Tui na really is a bit of a secret treasure in Austin, Texas where I am. I notice, though, that when I recommend it to people online, they don’t always know about it either. Unless you’re in a place that has a large Chinese population you may not know what this venerable healing art is and you wouldn’t necessarily know how to find a practitioner, either. In this blog post, consequently, I will do my utmost to help you discover ways to find a great practitioner for what you want to accomplish. Tui na may be hard to find and a little bit foreign-seeming but it has flourished over the course of centuries for a reason. Tui na is a great healing art and it works!
~~~A Quick Review Of Tui Na~~~
The super-short review of this form of traditional Chinese bodywork? Well, it’s pronounced “twee nah” and is one of the five pillars of traditional Chinese medicine. (These are: acupuncture, herbology, nutrition, tui na, and the mindfulness practice that is qi gong). It is somewhat like a massage and somewhat like getting acupuncture but without the needles. A tui na expert in China is akin to an orthopedic doctor and they do specialize. Some will be more expert in joints and things like arthritis. Others work more closely with traumatic injury. All are experts in soft tissue and skeletal matters. A tui na treatment reflects the philosophy and medical foundation of traditional Chinese medicine just as much as acupuncture does. When you get a tui na treatment, you are enjoying the wisdom of thousands of years of study of the human mind, body, and spirit.
The longer version? Go here and check out my numerous blog posts on the subject. If you have a question, I’ve probably already written about it. If I haven’t, just wait because a blog post will probably be forthcoming. (No kidding…I really do love this branch of Chinese medicine and I want everyone to know of it and experience the wonder!)
~~~Training And Specialization~~~
Anyone who is certified to practice tui na in the United States will acquired their credential through the AOBTA, (The American Organization for Bodywork Therapies of Asia) and we are designated as AOBTA-CP. (The CP stands for “certified practitioner”). There are fairly stringent requirements to be able to practice this therapy in some states. In others, all a person needs to do is be a licensed massage therapist and undergo some minimal training and then they can offer tui na (or a facsimile thereof). If you’re in Texas, you’re in luck. Your practitioner had to become certified through the AOBTA. If you are not in Texas, ask the practitioner if they are or are not certified through AOBTA. If the answer is no, you may be getting a nice massage but it’s probably not the real thing.
Keep in mind that tui na is not just a few special massage techniques. It is a modality that reflects thousands of years of medical thought. It takes more than a weekend seminar to learn tui na. Speaking for myself, I undertook the required 500-hour training as part of my four year long master’s program in Chinese medicine. I also took some of the coursework a second time as an auditor and I signed on for more clinical internship hours than required. Other people I know have gone to China to study. Still others study for years under the guidance of a martial arts teacher as they perfect their skills. Tui na is not some basic massage-like poking around that requires minimal skill and training. It is an art, a science, and a vocation. A good tui na practitioner will have trained with great dedication and will be happy to answer your questions about their background.
~~~What Do You Need?~~~
Though we are all specialists in muscles and bones, different practitioners have different skill sets. Generally, it is easy to find someone who can work with joint pain, muscle ache, injury recovery, anxiety, insomnia, and/or headaches; these are, after all, the bread and butter of the practice. If you are looking for something a little more specialized, you do need to ask around and find an expert in that particular area of practice.
Speaking for myself, I do not work with pre or postnatal, although I have some great infertility experience that occurred by accident (the persons I treated had issues I resolved; in so doing, the outcomes restructured a few other issues and voilà, the infertility resolved itself. No jive!). I also don’t work with pediatric patients, although I did some work in student clinic with children. I’m not experienced in stroke aftercare or paralysis in general. Some of my friends in student clinic loved these cases, though, and you can find practitioners who do work with kids or any of the aforementioned. But these are issues that do require some extra training and knowledge, so do ask.
What I am quite experienced in relates to some of my own personal interests. I grew up in a gym environment and I really enjoy working with athletes of all types. I have competitive athlete clients now and I had a blast during the two times I interned at Spartan Race events (here and here). In my previous career as a professor, my professional focus was national trauma and how it filtered through art and literature. I am great with trauma in actual human beings and generally, when working with trauma clients, I expect to be part of their healthcare team, one that includes a psychotherapist.
