Traditional Chinese Medicine, Part IV
In studying acupressure history, we find that it is the oldest of the four branches of Chinese Medicine. Bodywork or massage is in fact the oldest form of medicine of all cultures as it’s such a natural instinct to rub or massage where there is pain. While it was known as Anma by the ancients, today acupressure massage is called Tuina (or Tui Na) in China and Shiatsu in Japan. Other forms of physical or manipualtive therapy in Chinese medicine are called Gua Sha (a scraping technique), Moxabustion (an herbal warming therapy), and Cupping, which are all commonly used by acupuncturists in the U.S.
How Old Is Acupressure?
We know that these techniques date to at least the Shang dynasty (1700 BC) because oracle bones have been discovered with written records of using Tui Na/Anma to treat infants and digestive illness in adults. Tuina massage is also described in the Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine, which dates from approximately 2300 BC as one of the five major branches of medicine.
Zhang Zhongjing, a renowned physician dating from the Han Dynasty (206 BC), wrote, “As soon as the heavy sensation of the limbs is felt, “Daoyin”, “Tui na”, “Zhenjiu” and “Gaomo”, all of which are therapeutic methods, are carried out in order to prevent… the disease from gaining a start.”
While acupressure history stretches back into antiquity, in China it reached its peak during the Tang Dynasty (618-907 CE) when it was taught at the doctoral level at the Imperial Medical College.
Acupressure Around the World
Tuina massage techniques spread from China to Japan and Korea, to Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia, and even as far as Europe and Russia. Most people are unaware that popular styles of modern massage from Russia and northern Europe, such as Swedish massage, are actually rooted in traditional Chinese massage techniques.
Acupressure Today: A Respected Medical Technique in Chinese Hospitals
In modern China, Tui Na is taught as a separate, but equal, field of study in all the major traditional Chinese medical colleges. All traditional Chinese Hospitals offer Tui Na wards where doctors of medical massage treat patients for joint and muscle disease, high blood pressure, insomnia, headaches, digestive diseases, neuralgia, dental pain, etc. At these hospitals, Tui Na is among the most sought after treatment modalities due to its effectiveness and comfort level.
How Does Acupressure Differ from Massage?
Acupressure is different from Western massage which is focused on physical structures such as muscles and fascia. Tui Na massage concentrates on the acupuncture meridians and points which were identified thousands of years ago by the ancient genius doctors of China.
Now that you have read about Acupressure History, you can continue on to Introduction to Traditional Chinese Medicine, Part V: Asian Diet
Return to Introduction to Traditional Chinese Medicine, Part III: Chinese Medicinal Herbs