Asian Bodywork Therapy vs. Massage Therapy

Tuina

What’s In a Name?

“Asian Bodywork Therapy” and “Massage Therapy” are indeed two different things. There has been much debate between professionals and professional organizations about what techniques, philosophies and descriptions cross over from one modality to the other and where certain seperations lie.  “Bodywork” is a general term that applies to a vast group of manual manipulation forms.

Asian Bodywork refers specifically to the application of manipulation techniques for the purpose of moving /balancing Qi to maintain or restore health and whose origins stem from Asia. Asian Bodywork Therapy is one of the four branches that comprise Traditional Chinese Medicine. The other three branches are Acupuncture, Medical Qigong, and Chinese Herbal Therapy. Professionally accredited practitioners of Asian forms of manual manipulation refer to their practice as “Asian Bodywork”. Under this broad umbrella are several uniquely individual “forms”.

Asian Bodywork forms officially recognized by the AOBTA are:

Acupressure, Amma, AMMA Therapy, Chi Nei Tsang, Five Element Shiatsu, Integrative Eclectic Shiatsu, Japanese Shiatsu, Jin Shin Do, Bodymind Acupressure, Jin Shou Tuina, Macrobiotic Shiatsu, Medical Qigong, Nuad Bo ‘Rarn (Traditional Thai Bodywork), Shiatsu Anma Therapy, Tuina, Zen Shiatsu

“Massage” is the manipulation of muscle and connective tissue to enhance function, aid in the healing process, and promote relaxation and well-being. Massage therapy forms have many, many names; Swedish Massage, Reflexology, and Rolfing for example. Many other names indicate intended purpose, place of origin or the addition of adjunct therapies covered or not otherwise excluded by the massage therapy scope of practice.

Aromatherapy Massage, Chair Massage, Deep Tissue massage, Equine Massage, Fijian Massage, Hot Stone Massage, Sports Massage

Certain establishments advertise “Asian massage” or ”Oriental massage”. These terms are misnomers or perhaps even a deliberate attempt to mislead consumers. These inferences to therapeutic bodywork are often NOT massage or Asian Bodywork establishments as defined by the Texas Department of State Health Services. They may, in fact, be one of the many establishments that engage in activities of a sexual nature that specifically use these terms to cloak illegal enterprises that legitimate bodywork professionals do not want to be associated with.

Requirements to Practice Asian Bodywork Therapy or Massage (In Texas)

The Department of State Health Services has set forth the requirements to practice bodywork in the state of Texas.

Asian Bodywork Therapists are excluded from any license requirement (in Texas) but, must meet minimum education requirements and hold a certification from American Organization of Bodywork Therapies of Asia (AOBTA) or Asian Bodywork diploma from the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM).

Massage therapists must meet minimum education requirements, pass an exam administered by the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards (FSTMB) or the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCTMB) and are required to have a State issued license.

How to Tell the Difference According to Terminology

Buzz words are an indicator. They tell you something about the person you are listening to. Buzz words can tell you whether or not you are listening to a trained professional Asian Bodywork Therapist or Massage Therapist.

There are always new buzz words with ties to massage – “myofascial release”,” cranio sacral”, “trigger points”, “ lymphatic drainage” are a few of the newer ones. The terms are too many to list and are constantly changing. New terms are typically added to specify techniques or generate renewed interest in the art by redefining or remodeling to accommodate the needs of consumers.

Asian Bodywork Therapy originated thousands of years ago and traditional terminology has changed very little. A few of the most commonly used terms in Asian Bodywork are: “Yin”, “Yang”, “balance”, “imbalance”, “qi”, “excess”, and “deficiency”.

The Key Similarity

Massage therapy and Asian Bodywork therapies use techniques of physical manipulation that promote the proper flow of Qi and Blood. Stagnant Qi and Blood are the source of all illness according to Chinese Medicine theory.

The Fundamental Difference

Asian Bodywork Therapists are specifically trained to ascertain areas of energetic imbalance that are the root cause of illness according to Chinese Medicine theory and provide specific therapies to bring about the balance necessary to restore health. Asian Bodywork Therapists are trained to assess and provide specific therapy for internal disorders even if the disorders are undetectable or undefined in Western medical terms by moderating and balancing energy (qi) flow.

Massage therapists are not specifically trained to assess or address the root cause of systemic illness in a direct manner.

Changing Times

Massage related therapies are routinely adapted and modified to fit the demands and changes in thinking associated with current times. That’s why there are so many massage forms. In fact, modern day massage has roots in the Orient that go back more than 5,000 years.

Asian Bodywork principles have changed very little over the centuries.  There have been very few changes because the theory and correct application of techniques has remained sound over many centuries and is still effective in this day and age. But, now is the time to make necessary changes to accommodate modern health concerns and evolve Asian Bodywork Therapy to a higher level.

