working to correct posture and structural misalignments. It is believed that improving the physical structure of the body allows better health both mentally and physically. The rolfer works systematically to manipulate and align the entire body. Usually several sessions are required to accomplish this.

Reflexology theory states that the entire body is represented in the hands and feet. A condition occurring anywhere in the body may be healed by treating the corresponding area on the hand or foot. Reflexology may be used alone or as a part of other bodywork and acupuncture treatments.

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