Local actor Desmond Tan hates needles and once chickened out of donating blood

Local actor Desmond Tan hates needles and once chickened out of donating blood
PHOTO: The New Paper

By his own boast, local TV actor Desmond Tan has a high threshold for pain.

But when it comes to needles, he immediately turns into a meek mouse.

The 29-year-old Mediacorp heart-throb is no stranger to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) therapies, having tried cupping - where glass cups are used to apply suction and heat to meridian points on the body - and acupuncture to alleviate his aches.

And it is the latter that scares him.

"The first time I did acupuncture, it was extremely painful as I was given the seven-star needling (treatment) to treat blood stasis," he told The New Paper yesterday.

Seven-star needling is an acupuncture technique, where an instrument with seven small needles arranged in a circular pattern is used to treat painful areas on the body.

Tan said: "I have a lot of sports injuries and most of the time, getting injections is a last resort. In fact, as much as possible, I try not to opt for it.

"Last year, I sprained my back, and the pain was so bad that I went to see three doctors in a day - a general practitioner, a TCM physician and finally a doctor at a hospital's A&E department.

"The hospital doctor told me I would need an injection to feel better, but I firmly declined."

Tan, along with co-stars Belinda Lee and Dawn Yeoh, was at Tong Keow Medical Hallin Toa Payoh Lorong 4 for a crash course in TCM to prepare for their roles in new Channel 8 long-form drama Peace And Prosperity.

Tan plays the young, talented protege of a revered ageing TCM practitioner. Lee and Yeoh play two of six sisters in a wealthy family that owns the Chinese medicine hall Tan's character works for.

The 170-episode series will premiere on April 4 at 7.30pm.

At Tong Keow Medical Hall, the celebrities learnt how to fill out prescriptions, chop orange peel and scrape antelope's horn.


Tan also demonstrated the cupping therapy, under the watchful eye of registered TCM physician Low Yoong Khian. When praised for his steely demeanour during the entire process, he joked: "I am not afraid of fire, only needles."

With a laugh, he shared an incident in junior college where in a moment of bravado, he decided to follow a group of classmates to donate blood.

"At the blood donation centre, I ran away after the blood test. I just couldn't do it."

Also fearful of needles is Yeoh, 29, who described her first - and last - acupuncture session as being "so painful, I felt like I was being slightly electrocuted".

Acupuncture aside, Yeoh professes to being a big fan of Chinese herbs and Chinese chiropractic treatments.

As for Lee, 38, she makes it a habit to go for cupping sessions every time she is back in Singapore. Known for hosting travel TV shows, she likens cupping to "car maintenance".

"It is like going for car servicing. Seriously, when it comes to alleviating body aches, no massage or spa treatment can beat cupping."

However, she advises those doing TCM therapy for the first time to "get a good, credible physician".

"Once, I had a horrible encounter at a local foot reflexology centre. My foot massage wasn't done properly and after that, I fell ill for two weeks," she said.

This article was first published on Jan 9, 2016.
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