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  • Writer's pictureSleepy Dog Veterinary

Healing Hands

Jenny Liu, DVM


Tui Na (pronounced twee-nah) is a style of massage and body work used by Traditional Chinese Medical (TCM) practitioners that was developed in ancient China. It involves application of various manual techniques to acupuncture points and Meridian channels (energy channels) or certain body movements (like physical therapy) to treat or prevent disease.

In Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM) these techniques have been “transposed” for use in animals. In TCVM the various techniques move energy, help restore functional connective tissue structure, improve tissue nourishment and relieve pain. From a Western medicine perspective, these techniques improve blood and lymph circulation and can “break down knots in the muscle tissue.”

This blog will describe three techniques you can use on your pet to help with arthritis of the limbs or back, loss of nerve sensation to the feet or any gait or mobility issues. Before you try any of these techniques it’s always good to start by gently stroking your pet around the head, neck and then across the body to get them into a relaxed state before moving onto these techniques. Some pets get offended if one just grabs the feet or leg with no segue into what it is you are doing.

1. Over the pelvic or lumbosacral region: you can gently use the palm of your hand or the pads of your fingers (if your pet is very small) to rub in a circular fashion over the region. You will move your palm/fingers in a circular pattern 12 times clockwise and then counter-clockwise each way at least once daily. This technique is useful for the local musculoskeletal tissues. There are special acupoints in the area that regulate the endocrine system, so this technique is good for balancing the body’s hormones (therefore good for diseases such as Diabetes, Cushings and other hormone related issues)

2. All the various Meridian/Energy channels have their start or end at the toes of all four feet. These points “draw down” the energies into the feet helping the foot stay grounded and very good for dogs who have arthritis and/or limb weakness. This is a good technique to use for health maintenance and is beneficial even if your dog does not have arthritis yet.

There are a variety of techniques one can use to help keep the Meridian channels balanced. One such technique is to use your thumb or whichever finger you are comfortable with, to gently press and move in a rotary fashion at the divot just behind the big footpad on the each foot (front and back). Do this technique for about 1-2 minutes per day or you can just count the small rotary movements 12 times clockwise and 12 times counterclockwise - similar to the technique described above, only on a tinier scale. Another technique would be to rub the paw pads with the thumb or palm of hand gently back and forth until some warmth is generated.

3. The final technique described today is good for dogs that have disc or stiff gait issues. It involved “picking up” a fold of skin along the midline of the back (over the spine) starting at the base of the tail or over the pelvis if your pet doesn’t like the tail base touched and then continuing to pick up the skin fold moving forward towards the head. You do this 12 times also starting from tail and moving towards the head.

These techniques can be used even if your pet does not have any of these clinical signs because they all benefit the Meridian/energy channels and may help your pet age more gracefully in the future. You have the power to benefit your pet’s health with your hands so give it a try!

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