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Introduction to Chinese Pediatric Tuina (Baby Massage)

Updated: Jan 3

1. What is Pediatric Tuina

Pediatric Tuina
Pediatric Tuina

Pediatric Tuina, 小儿推拿 (Xiao Er Tui Na) in Chinese, also known as pediatric Tuina or Chinese baby massage, is a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) therapy specifically tailored to address the health needs of infants, children, and adolescents. It is the most popular TCM therapy form for children in China. Rooted in ancient Chinese medical practices, Tuina is a hands-on therapeutic approach that utilizes specific massage techniques, acupressure, and manipulations to promote healing, balance energy flow, and enhance overall well-being in young patients.

Pediatric tuina is a special branch of TCM massage system because of its specified acupoints, locations, and corresponding specific manipulations on children’s body surface that serve as an external intervention. The majority of pediatric tuina acupoints are located at the upper limbs, face, and head and are typically surfaces, lines, and circles rather than points.

Pediatric Tuina points
Pediatric Tuina points

Unlike acupuncture, which involves the insertion of fine needles into specific points along the body's meridians, Pediatric Tuina relies solely on the skilled use of hands to stimulate acupressure points and meridians, fostering a gentle and non-invasive healing process. The treatment is safe, natural, and well-suited for children who might be sensitive to other forms of treatment.

Pediatric Tuina practitioners employ a variety of techniques, including gentle strokes, kneading, rolling, and tapping, tailored to address specific health issues commonly seen in pediatric patients. From digestive disturbances, respiratory ailments, and sleep disorders to behavioural issues and developmental delays, Pediatric Tuina aims to restore harmony and vitality to the child's body, mind, and spirit.

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2. History of Pediatric Tuina

The history of Pediatric Tuina can be traced back to ancient China, where traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practices were developed over thousands of years. Tuina, which literally means "pushing and grasping," is one of the oldest therapeutic techniques within TCM and has been used for both adults and children since its inception.

The roots of Pediatric Tuina can be found in various historical texts and ancient medical writings. In the Yellow Emperor's Inner Canon (Huangdi Neijing), a foundational TCM text believed to have been compiled during the Warring States period (475-221 BCE), there are references to pediatric massage as part of a holistic approach to healthcare.

During the Tang Dynasty (618-907 CE), Tuina was further refined and organized into a systematic discipline. A renowned physician named Sun Si-Miao, often referred to as the "King of Medicine," wrote extensively about Tuina in his works, emphasizing its application in Pediatrics. His contributions to the field significantly influenced the development and popularity of Tuina massage for children.

Throughout China's history, Pediatric Tuina has been continuously passed down through generations of TCM practitioners, who enriched the techniques and knowledge through their clinical experiences and observations. In the Ming (1368-1644 CE) and Qing (1644-1912 CE) Dynasties, several treatises and manuals dedicated solely to Pediatric were authored, providing comprehensive insights into treating various childhood ailments with Tuina.

Despite the gradual integration of Western medicine in China during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the practice of Pediatric Tuina persisted and remained an essential component of Chinese healthcare traditions. Tuina practitioners adapted to modern healthcare systems, and the techniques were documented and taught in TCM schools and hospitals across the country.

3. Research on Pediatric Tuina

Chen et al (2021) conducted a pilot randomized controlled trial to examine the feasibility, acceptability, and preliminary effects of parent-administered pediatric tuina on attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms in preschool children. They found that parent-delivered pediatric Tuina on attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in preschoolers is feasible because the treatment presented perceived benefits on children’s sleep, appetite, and parent-child relationship.

Li et al (2023) explored the effect of pediatric Tuina on the prevention of feeding intolerance in favour of weight gain in premature infants. The research team found that pediatric Tuina can effectively prevent the occurrence of feeding intolerance in premature infants and be

conducive to the weight gain and improving nutritional status of premature infants.

Lai et al (2018) reported that pediatric Tuina could be effective and safe in improving clinical cure rate and shortening diarrhea duration in childhood aged less than five years of age with acute diarrhea.

Ye et al (2016) reported that pediatric Tuina can produce a better therapeutic efficacy in treating allergic rhinitis compared to oral administration of Loratadine.

As awareness of the benefits of alternative and complementary therapies grows, Pediatric Tuina is gaining popularity as a holistic approach to pediatric healthcare, providing a nurturing and effective way to support the health and growth of children in a natural and balanced manner. It complements Western medicine and can be used as a standalone therapy or in conjunction with other treatments to promote the optimal health of children of all ages.


Chen SC, Cheng HL, Han LF, Wu GT, Zhang RY, Suen LK, Chen X, Yeung WF. Parent-administered pediatric tuina for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder symptoms: Process evaluation of a pilot randomized controlled trial. Complementary Therapies in Medicine. 2022 Nov 1;70:102854.

Li SS, Lin XY, Li X, Zhang YD, Wang LQ, Lai SX. Chinese pediatric Tuina can prevent premature infant feeding intolerance and is conducive to weight gain: a prospective randomized controlled study. African Health Sciences. 2023 Jul 13;23(2):703-8.

Ye L, Li J, Li T, Jiang X, Tan C, Wang D. Clinical observation of Liu’s infantile tuina therapy for allergic rhinitis. Journal of Acupuncture and Tuina Science. 2016 Jan 1;14(3):202-6.

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