Part 2: Mechanism of Chinese Massage


In TCM, soft tissues and joints include fascia, muscle, muscle tendon, tendon sheath, ligament, joint capsule, synovium, fibrous ring of verterbral disc, articular cartilage disc and other soft tissues of the body. Any direct trauma, indirect trauma and long-term strain can bring a series of pathogenic changes. Their injuries can be local bruise, muscle sprain, fibrous rupture, tendon avulsion, slipped tendon, ligament rupture, laceration of joint capsule, semi-dislocation of bones, joint dislocation, chondroclasis and joint or soft tissue strain, and so on. Massage has quite a good curative effect on all the above-mentioned illnesses, and its functioning principles are as follows:

3-1). Relax muscles and tendons and dredge the channels and collaterals

When there is trauma, signals of spasm and pain can be sent off by the attaching points of muscles, fasciae, tendon, joint capsules, etc. to alert the concerned tissues through the reflexion of the nerve. Muscular contraction, tension and even spasm are the very reflexion of this alert status. This is a protective reaction of human body, aiming at reducing the activities of the limbs and avoiding the tracting stimulation to the injured part so as to relieve pain. But if no timely treatment is given or the treatment is not thorough-going, adhesion, fibrosis or cicatrization of the injured tissues will occur and even damaging impulsion will be produced to increase the pain, muscular contraction or tension, and subsequently secondary pain foci and malignant pain rings will appear in the surrounding tissues. Both the primary and secondary foci can stimulate and compress the terminals of nerves and the small nutrient blood vessels, resulting in partial obstruction in blood circulation and metabolism.

Massage is a very effective way to remove muscular tension and spasm, in which it can not only relax the muscles but also get rid of the cause that leads to the muscular tension. The mechanism of massage is consisted of three parts: firstly, it can locally promote blood circulation and raise body temperature; secondly, it can increase the threshold value of pain of tissues with appropriate stimulation; thirdly, it can extend the tense and spasmodic muscles so that the illness can be eliminated.

3-2). Restore and treat injured soft tissues and reduce dislocated joints

Massage manipulations of tracting, traction and counter-traction, rotating and pulling or flicking-poking can reduce joint dislocation, join semiluxation, relocate the sprained soft tissue to normal position, restore slipped tendon, re-situate herniation of pulpiform nucleus, take out the embedded synovium, eliminate the pathogenic state of muscle spasm and local pain, promoting the recovery and reconstruction of the injured soft tissues.

3-3). Trip adhesion, dredge stenosis

When the soft tissues are injured, adhesion of the muscle, tendon, ligament, joint capsule, and others, as well as local bleeding and organization hematoma may cause a long-term pain and hinder the joint activities. Treatment, such as flicking-poking, joint lift-dragging, traction and counter-traction, rotating and pulling, can remove adhesion and facilitate the activity of joints.

In the body parts which have fiber-sheathed vessels of bones such as the tendon vessel of the long head of biceps, tendon vessels and tendon sheath of lexor hallucis longus and flexor digitorum at the processus styloideus of radius, there may, due to hyperosteogeny, chronic strain or attack of wind, cold and dampness, occur with tumefaction and hyperemia of the tendon and tendon sheath or exudation inside the sheath and then fibrosis, which will thicken the wall of the sheath, fetter the tendon inside the sheath and affect the extention-flexion movement of the joints. If it is not a serious case, the sheath will become constrictive, and snapping sounds will be heard while moving. If the case is a serious one, the local adhesion will become indurative, and the joints will lose its extension-flexion function. For tendons and sheaths with pathologic changes, local massage by plucking and continuous rhythmic finger-kneading or rolling in coordination with rolling-pulling, traction and counter-traction and other manipulations of passive movement of the joint can subdue swelling, stop pain, strip adhesion, enlarge constriction and relieve the snapping sound to restore the tendon to its normal sliding function in the sheath.

3-4). The tonifying and purging function of massage manipulations

Massage treatment takes manipulation as the most important means. In the course of diagnosis and treatment, according to the deficiency and excess of the patient's condition of constitution and illness, the massagists can choose such manipulations as tonifying, purging, mediating, exciting or restraining, all depending on whether the manipulations can be skillfully applied. A comprehensive survey of the clinical experience of the masters of both ancient and modern Chinese massage shows that the tonifying and purging effect of the manipulation is directly related with factors such as whether using a mild or powerful manipulation, whether with vigorous or soft performance, or whether with a quick or slow frequency, or what direction the force takes and how much time it lasts.

Generally speaking, the tonifying manipulation refers to the manual stimulation with less strength, soft performance and slow frequency along the route of channels and collaterals (anti-clockwise manipulation at the abdominal region), which excites, stimulates and strengthens the human body.

On the contrary, more powerful, vigorous but soft manual stimulations with quick frequency moving in the opposite direction of the channels and collaterals (clockwise manipulation at the abdominal region) for a short time are known as purging manipulation which has the function of restraining, tranquilizing the body and directly expelling pathogen. Besides, to-and-fro stimulations performed with moderate strength, frequency and time along the channels and collaterals are known as uniform reinforcing-reducing method, which is also called mediation method used frequently for regulating yin and yang and enhancing the function of the related internal organs.

But, all these manipulations mentioned above concerning tonifying and purging are relative and changeable in different clinical practice. Therefore, flexible choice and differentiation should be made in accordance with the specific conditions. Take the tonifying method for example, it may be divided into two kinds, namely, slow tonifying and quick tonifying. For quick tonifying, strong manipulation is used to stimulate the points along the regular channels while slow tonifying performed gently and slowly for a longer time along the related channels. The purging method consists of quick purging and slow purging. For quick purging, deep finger-nail-pressing is used with more strength in reverse direction of channel while slow purging is performed with less strength.

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ChangChou Chinese Tuina (TCM) Hospital
ChangChou, Jinan, Shandong Province, China 321503
Phone:0086-139-9820-6370 (foreign)
Phone:(0)-139-9820-6370 (domestic)
Email: Dr. ZhangLie