Since ancient times, Chinese medical practitioners have understood that energy, or “qi” (pronounced “chee”), in the body must constantly flow in order to relieve stress and prevent diseases. One of the types of Chinese medical massage used to promote healing qi is tui na (pronounced “tweena”) which means “push and grasp”. The manipulative massage incorporates deep, continuous and repetitive hand techniques at the joints, along the meridians, and at acupressure points. Tui na, which is used over the entire body and particularly the back, can help with a myriad of ailments, including chronic pain, musculoskeletal conditions, sprains, strains, arthritis and digestive problems.
In 1997, acupuncturists Tom Bisio and Frank Butler came together to share their gathered skills of tui na with zhen gu from their personal teachers. Zheng gu, which means “upright bone”, is the physical manipulation of the joints and bones. Bisio and Butler created a formal program in New York City called, zheng gu tui na (pronounced “zheng goo tweena”), a Chinese medical massage and independent healing system created to correct structural alignment and alleviate certain orthopedic conditions. Zheng gu differs from chiropractic or osteopathic adjustments as it includes the manipulation of joints and the surrounding tissues, muscles and fascia. Since Chinese medicine addresses the entire body, a zheng gu tui na practitioner recognizes that a symptom exhibited in one area of the body may actually stem from a problem elsewhere in the human system, including either emotional and psychological factors.
Zheng gu tui na, which means “correct the bone through push and grasp massage technique,” is an advanced therapy that can be particularly useful for those with active lifestyles.
Tui na is a basic form of Chinese medical massage and is usually taught to Traditional Chinese Medical (TCM) practitioners in one to three semesters or more. Zheng gu is an advanced form of Chinese medical massage generally only taught to individuals who apprentice with a TCM practitioner or through the Zheng Gu Tui Na Training system that was taught and offered by Bisio and Butler.
When zheng gu tui na is used in conjunction with Chinese herbal medicine, martial arts, diet and qigong, healing outcomes are even more greatly increased.
“[The Chinese medicine practitioner wants] to break down stagnation and restore the free flow of qi through various methods: manual techniques, like cupping or bleeding; then through more energetic techniques like acupuncture and massage; and then on to taking herbs to break the stasis. From a Western perspective, we really just want to minimize the pain and visual swelling,” Bisio says. “From a practitioner’s perspective, we want to realign the tissue so it can properly heal. We want to make sure all the bones are in place so that the connective tissue and supportive structure is correct. We are trying to support the body’s natural process of healing.”
Zheng gu tui na is usually only known to an advanced TCM practitioner or a person who has been exposed to this advanced form of healing. The modality is more common in Asian countries or where Eastern medicine practices are being shared and taught. Mixed martial artists as well as other martial art students are exposed to this form of healing as well. Indigenous peoples from around the world offer their own form of advanced therapeutic massage and structural healing, and can be found under other massage form names.
In a typical session, such as for someone with neck or back pain, a sprained ankle or a frozen shoulder, a visual structural analysis is reviewed, a full medical history with pulse and tongue diagnosis is conducted. This is then followed by implementation of a variety of tools, including the initial tui na medical massage, adjunctive cupping, diet changes, acupuncture, cranial sacral therapy or energy healing, among others.
This advanced form of treatment is ideal for, and particularly useful for, sports enthusiasts, including many professional athletes such as football players, pro surfers, MMA Fighters, mixed martial artists, cyclists and others.
For those interested in learning this advanced form of therapy, classes and workshops may be found online.