Cultural changes over the centuries, modern thinking and the demand for clear and concise alternative therapy options warrants the development and implementation of legitimately revised forms of Asian Bodywork Therapy. The revisions to these ancient forms should address modern day health concerns and include explanations that reasonably explain how the therapy works. Changes or modifications to traditional techniques should reflect a modern understanding of how the body functions. Technological advances require that practitioners be able to provide clients with the assurance that these therapies that can safely be used in conjunction with modern therapies reflecting an appropriate level of growth and understanding by practitioners and patrons. Just as Summer or Winter cannot last forever, so must the face of Chinese Medicine transform to accommodate the freshness of expansion and growth required to remain viable and effective for centuries to come.

The overwhelming effectiveness of acupuncture has only recently prompted investigation into how principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine work scientifically. The results have inspired a new found respect for the usefulness of ancient healing arts. However, there remains an element of unidentified origins which lends an air of mystery to the effective application of Asian Bodywork Therapy. Society is only now beginning to reach with some degree of blind faith towards alternative forms of healing because of growing disdain for the modern medical establishment and the stories of those who have had miraculous healing experiences with alternative forms of therapy.

Alternative Therapy for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: The Asian Bodywork Connection

qua·le – [kwah-lee, kwey-lee] –noun, plural -li·a [-lee-uh] Philosophy. A sense-datum or feeling having a distinctive quality.

How can anyone adequately describe an experience of a personal nature unless the persons you’re speaking to have an adequate frame of reference with which to relate such an experience?

The symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are a result of a traumatic experience as unique to any individual as the experience itself. Can any drugs or therapies “cure” someone of an experience?

PTSD cannot be categorized as specifically emotional or psychological. The nature of this imbalance is emotional, psychological and pathological. “Pathological” meaning changes occurring in the tissues or organs. Anyone can be susceptible to long term effects resulting from a traumatic experience. Even an infant can suffer a lifetime of physical and psychological effects caused by a single frightening event.

From the aspect of Traditional Chinese Medicine, pathological changes resulting in illness are due to imbalances in the collective function of the internal organs. These imbalances may manifest as any combination of emotional, psychological or physical ailments which vary from person to person according to their constitution (a conglomerate of inherent strengths and weaknesses).

According to Chinese Medicine the heart acts as an “Emperor” in a manner of speaking. The heart is responsible for coordinating the functions of all other internal organs (Ministers) and has a profound influence over the conscious and subconscious mind. Each organ has a unique association with specific emotions and bodily functions in addition to a distinct and balanced correlation with various facets contributory to the integrative aspects of a complete and healthy mind.

When one experiences sudden fright, the energy (Qi) allocated to the heart scatters. The resulting feeling of energy trying to return to the heart can best be described as a tingling sensation in the chest. Depending on one’s constitution (inherent strengths or weaknesses) the full amount of scattered energy may not return to the heart. As a result, the Emperor loses the ability to appropriately dictate to the Ministers. Hence, a Dominant Minister, as dictated by one’s constitution, will struggle to subjugate the other organs until the organ becomes depleted. The resulting turmoil as another Dominant Minister struggles to gain control perpetuates a continuous cycle of imbalance affecting all-inclusive aspects of the body. The resulting emotional changes vary to include overwhelming fear, anger, worry, sorrow and confusion. Continuous emotional and psychological turmoil often give rise to physical ailments such as heart problems, digestive disorders, skin disorders, migraines, immune system problems- even cancer.

The organs depicted in the diagram are Yin organs. Each has a mutually paired Yang organ directly influenced by any internal imbalances. Each organ pair has a distinctly related emotion.

PicPTSD

Heart         Small Intestine  (Joy)
Spleen           Stomach     (Worry)
Lung     Large Intestine (Sorrow)
Kidney                Bladder     (Fear)
Liver         Gall Bladder    (Anger)

Improvements to health conditions can be made by positively influencing emotional, psychological or physical aspects of the body. However, since one cannot directly touch the emotions or mind, the physical body is a sensible area to begin therapy.

Asian Bodywork Therapy can help safely restore proper order to the imbalances associated with PTSD and substantially compliments all other therapies. Any effective treatment plan should vary according to each individual’s specific needs at any given time. Chinese Medicine concedes that the body is constantly changing in accordance with outside stimuli. As such, an Asian Bodywork treatment will be different every time.

The definition of Asian Bodywork Therapy (ABT) as defined by the AOBTA (American Organization for Bodywork Therapies of Asia) is…

“…the treatment of the human body/mind/spirit, including the electromagnetic or energetic field which surrounds, infuses and brings that body to life, by using pressure and/or manipulation. Asian Bodywork is based upon Chinese Medical principles for assessing and evaluating the body’s energetic system. It uses traditional Asian techniques and treatment strategies to primarily affect and balance the energetic system for the purpose of treating the human body, emotions, mind, energy field and spirit for the promotion, maintenance and restoration of health.”

Advantages of ABT:

  • No drugs
  • Non invasive
  • Cost effective
  • Individualized therapy
  • Accurate holistic assessment/ therapy
  • Safe adjunct therapy
  • Self-help inclusive
  • Alleviates related ailments
  • No negative side-effects

* Logical comparisons cannot be made between Western medicine and Chinese medicine diagnoses and therapies. Terminology cannot be adequately equated and basic foundational theories are radically different.