My clinical internship experience also introduced me to various health issues that I really enjoyed treating. In the nearly three years since I’ve been an AOBTA-CP, I have continued to work within these realms, in fact. To this day, I love working with weight loss (though that usually goes hand-in-hand with health coaching at this point in my career). I’ve had a lot of training in facial rejuvenation and, while undergoing board exams for my acupuncture/herbalist license, I developed a no-needle treatment for aesthetic purposes that clients love (see here). I also do a lot of work on feet, and to great effect (see here). I dearly love the human spine, so of course working on the back is always great fun. I’ve had a lot of experience working with musicians (and there’s a blog post for that, too, here and here). I also truly love a population that, for whatever reason, I attracted from the very start, and that would be people with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (for more on this, check here). Last but not least, I have substantive experience working with recovery from broken bones and I dearly, dearly love those cases.
Long story short? Most practitioners will have a profile of sorts. If someone says that they treat everything, well…I’m not so sure about that. Usually, a practitioner has more experience in some areas and less in others and, when needed, can refer. It’s always a good idea to look at the person’s web site and see what their interests are; generally, practitioners are fairly upfront about what they treat most regularly.
~~~You Deserve The Best~~~
If you are now intrigued (I hope you are!) and you want to find a practitioner, you can start with a quick Google search. Look at the web sites that come up and see if the person has a clear identity as a practitioner. If you are not impressed with what you find, try the AOBTA’s “find a practitioner” link.
If you are in London, I know just where you could go for a great treatment. Tui na practitioners world over are a dedicated breed, and my friend at Touch Tui Na in London, Omar Rifaat, is wonderful (see here for our interview). A friend in California, if you are there, is Joe DeStefano. I am jealous of him because he studied in China for his degree and when I had the opportunity to give him a treatment I was even timid at first. He is a a highly experienced practitioner and I was worried that he might not think I was as good as one taught in China. Fortunately, this was not the case and he left me a lovely review on Facebook. If you are in Southern California, go see Joe (here).
I am in Austin and, though I expect to be practicing acupuncture soon, tui na will always be a staple of my work. As I mentioned, tui na really is a vocation. [Update: If you are reading this after summer of 2018 I am a licensed acupuncturist and herbalist.]
If you are in Austin but you prefer a male practitioner, I always recommend my dear friend and former internship partner, Jacob Cain McRae (here). He is an excellent practitioner, and a dedicated one.
~~~Try Tui Na & See For Yourself~~~
If you’ve never heard of this ancient form of healing or thought it sounded strange the first time you did, you’re not alone. When I first heard of tui na, I thought it sounded weird (“Twee nah? Huh?” was essentially my reaction to hearing the name for the first time). It also took me a while to really understand how it is genuinely different from a massage. The more I studied, though, and the more I saw what it can do for people, and the more I worked on clients and really experienced the healing power of this ancient traditional practice, the more I grew to love it. So did my clients! People who experience tui na really do fall in love with this healing modality.
I can’t imagine life without tui na as part of my health nurturing practice. I hope that you will experience tui na and feel the same way too. Trust me, dear reader. All it takes is one great experience with an excellent practitioner and I am confident that you will agree: tui na is marvelous and certainly a worthy pillar in the pantheon of traditional Chinese medicine.
Tui na can potentially help you feel better, sleep better, and even look better. Sure, it can be a bit of a challenge to find a practitioner if you don’t live on either coast. But tui na practitioners are everywhere, if you know how to look, and once you’ve found someone, you will have found a health resource that can work wonders for you and for your wellbeing.
Bottom line? If you have not tried tui na or other forms of traditional Chinese bodywork, you are missing out on one of life’s greatest joys. You are also losing out on an opportunity to nourish and maintain optimal health. Truly! Tui na is that wonderful, I promise!
Are you ready to try tui na?
Paula Bruno, Ph.D., L.Ac., is a licensed acupuncturist and herbalist, an AOBTA-CP traditional Chinese bodywork therapist, and a wellness educator. She maintains an active and growing practice at her Austin, TX offices. Dr. Bruno is also available for distance appointments for wellness consultation or coaching.
In her first career, she was a Spanish professor.
Dr. Bruno’s specialties as a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner include: • Musculoskeletal health (acute or chronic pain relief; Ehlers Danlos syndrome & hypermobility support) • Digestive support, gut health, and weight loss • Aesthetic treatment, including scar revision • Men’s health • General preventative care and immune support for all persons.
When you are ready to discover what traditional medicine plus a vibrant and engaged approach to holistic health can do for you, either contact Dr. Bruno or book an appointment online.
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Note: Material on this web site site is not intended to diagnose, prevent, treat, or cure any disease, illness, or ailment. A TCM practitioner in Texas identifies syndrome patterns but does not diagnose illness. Material on this web site does not purport to identify syndrome patterns.