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Chinese Special that Grabbed Gwyneth

Chinese Special that Grabbed GwynethDaily Express June 2003

When Oscar winner Gywneth Paltrow - needs an energy boost, she likes nothing better than "tui na" massage.

Lucy Miller finds out.

How does Tui Na work?

Tui Na, prounced "twee-nah", is an ancient traditional Chinese massage whose title literally means push and grab. As the name implies, it is no indulgent treatment with armoatherapy oils and candles. Instead, it works by combining intense, vigorous massage with acupressure.

Tui Na dates back to 1,700BC and is now an integral part of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), together with acupuncture and herbal medicine. The treatment aims to enhance and balance the flow of Chi, the life-giving energy that, according to TCM, flows through each one of us. It also works to ease pain, including that in our muscles and joints.

The theory is that, by strengthening a persons Qi, Tui Na will not only boost a persons energy but promote a strong immune system and help the body heal itself " Tui Na works on your whole bodys energy" says Maria Mercati a Tui Na practitioner who trained in China and runs the BodyHarmonics clinic at Cheltenham - Gloucestershire."By Foucusing on specific points andf areas, it can enhance the flow of your Qi and boost your energy and wellbeing"

What is Tui Na good for?

It is said to ease arthritis, anxiety, back pain, chronic fatigue syndrome, muscle pain, depression and digestive problems. It can treat headaches, irritable bowel syndrome and insomnia and in China it is also used to stimulate weight loss. The pumelling is thought to help break up fat and decrease appetite.

The Chinese Olympic teams repeatedly rely on Tui Na to help treat their sports injuries " Tui Na is one of the original hands on manipulative therapies for muscles, joints and musculo-skeletal problems" says Maria

"It does everything an osteopath or chiropractor does. If you have pain, it's one of the best ways to get rid of it. It's very effective at treating problems from stiff necks to whiplash. Severe back problems such as a slipped disc or sciatica respond well, too." Even those suffering from osteoporosis, heart problems as well as pregnancy can safely receive Tui Na at the hands of a well qualified practitioner.

How else can Tui Na help?

An adapted version of tui na can be used to help babies and young children with respiratory problems, colds, coughs, night crying, asthma, colic and teething, as well as boost the immune system. "Paediatric tui na is much gentler than the adult version, says Maria, who treats young children and is author of Tui Na Massage for a healthier, brighter, child.

"Children respond very well to the technique. The younger you are, the stronger your energy flow. It means that children can respond very quickly to the treatment and see fast results." Many of the movements suitable for babies and children are on the acupressure points on the fingers and hands and can be done even while the child is asleep.

What can you expect?

A first Tui Na session wil involve taking your medical history-you'll be asked about your general health, diet and lifestyle, as well as any specific complaints or concerns. The practitioner will explain the treatment and the principles behind acupressure and may also take your pulse and look at your tongue. Each treatment lasts up to 50 minutes. It does not involve oils and you don't have to undress but you will be asked to lie on a massage couch.

Your treatment will be specificaly tailored to your own needs. As an example, one session might concentrate on a particular problem area such as back or muscle pain or stiff shoulders, while another might be used as an all-over treatment. The practitioner will use all kinds of massage techniques including pressing, squeezing, kneading, pounding and pummelling to stimulate your acupoints to unblock your energy channels and help facilitate the flow of your chi. Knuckles , thumbs and even elbows are used and there are other differences to oil-based massages. Tui Na practitioners use the backs of their knuckles and hands like a rolling pin, which is thought to help disperse the chi. Unlike other massage techniques, your limbs will be moved.

" A practitioner will use quite fast movements and stong pressure," says Maria "You definately will feel it. You certainly won't fall asleep but after a while you do get used to the strength of the treatment. If you have a particular problem and the practitioner needs to work at it, it can be painful, but it's this depth that makes it so effective."

As a general rule, when you turn to Tui Na as a treatment for a specific complaint, the longer you have had the condition the more treatments you will be likely to need. For example, you could well need up to 10 treatments for some severe problems such as back pain, a frozen shoulder or sciatica. It is likely that you will feel achy or sore for a day or so after your first session but you will also feel full of energy. Many people say they feel benefits after the first Tui Na session.

"It's not really a massage as people expect it," says Maria. "They're usually very surprised how effective Tui Na is if thet haven't had it before".

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