Tui-na (Chinese massage) and Thai massage both have long histories of use for many conditions. They’re often said to “improve circulation”, but what does that mean?

This study compares the two styles of bodywork by measuring their effect on vascular compliance – the ability of the artery and vein walls to expand and contract as your heart pushes blood through.

healthy circulation

The authors took 30 men in their 40s and compared three treatments over an 8 week period. Both groups who received massage treatment were seen 3 times a week for 40 minutes. Those who received no massage simply did their normal activities.

Tui na patients received a full body sequence of rapid techniques while resting on a massage table. Thai massage was also done on the table, as a sequence of compressions along energetic lines followed by therapist-assisted stretches.

The comparison was done on vascular compliance measured by pulse-wave velocity on the forearms, giving them numeric scores. Before the experiment, the scores were 269, 268, and 272 for the Tui na, Thai massage, and no treatment groups, respectively.


Both Tui na and Thai massage had significantly improved scores, seeing average gains of 10 to 15 points when measured on each arm.

The control group receiving no therapy actually lost points, seeing 2-3 points less than when the experiment started.

Thai massage posted slightly higher gains than Tui na, although the authors declare with a p-value slightly above 0.05 that the difference is not significant.

take away

Regular bodywork has many benefits for your overall physical wellness. The work we do has a vital nature, improving many aspects of the body’s health at once. We can often feel that we simply ‘know’ that it’s beneficial – and receiving massage certainly feels good – it’s nice to have science confirm the benefits of massage.

Arteries and veins are vital supply lines for the body, and need to be able to stretch and flow even as we adapt and move. Bodywork is a great support for this aspect of health.


Effects of the Tui-na and Thai Massage Techniques on Vascular Arterial Compliance in Middle-aged Korean Men

By So-Hyung KANG, Il-Kon KIM, Eun-Ju CHOI, Wi-Young SO

Iran J Public Health, Vol. 47, No.2, Feb 2018, pp.292-294
Available as a full text PDF.