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Feeling lethargic and sore? According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), you may be lacking what is known as Qi (or Chi). [1] Qi is the life force flowing through your body that sustains you, keeping your body balanced and connected to the environment around you. When your Qi is disrupted, you may experience a myriad of emotional and physical problems.

TCM massage, or TuiNa massage, makes use of the principles of Qi and other elements in TCM to help with a variety of health conditions, especially pain management, such as chronic pain.

What is TCM Tui Na massage? 

In TCM, Tui Na is a form of therapeutic massage or bodywork that originated in China over 2000 years ago. [2] It is one of the five branches of TCM and is considered a type of External Medicine. [3]

It is performed using special massage techniques, where a TCM practitioner’s palms, fingertips and knuckles are used to knead, roll, brush, press or rub your body to remove blockages along the meridian acupoints in order to stimulate Qi and blood flow which promotes balance and healing.[4]

What are the principles behind TCM Tui Na massage? 

The improper flow of Qi in the body can result in blockages that in turn cause poor blood circulation, tension and soreness in the body. Over time, more toxins accumulate thereby leading to illnesses. Tui Na helps to release the bad energy and unblock the flow of Qi. This helps to relieve tight areas and tension in the body.[5]

To put it simply, Tui Na manipulates Qi and balances Yin and Yang by applying pressure onto the specific acupoints in our body which correspond to our 12 major meridians.

How is TCM Tui Na massage different from Western massage?

Tui Na is a form of Eastern massage where practitioners are trained using the holistic approach to view the body as a unified system that incorporates the physical body, mind and spirit. Meanwhile, Western massage separates the body by its different functions and only focuses on healing those areas where there are pain or disease symptoms. [6]

Both are massage therapies that use touch to heal injuries, relieve pain, and prevent and cure illnesses, derived from customs dating back to ancient history. As both a form of art and science, touch is the essential ingredient in both forms of massage therapy.

tui na for shoulder aches

What is TCM Tui Na massage used for?

There are various ailments and conditions that Tui Na can treat and they include:

Read also: Can Tuina massage therapy help with pinched nerves?

What are the health benefits of TCM Tui Na massage? 

The benefits of Tui Na include:

What are the side effects of TCM Tui Na massage?

Tui Na does not usually have any adverse side effects. That said, some of you may find that you need to visit the washroom more often due to the effects of the treatment, or you may feel a little sleepy due to the relaxing effects of the massage. [3]

Tui Na massage should also not be painful.

Potential side effects include: [2]

can tui na be done for pregnant women

Can I go for a TCM Tui Na massage if I am pregnant?

Tui Na is generally not recommended for pregnant women. Although Tui Na can relieve stress and tension in the body, the pressure on the acupoints may affect the baby or the pregnancy.

We advise pregnant women to do regular exercises if they want to strengthen their back muscles and relieve backaches. [9]

Read also: Is Tui Na massage harmful to pregnant women?

What are some limitations of TCM Tui Na?

As powerful as Tui Na can be as a form of therapy, Tui Na isn’t a cure-all solution. There are some people with certain conditions who are unsuitable for Tui Na due to various reasons.[10] These include:

What can I expect during a TCM Tui Na massage in Singapore?

Before the massage session, the physician will first obtain a detailed understanding of the patient’s condition during the consultation. [7]

Tui Na can be carried out sitting on a chair or lying down on a massage table. It can be performed in combination with acupuncture to maximise the results. Therapeutic oil is sometimes used.

The Tui Na session lasts about 30 to 60 minutes and the number of sessions varies depending on your needs. [11]

Do I need to remove clothes during a TCM Tui Na massage?

During the massage, you may be asked to expose the affected area as needed for treatment. In some cases, the massage can be carried out over clothing. [7]

What misconceptions are there about Tui Na? 

Contrary to what some of you might think, Tui Na is not a form of martial arts. Also, the efficacy of the treatment is not dependent on how much strength is used, but rather, depends on the control of strength and pressure based on TCM principles. [4]

Where can I find TCM Tui Na clinics in Singapore?

Here are some TCM clinics in Singapore offering Tui Na services, in no particular order:

What is the cost of TCM Tui Na massage in Singapore?

At Eu Yan Sang TCM clinics, Tui Na massage alone can range from $40 to $130, excluding GST. [12]

At the NTU Chinese Medicine Clinic, fees for Tui Na are $30 and above, depending on the treatment plan and duration, excluding GST. [13]


TCM Tui Na massage is an effective form of therapy and many have benefited from it. As with many other therapies, its effects are better enhanced when combined with a healthy lifestyle and other stretches and exercises that practitioners may recommend you to do in your free time.

