Asian Bodywork in Massage Therapy

asian-bodyworkThere are many types of Asian bodywork that have roots in traditional Chinese medicine. Many massage therapists practice Shiatsu therapy, one of the many forms of bodywork recognized by the American Organization for Bodywork Therapies of Asia (AOBTA). Some of the other forms recognized by the AOBTA include:

  • Acupressure
  • Amma
  • Medical Qigong
  • Nuad Bo'Rarn
  • Five Element Shiatsu
  • Shiatsu Anma Therapy
  • Tui na

Amma massage and tui na massage are commonly used for health and wellness. To learn more about Asian bodywork in massage therapy, read more about the two types of massage practice below. 

Amma massage

From Japanese word meaning “push-pull,” amma is based on the Chinese tradition of massage (anmo). From the viewpoint of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), amma massage assesses flow and harmony of the five essential substances:

  1. Qi (energy)
  2. Jing (essence)
  3. Shen (spirit)
  4. Xue (blood)
  5. Jin-ye (body fluids)

Amma massage holistically addresses the whole person through kata (choreographed movement) and pressure techniques. Amma techniques encompass pressing, stroking, stretching and percussive manipulations with thumbs, fingers, arms, elbows, knees and feet. The manipulations target acupressure points along the body’s 14 meridians, or energy channels. The aim of the therapy is to restore and promote health through correction of the imbalances of an individual’s vital energy (qi) or meridian system.

According to AOBTA:

Amma is a specialized form of skilled (somatic) touch therapy that combines deep tissue bodywork with the application of pressure, friction, and touch to specific acu-points, superficial primary and tendino-muscle energy channels, muscles, ligaments and joints.

Amma is a preventive treatment that increases circulation, improves flexibility of joints and soft tissue, circulates and drains lymphatic fluid and strengthens the immune system.

Tui na massage

From the words meaning “push and grasp," tui na is often used in conjunction with acupuncture and Chinese herbalism. Therapeutic massage therapy is an integral part of TCM. Tui na incorporates acupressure to bring the body into balance, remove obstructions in energy pathways and promote an increase in the body’s vital energy.

The AOBTA describes the therapy as follows:

[Tui na] techniques are used to treat a wide variety of musculoskeletal and internal organ disorders by opening stagnant meridian channels and encouraging the flow of qi into deficient areas.

Tui na both treats and prevents disease through eight basic methods:

  1. Palpating (mo)
  2. Rejoining (jie)
  3. Opposing (duan)
  4. Lifting (ti)
  5. Pressing (an)
  6. Kneading (mo)
  7. Pushing (tui)
  8. Holding (na)

Similar to principles of acupuncture, tui na focuses on specific acupressure points, energy trigger points and muscles and joints surrounding the affected area.

Tui na techniques can improve blood circulation, enhance joint mobility and heal soft tissue injuries. It is also effective in nerve regulation.

Shiatsu massage

Shiatsu massage therapy is sometimes referred to as Japanese physiotherapy. Shiatsu combines assisted-stretching techniques and acupressure to restore qi energy balance in the body.

Somewhat similar to acupuncture in its focus on meridians and acupoints, Shiatsu therapy treats specific points on the body — but without the use of needles. Regular treatments can increase the body's range of motion and improve coordination and mobility.

Degree programs in massage

The curricula at different Massage Therapy schools may focus on different types of massage, or focus on a unique combination of techniques. The Acupuncture and Massage College's Massage Therapy program offers a specialization in Japanese Shiatsu, which enables students to develop experience working with a range of techniques within Asian systems of medicine. Students complete courses in Shiatsu, Swedish and medical massage, as well as the biosciences.

For information about AMC’s Oriental Medicine and Massage Therapy programs you can email our admissions department.

Career In Massage

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