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A Multi-Centre Clinical Research on the Efficacy of Tuina

Healthcare - About Tuina

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Tuina (推拿), also known as Tui-Na massage, is one of the four main branches of traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Literally meaning ‘pushing and grasping’, Tuina has been used for thousands of years to treat various conditions through promoting circulation within the human body. Today, it is still widely used by TCM physicians in China and around the world, bringing benefits to many patients.

Despite patient testimonies, Tuina is yet to be recognised as ‘mainstream’ due to the lack of quality clinical research evidence for its efficacy. The western-dominated modern medicine recognises it as a form of complementary and alternative medicine.

The HEAD Foundation believes in an integrative East-West medicine approach to care for a patient’s well-being. By supporting research projects on Tuina, we look forward to producing clinical data that will allow Tuina to be recommended as a mainstream musculoskeletal intervention in hospitals, should it prove effective.

Multi-centre research on the safety and efficacy of Tuina in managing chronic lower back pain

To advocate for an integrative East-West medicine approach to healthcare, the Foundation is supporting a multi-centre research project to study the safety and efficacy of Tuina in managing chronic lower back pain. 

Lower back pain is the leading cause of disability worldwide, and 80% of adults experience lower back pain in their lifetime. This study will recruit more than 200 patients at each of the three sites in China, USA and Singapore for a clinical trial.


Protocol details

The study will be carried out over two and half years. Patients will be randomly allocated into three treatment groups – Tuina group, Physiotherapy group and Tuina-and-Physiotherapy group. Study subjects will undergo multiple treatment sessions over a two-month period during which assessments will be done to compare changes in their pain intensity and functional capacities. Each centre will run their own trial independently and the overall results will be compared and analysed at the end of the trial.

The protocol was published in the medical journal Medicine, Volume 101, Issue 7.


Research Partners

Our research partners are the following prestigious medical centres:

  • The Mayo Clinic (USA) has been ranked the world’s best hospital by US World and News Report. Based in Rochester Minnesota, it has close to 20 hospitals in the United States and treats more than 1.3 million patients annually. Dr Brent Bauer, Director of the Mayo Clinic Complementary and Integrative Medicine Program, is the Principal Investigator of the Mayo Clinic site. He brings with him much experience and influence in the field of integrative medicine.
  • The Singapore General Hospital (Singapore) is the flagship hospital of the public healthcare system in Singapore, serving more than one million patients annually. Prof Celia Tan, Senior Principal Physiotherapist of Physiotherapy Department and Prof Tay Boon Keng, Emeritus Consultant of Department of Orthopaedic Surgery are the Principal Investigator and co-Principal Investigators of the SGH site. They bring with them specialist expertise in spinal diagnosis, treatment and physiotherapy care.
  • The First Affiliated Hospital of Jinan University (China) is part of Jinan University, a public research university based in Guangzhou, China. It is a prestigious and popular college for overseas Chinese students. The hospital is rated as one of the Top Ten AAA Hospitals in Guangzhou. Prof Chen Jiaxu, TCM Chief Physician and Dean of School of Traditional Chinese Medicine, is the Principal Investigator of the Jinan University site. He brings with him deep experience and understanding of TCM and Tuina techniques for this project.
  • March 2021 – The research protocol of the clinical research has been approved by the respective IRBs (Institutional Review Board) of the three centres, and clinical trials commenced on March 2021.
  • Dec 2021 – As of end of November 2021, more than 160 patients were admitted to the study and have been receiving treatment across the three sites.
  • March 2022 – Update of progress by the three centres at The HEAD Foundation Gathering for Advisory Board and Fellows 2022.

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