TCM focuses on holistic treatments, so remember to take care of other aspects of your health, such as mental health and stress management, on top of your physical wellbeing.

If you’d like to learn more about Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), read this guide on seeing a traditional Chinese medicine physician in Singapore.

What are period cramps?

Periods are part and parcel of being a woman, and something we usually have to go through every month. With this, also comes the occasional mood swings, or even the painful aches and cramps in our lower belly. Dysmenorrhea, more commonly known as period cramps, are painful sensations in the lower abdomen and/or lower back before and during your menstrual period [1].

These painful sensations can range from dull aches to extreme stabbing pain. Period cramps are considered common, with more than 80% of females experiencing painful cramps during their period [2]. Furthermore, up to 20% of women suffer from cramping severe enough to stop them from performing their daily activities [3]. That seems like a huge issue considering women get their periods every month.

What are the different types of period cramps?

There are two main types of period cramps: primary and secondary.

Primary dysmenorrhea

Primary dysmenorrhea usually refers to the common menstrual cramps women get every month and are not due to any other diseases [4]. The pain is usually located at the lower abdomen, back or thigh, and it can range from mild to severe. The pain lasts for 12-72 hours, and it can be accompanied by nausea, dizziness, fatigue or diarrhea.

These period cramps typically occur in teenage girls and younger women [5], and may stop as you grow older.

Secondary dysmenorrhea

Secondary dysmenorrhea is caused by other medical conditions, and can occur outside of your period. Secondary dysmenorrhea is usually more painful than primary dysmenorrhea, and can cause periods to be longer.

Medical conditions that can cause secondary dysmenorrhea include [4]:

Read also: How do fibroids affect menstrual periods?

What are the symptoms of period cramps?

Symptoms of period cramps include: [4]

Period cramps can sometimes be accompanied by other symptoms such as dizziness, nausea, fatigue, bloating, headaches and diarrhea [6].

What causes period cramps?

Period cramps occur due to the contraction of the muscular walls of the uterus [7]. During your period, the walls contract vigorously to shed the uterine lining, compressing the blood vessels lining your uterus.

This causes the blood and oxygen supply to your uterus to be temporarily blocked, resulting in pain-triggering chemicals to be released. Prostaglandins, which further stimulates the contraction of the uterus, are also produced, hence intensifying the period cramps.

What are period cramps from a TCM perspective?

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is an ancient system of health which believes in achieving a balance between Yin and Yang (Yin referring to the “Cold”and “Matter or Physical” aspect and Yang referring to the “Warmth” or “Energy” aspect) to maintain health. It believes that illnesses strike due to an imbalance of Qi, or vital energy caused by changes in Yin and Yang.

Likewise, in TCM, period cramps are believed to be due to three causes: i) liver Qi stagnation, ii) cold accumulation and iii) Qi and blood deficiency. [8]

Liver Qi stagnation

Liver Qi stagnation can cause distending pain in the lower abdomen, which can spread to the waist and back. Qi stagnation is caused by blood stasis (when blood flow slows and coagulates), and is often observed as the sharp stabbing pain that ladies suffering from period cramps may observe.

The stabbing period cramps are usually relieved by the release of small blood clots during your menstrual cycle.

Cold accumulation

Cold accumulation is often caused by the overconsumption of cold foods and drinks [9], obstructing the Qi flow to the uterus. Cold accumulation results in blood stasis which causes the sharp stabbing pain. Cold accumulation also enhances contraction of the uterine muscles, which contributes to the pain.

Qi and blood deficiency

Ladies who have a weaker constitution (people who are more prone to getting sick), had a major illness or loss of blood would suffer from a deficiency of Qi, blood and kidney essence which are all important in supplying nutrients to the uterus. This will lead to the dull aching pain that occurs before or during your period [8].

Chinese medicine vs Western medicine on period cramps

Western medicine typically focuses on treating the symptoms of period cramps, hence your doctor may prescribe medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or oral contraceptives to help relieve your period cramps [10].

On the other hand, TCM focuses on treating the cause of period cramps, hence you will observe that TCM treatment methods usually focus on liver Qi stagnation, cold accumulation as well as Qi and blood deficiency.

As such, TCM treats period cramps by focusing on returning Qi and blood flow to the body [11], which is shown to reduce the intensity and duration of period cramps by up to 50% when acupuncture is performed [12].

Read also: How to relieve menstrual cramps quickly?

What TCM treatments help with period cramps?

There are many TCM treatments available to help alleviate your period cramps, such as moxibustion, acupuncture, as well as herbal medicine.


