Massage is Medicine like Food: A journey to China

Massage has been a central part of traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years. It is considered an excellent method to treat several different health problems; such as joint and muscle pain, cardio-vascular complications and rheumatism. It is often aimed at allowing energy flow as well as guiding the “qi” throughout the body; from Chinese traditional belief, the vital energy or life force flowing within us. While food and diet is an equally important part of this ancient practice much like in India, in this post we will be looking at the benefits of masseur services.

Traditional Massage

The type of massage most similar to the western style is called “Tui na”, literally meaning push and grasp. It is widely spread in the world. It aims, as many massages, at treating injuries and muscle pain. It can include anything from acupressure to aromatherapy, including essential oils and herbs. Being quite similar to western massage it includes kneading and rubbing; possibly two of the most commonly used words to describe massage in general. “Zhi ya” is another common style used in China. Similar to “Tui na” it incorporates acupressure, though in a more precise way, including more focused pressures on certain spots and less rubbing and kneading. In “Zhi ya” the masseuse aims to discover and push certain points relieving tension in the body, causing it to relax and to function better.

A typical “Tui na” massage session lasts between thirty minutes and an hour depending on the patients need. It is often focused on removing a certain pain or problem. It can help the body to relax relieving the stress and anxiety related disorders such as insomnia and headaches. It is often considered more a medical therapy than just a relaxing massage, being used for several medical treatments; both mentally and physically.

Other than the two traditional styles of massage therapy, foot massage is quite common in Beijing as well as in China in general. Time magazine lists foot massage as one of their top ten recommended things to do in Beijing, and there are several places in the city were one can go to get their feet washed, kneaded and rubbed. The cost is usually between 20 and 80 USD, and sometimes even include a cup of Chinese tea. Foot massage has been of great importance in Chinese medicine for a long time; it is said that since blood tends to pool in the feet, massage is helpful for circulation and general health. When you get older, it is also said, that these kinds of treatment become even more important, helping with relaxation and sleep.

In Beijing several good massage parlours offering traditional “Tui na” and “Zhi ya” treatments can be found; though be sure to do some research regarding different places offering massage, such as this practical guide for Beijing Massage. You can also find masseur services in English, although very basic knowledge of Chinese can go a long way if wanting to experience some of the smaller, inexpensive places that locals often go to. There are a few offering low quality massages with more focus on providing “extra services” than traditional massages. It is generally better to choose those with nice locales similar to beauty salons or spa retreats, which is a quite common setting for good and safe parlours. It is, though, an activity not be missed while traveling in China’s grand capital. Following the recommendations of the famous Yellow Emperor Huangdí and his ancient medical text, the so called “Huangdi Neijing”; massage is good for your health.

Food and medicine for thought!