Tui Na is a powerful form of bodywork that has its roots in ancient China. It’s a simple but effective way to alleviate a wide range of health issues in dogs and cats.
You may not have heard of it before, but Tui Na is a primary healing therapy that originated in China thousands of years ago and is still in use today. Often pronounced “twee na”, it’s the original Chinese meridian massage. It’s making its way into the West because it’s a powerful form of bodywork and an integral part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) – and modern conventional medicine is beginning to acknowledge the benefits and wisdom of traditional medicine for both humans and animals.
Tui Na can be translated as “push-grasp”. Though there have been many schools of Tui Na over the centuries, there are basic hand techniques that are in continuous use today. These techniques are incorporated into a therapeutic series of pressing, tapping, kneading, grasping, knocking and passive manipulation. In the West, we use these Tui Na techniques in the performance of acupressure massage.
As in all forms of ancient Chinese medicine, the purpose of Tui Na is to maintain or restore the harmonious flow of life-promoting energy (chi, qi or ki), and blood. When chi and blood are flowing harmoniously throughout the body, it can resist pathogens and support health.
These hand techniques have been used in China with animals ever since livestock became essential to survival. Their existence was – and still is, to some degree – dependent on the need for animals for agriculture, military activities and transportation. And until quite recently, dogs and cats were used to protect temples and other sacred places.
How it works
Through thousands of years of clinical observation, Chinese medicine practitioners determined that there are energetic pathways or channels called “meridians” that run through the body, nourishing and connecting the internal organs with the tissues and extremities. Nutrient-rich blood and chi need to pass freely and consistently through these meridians to support all the body’s systems and activities.
Whenever there is a blockage, stagnation or breakdown in the continuous flow of chi and blood, the body becomes imbalanced and can’t function properly. The longer the animal remains unbalanced, the more likely his health will become compromised. For example, what begins as a tight muscle, in which the flow of blood and chi is cut off through restriction, can lead to more pronounced lameness and potential immobility.
TCM is best used as a resource for preventing illness and injury by maintaining the energetic and nutrient supply to the entire body. If there’s an imbalance, dealing with it as soon as possible keeps it from going deeper into the body and creating ill health.
What Tui Na can and cannot do
Tui Na is a highly effective form of bodywork based on TCM. The hand techniques help promote the flow of chi and blood through the meridian system that feeds and energizes the animal’s body. Tui Na is known to address an extensive array of health issues, including:
• Muscle, tendon, ligament and other skeletal conditions
• Aging issues such as arthritis, loss of vitality, weakness and joint stiffness
• Respiratory, cardiovascular, digestive and immune system disorders
• It can also enhance mental focus, sensory acuity and help create a general sense of well-being.
Before you begin, note that there are some situations and conditions in which Tui Na is not recommended:
• If the animal is frail
• During pregnancy
• If the animal has an infectious disease
• Immediately after a large meal
• When undiagnosed masses are present
• On or around skin eruptions or bleeding
Try this technique
It can take years of practice to perfect Tui Na techniques, but everyone has to start somewhere. The technique commonly used in animal acupressure on specific “acupoints” (pools along a median where chi and blood can be influenced) is called Yi zhi chan tui fa or “one-finger meditation”. This technique stimulates the energetic action the particular acupoint is known to affect.
For example, by performing Yi zhi chan tui fa on the acupoint known as Stomach 36 (St36), the flow of chi and blood to the animal’s digestive tract will be enhanced. St 36 is also used to stimulate vitality and boost the immune system (see diagram on next page).
To perform Yi zhi chan tui fa, make a loose fist with your thumb extended down. Gently press with the soft, fleshy portion of the tip of your thumb on the acupoint you have selected from the chart (descriptions for each are on next page). Focus on the acupoint and its therapeutic value while relaxing your shoulder and elbow. Your other hand can rest comfortably on the animal to maintain connection.
Now, rhythmically oscillate your arm while your thumb remains focused on the acupoint. Make the movement as slow as needed to create an even oscillation; the intention is to create a vibratory frequency that can stimulate the energetic activity of the acupoint. Stay on the acupoint you have selected for approximately two to three minutes.
Practice your technique on a firm pillow or other forgiving surface before applying Yi zhi chan tui fa directly to your animal.
Acupoints for session
The acupoints presented in the chart have specific actions within the animal’s body. Each is known to affect the body in a particular way.
Stomach 36 (St 36) benefits the digestive tract, promotes vitality and enhances the immune system.
Bai Hui Point is a classic point known to encourage the flow of chi and blood to the hindquarters and back. It can help with lameness, hip joint issues and arthritis. The added benefit of the Bai Hui Point is that most animals love it!
Conception Vessel 17 (CV 17) benefits any respiratory disorder and can be effective for reducing anxiety. It is best to perform Yi zhi chan tui fa on CV 17 when the animal is lying down or on his back.
Spleen 6 (Sp 6) has influence over the urogenital system and rear portion of the abdomen. It is used for urinary tract infections, incontinence or retention of urine, regulating the estrus cycle and lower back pain.
Take time to practice the Yi zhi chan tui fa technique – the more proficient you are, the more effective your Tui Na acupressure session will be. The rhythmic vibration is essential to the stimulation of the acupoints.
Tui Na is a wonderful modality to share with your companion. It can help soothe aches and pains, calm his spirits, and enhance his wellness.