A historical method for treatment of period cramps, moxibustion is a therapy that burns moxa (or mugwort root), which is made from a herb known as Artemisia vulgaris.

Moxibustion helps in warming and invigorating the blood, stimulating the Qi flow, strengthening the kidney Yang, dispelling cold and dissolving stagnation, which helps greatly in reducing period cramps [13].


acupuncture for period cramps

Acupuncture is a treatment method whereby thin needles are inserted into specific regions of your body known as acupoints. It aims to rebalance the Qi in a person’s body.

Doing acupuncture can regulate your menstrual cycles and prevent cramps by allowing the blood and Qi to flow properly. [14]

Also read: The Complete Guide to Acupuncture in Singapore (2021)

Herbal medicine

herbal medicine for period cramps

Apart from massages and acupunctures, TCM also uses chinese herbs to help improve the Qi and blood flow in your body, which can help with period cramps. These herbs can be incorporated into teas or soups.

Some of the herbs you can consume to help with your period cramps include [15]:

What pressure points can relieve period cramps?

Apart from visiting a TCM practitioner, you can also massage yourself to relieve your period cramps. Locate the acupoints and you can massage the acupoints for 60-90 seconds.

Here are 3 acupoints that can help relieve your period cramps [16]:

What can I expect during TCM treatment for period cramps?

For your first TCM treatment, your TCM practitioner will assess you and your body health before creating a comprehensive treatment plan for you based on your diagnosis. It would also be helpful if you have kept a log of your previous menstrual cycles so your TCM practitioner could factor that into his/her treatment plan for you [18].

The most common TCM treatment to help improve period cramps is acupuncture. The TCM practitioner will insert thin needles into acupuncture points to help improve circulation of blood and relieve pain. The most common acupoint used is Spleen 6 [19].

Another popular TCM treatment to help with period cramps is moxibustion. Moxa, in the form of cigar sticks, will be lighted and placed about 3 cm above acupoints to allow the heat to enter and circulate the body [20].

Also read: The Complete Guide to Seeing a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Physician in Singapore (2021)

How many sessions are recommended?

Acupuncture treatment typically starts 5-7 days prior to the start of your menstrual cycle. Depending on your condition, your treatment will last 2-4 months [21]. Each treatment will last approximately 20-30 minutes. Weekly acupuncture treatments are also recommended to maintain regular menstrual cycles [22].

One course of moxibustion treatment usually comprises about 12 sessions, each lasting about 20-30 minutes long [23].

When should I go to a practitioner for period cramps?

You should visit a practitioner for your period cramps when your cramps are so severe that it disrupts your daily activities, or if it occurs outside of your period. This could be due to underlying problems such as endometriosis and fibroids, which may affect your fertility [24]. As such, it is important to seek medical help before it worsens.

Also read: The Ultimate Guide to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Fertility Treatments in Singapore (2021)

Even if your period cramps are not severe, you can still visit a practitioner who will be able to offer a treatment plan to help alleviate your period cramps. Women who do not suffer from severe period cramps can also visit a practitioner to maintain regular menstrual cycle and improve their blood and Qi circulation.

Read also: When should I seek help for period pain?

What can I not do after TCM treatment for period cramps?

After TCM treatment for period cramps, it is highly recommended to rest and drink plenty of water.

Things you should not do include [25]:

What are the costs of TCM treatments for period cramps?

The costs of TCM treatments for period cramps differ depending on what type of treatment you are going for.

For acupuncture treatment, it ranges from $50-$75 for one session, depending on the clinic that you visit [27]. For moxibustion treatment, it can range from $60-$80 per session, depending on the clinic that you visit.

Unfortunately, outpatient TCM treatments are not covered under Medisave. However, your health insurance may have coverage for TCM so be sure to check with your insurance provider before you go for your TCM treatment sessions. Alternatively, you may also check with the clinic directly if they offer any subsidies.

What tips does TCM have for period cramps? 

In case you are wondering what you could do to make your time of the month a little easier, here are some nifty tips from TCM to help soothe your period cramps [28]:

What are the side effects of TCM for period cramps?

The common side effects for acupuncture treatment for period cramps include [29]:

The common side effects for moxibustion treatment for period cramps include [30]:

These side effects usually subside by itself after a few days. However, if the side effects are getting worse, please visit your practitioner immediately.


Although period cramps are usually non life-threatening, it can be a huge hassle depending on the severity of the pain and affect quality of life. Additionally, certain underlying conditions causing severe period cramps may result in fertility problems if left untreated. As such, it is important to seek help promptly if you experience period cramps.

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