Working with shoulder injuries with Tui Na, Chinese Medical Massage: Part One - Physical Trauma

May 24, 2017

Many of us would have experienced some kind of shoulder or neck pain as well as the feelings and thoughts of frustration. Not having full range of motion and being inpain impacts on both simple and more complex everyday tasks from lifting an arm to get a jar off a top shelf to our exercise routine. This can all become more intense as time passes.


What we will look at today is how shoulder pain and injury is approached and treated within the paradigm of Chinese Medicine and Tui Na, Chinese Medical Massage.


The Way of Chinese Medicine & The Art of Tui Na


Tui Na can be described as massage and manipulation of the body applied to assist recovery and alter the flow of blood and chi through the physical tissues, meridians and energy systems. It literally means to grasp and pull the disease out of the body.


It is an excellent mode of therapy that can help many conditions ranging from acute sports injuries to internal conditions such as anxiety and stress.


Although we use the term medical massage and often relate Tui Na to remedial, soft/deep tissue, orthopaedic massage, trigger point, myofascial release, joint mobilisations or stretching, it is really important to understand that what makes this treatment unique.


  1. It is Chinese Medicine delivered through Physical Therapy.

  2. It is equally as  much art as it is science.

  3. A Tui Na practitioner uses skills that come from the practice of a technique.

  4. The skill of the practitioner to feel and apply the techniques is key.


From the Chinese Medicine perspective an injury to the shoulder falls into the Jin category,  which is basically the equivalent of the soft tissues in modern anatomy (think tendons, fascia, joint capsules and all the connective tissue of the body).


From this viewpoint the source of Jin conditions can fall broadly into two categories:


  1. Physical trauma (external violence)

  2. Overuse (Chronic Strain)


As with any treatment, it is always based on the initial consultation and dependent on the person's resources and resilience.


Physical Trauma


When reviewing the context of physical trauma and shoulder related injury, contact and high impact sports such as rugby and martial arts are great examples. These sports can result in a high percentage of  collar bone and rotator cuff injuries due to the contact and acute over training.


People actively involved in these sports can have in a quicker recovery from a Tui Na perspective; they usually have a good and robust constitution, good response to pain, good nutrition and are aware of the rest and recovery in training. They are also generally motivated and want to get back to the sport and can be willing to go the extra mile to get there quicker. All of this allows the Tui Na Practitioner to take a strong approach to treatment as all ingredients are in place for a potentially good recovery.


An example of the skill/technique applied in the treatment would be Bo Fa (plucking) which would be used to break the adhesions apart, followed by mobilising techniques (Yo Fa and Ba Shen Fa) to help with mobilisation of the shoulder.


In Part Two we will look at the more chronic strain concept in Tui Na and Chinese Medicine.


Frozen Shoulder Testimonial


In the below video Michael shares his experience of Tui Na treatment with Mark Appleford, a qualified and experienced Tui Na practitioner at one of the Living Health Edinburgh clinics.




To find out more about how Tui Na can help you, simply get in touch.


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