The term tuina translates into "push-grasp" or "poke-pinch" in Chinese. Physically, it is a series of pressing, tapping, and kneading with palms, fingertips, knuckles or implements that are said to remove blockages along the meridians of the body and stimulates the flow of qi and blood to promote healing, similar to principles of acupuncture, moxibustion, and acupressure. Tuina's massage-like techniques range from light stroking to deep-tissue work which would be considered too vigorous or too painful for a recreational or relaxing massage. Clinical practitioners often use liniment, plasters, herbal compresses and packs to aid in the healing process, which can cause allergic reactions on sensitive skin.
In ancient China, medical therapy was often classified into "external" and "internal" treatments. Tuina was one of the external methods, especially suitable for use on the elderly population and on infants. It is an integral part of traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and a form of Chinese manipulative therapy often used in conjunction with acupuncture, moxibustion, Chinese herbalism and qigong. Tuina uses traction, massage and manipulation in conjunction with the stimulation of acupressure points and is used for both acute and chronic musculo-skeletal conditions, as well as certain non-musculo-skeletal conditions.
Today Tuina is subdivided into specialized treatment for infants, adults, orthopedics, traumatology, cosmetology, rehabilitation, sports medicine, etc. It has fewer side effects than many modern drug-based and chemical-based treatments. It has been used to treat or complement the treatment of many conditions; musculo-skeletal disorders and chronic stress-related disorders of the digestive, respiratory, and reproductive systems.