Chinese Medicinal Treatments

Yesterday was one of the worst days of my life.

My neck hurt so badly after our adventure at the Magaliesberg Canopy Tour, that I finally contacted my friend Alice and asked if she knew of any Chinese physician(铁打医师) in Johannesburg that I could go to. I never like going to such physicians because I’ve had bad memories of being tortured by them as a child but I was getting desperate. I haven’t had proper sleep and this whiplash injury had turned into a stiff torso and a pounding headache as well.

Sweet Alice drove me to the clinic.

It looked innocent enough from the outside, and the herbal and medicinal smells in the clinic were familiar. It smelled like a cross between Hong Lim Complex and Chung Hwa Clinics in Singapore. I was rather at ease. I imagined it would be a couple of minutes of very painful massage of the hurt areas and I would be done. I even looked forward to a sumptuous lunch with Alice.

The Chinese physician was a nice lady. She asked me what my ailment was and immediately told me to lie on the bed for skin scraping (刮痧)and acupuncture treatment. It still sounded pretty innocent to me. I haven’t tried skin scraping before but Alice said it doesn’t hurt much, and I was familiar with acupuncture so the needles part didn’t faze me.

To my horror, taking off my clothes and laying on that bed became my nightmare. I had forgotten how brutal chinese medicinal treatments can be. I was in trauma for almost an hour on that bed.

My traumatised look shot from underneath the table.

All pictures are in black and white. There is no way to show the pictures that Alice had taken with my iPhone in full colour because they would make my blog seem like a horror movie.

After my skin was scrapped, it was blotchy and looked like I had some horrible skin disease. Then the acupuncture needles were stuck in me and blops of “love herbs” (艾草)were placed on the tips of the needles and BURNT. The paper “trays” were placed around the needles to collect the ashes. Three rounds of this was done, and each time I tried not to whimper when it got so hot on my back and tried not to choke when the whole room smelt like it was on fire.

Burning herbs on acupuncture needles on my already battered back.

When that was over, I was so relieved, I felt tears in my eyes. My eyeliner had already smudged badly by then. But no, it wasn’t over yet. The nurse came in and removed the paper and burnt herbs and proceeded to clip wires to the needles. I kept calling for Alice because I couldn’t see what was going on and I was feeling so panicked. It turned out that they were going to send electric currents through me! Argh!

For 10 mins, I whimpered silently while the machine sent currents that made my shoulder muscles twitch and jerk. I felt my body go numb and was close to freaking out. When the timer beeped, I practically shouted for the nurse to remove the stuff from my back. She did so, but didn’t stop at that. My nightmare continued as they went on to do the fire cupping treatment (拔罐)on me. Waaaait! The Dr didn’t tell me we would be doing this… Too late. The cups were already on my back. This therapy was so scary and painful, I finally felt like a deflated tyre.

The dark blotches on my back were bruises. By the time these cups were removed, my back looked like someone had kicked and beaten me up. It had never looked so bad in my entire life. I looked like I had been butchered on that table. It was one of the most horrible experiences of my life.

I didn’t get all wimpy about it for the rest of the day, but every time I looked into the mirror, I felt like crying when I saw my battered back. I think that’s how the treatments cured my sore neck – they distracted me. For the rest of the day, I forgot to think about the pain in my neck. Which, by the way, is still there. Sigh.

I know such treatments have worked for lots of people and it’s considered relaxing for some. But no, no more Chinese medicinal treatments for me from now on.



  1. Looks really scary, perhaps you would like to try Chiropractic Care. This is the website ( that you can have a look and look for other website on Chiropractor if you are interested. But the price for the treatment is a little too expensive for me. So I only tried once.

    Take care.

    • I should probably have given chiropractic care a go before going to a Chinese Dr. Somehow I kept thinking of going to a 铁打 (“tieh da”) and didn’t think of that first. And yes, if my neck doesn’t fully heal, a chiropractor is the next person I will see. Thanks for the recommendation!

      • No problem. I went to TCM too, but your’s is scary. Especially the one with the wire. Eeeee….
        No matter. Hope you will fully recover soon.

  2. O M G!!! I ‘feel’ your pain. Even though the photos are in b&w, the bruises look quite bad. In a couple of days, these will turn into ‘orh che’. I think the physician did too many treatments in one session.

    Anyways, I hope that the neck pain will go away soon. Have plenty of rest and try not to stare at the computer for too long. Maybe you should get a neck support. It may looks ridiculous but it will help restrain your neck movement and hopefully ease the pain. If all else fails, do go to see a certified doctor.

    Cheers! :)

    • The pain did get better but I’m not sure if it’s because my shoulders and back hurt more than my neck right now. I just have to wait and see. And yes, I have neck support for bedtime and in the car, but it seems silly to walk about with it in the day. =p

  3. I had a bad day today. When I read your post, I laughed so loud, so sorry..I know it’s painful what they did to you, but the way you wrote it…it’s so funny..i even scroll down before I finished reading to see if it’s cured

    Oh, my hubby did the same thing few months ago, i knew it’s look bloody, but it’s cured his back pain

    • I hope it cures my neck pain! Coz it looks bloody awful now! Argh. I tried my best to find humour in what was probably one of the worst experiences in my life. Glad I made you laugh, Yuliana. =) Hope you have better days ahead!

  4. Hi Bing,

    Sorry for your turture session… Might I suggest a less ruthless approach. A chiropractor 😀 Since your whiplass could have also led to a miss alignment in your neck and back and the pain mights stay there until your muscles adjust to the new unaligned vertibrae.

    Hope you get better soon! 😀

    • Yeap yeap. If my neck doesn’t heal, I have a chiropractor’s number to dial for my next Dr’s appointment. Thanks!

  5. Karen, this looks so scary and painful! I’m so sorry!!! You’re brave, I don’t think I could have lasted so long :/


    • I felt strapped to the bed. Didn’t really have a choice once I took off my clothes. =(

  6. OMG…what the hell they are doing on you, your NECK hurt but why they did so many treatment on your back??

    Sorry for your pain and all the torture sessions, especially the wires to send electric currents and to do the fire cupping treatment (拔罐)on you, it looks very scary…, and I was wondering is it necessary, maybe the doctor did not know what to do to cure your neck, so she just tried all the treatment on you and hopefully one of the treatment could work on you, lol…..

    • Actually feels better now leh.. don’t know if it’s because my back hurts more than my neck now. I really miss Mr Tan!!!!! It wouldn’t have hurt a bit if I had gone to see him.

  7. ohmaigee! hurt so muchy and the pain is still there =.= i have never tried all these chinese medicinal treatments *touchy wood*

    i have seen elderly done that and it wasn’t that painful. or maybe they were just trying to overexert huh huh huh

    • I honestly don’t understand why the elderly folks love it and believe in it. It’s hell! =p

  8. black and white makes it look more like a horror film. The electric current thing looks scary but I do enjoy the rest, 刮痧 and 拔罐.

    It’s strange they did everything on your back when you had only a pain in the neck but I recall also having a needle stuck in my head!!! when I had a stiff back. Strange TCM

    • Sigh. I really DON’T understand TCM now. =/

  9. Well, you’ve done NOTHING to inspire us to ever visit a Chinese medicine practitioner, EVER!
    Chiropractors are the best way to go for back and neck issues – they’ll sort out in one session what takes a physio 6 sessions to figure out. Chiro, chiro, chiro!

  10. I think tcm works only if it’s a problem w muscles or ‘qi’ or sth. But if it’s to do with spinal disalignment which I think is what ur case is, then chiropractor is who u shld go to. Just my two cents worth. Do lots of gentle stretching n get well soon!

  11. Hi Bing! I agree. Chinese medicine is so painful! But don’t see a chiropractor…its gonna sound controversial but there’s no sound scuentific evidence that chiropractors are useful. Most medical professionals would recommend taking anti inflammatories or seeing a physio who will massage the pain away and recommend neck exercises!

    • I’m not sure that there needs to be hard scientific evidence to support chiropractors – if you’ve ever been to one you’ll know that they work and they work well :-) They can honestly release muscular spams in minutes, and I’ve visited both chiropractors and physios on numerous occasions and for back and neck locked muscles, a chiro works better every single time. That’s enough scientific evidence for me (and I’m a scientist!) :-)

  12. That was too much at a time. Too exaggerated. It’s infuriating what she did and are still doing now. They are the black sheep who ruin our reputation, no wonder we keep getting the flak.

  13. I agree with Clare! I would never have gone to such a place anyway, but you for sure stripped me of even the slightest morsel of curiosity to try it out, even in the name of writing an interesting blog post. Peeking into one of those Chinese pharmacies with you in Chinatown was already enough for me.

    And this stuff is legal??

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