SINGAPORE - Those who swear by traditional Chinese treatments such as guasha, cupping and acupuncture tend to resign themselves to a less-than-inviting environment for treatment. It could either be a no-frills TCM clinic in an HDB estate, filled with rows of treatment tables with curtains around them, or dimly lit spa centres. The one thing they have in common, though, are the Chinese-speaking therapists who are gruffly efficient.
Finally, TCM gets an injection of luxe, besides being administered by a therapist who can explain the theories to you in English no less - thanks to Como Shambala Urban Escape's resident TCM practitioner, Mark Chern.
It's the integrated and holistic practice at Como Shambala that interests Mr Chern, whose training and experience is in female reproductive health but also does wellness treatments for pain and stress management.
Mr Chern, in his 30s, was working in a management job in Singapore until he decided he wanted to learn more about TCM. He took off to Taiwan to apprentice at a TCM clinic and after that, enrolled in the Nanjing University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, China, from 2005 to 2010, where he was also attached to an integrated hospital employing both Western and Chinese medicine. Before returning to Singapore, he helped set up a TCM community clinic in Nepal, and worked at two natural birthing clinics in Bali.
Used to working in an integrated setting, Mr Chern says that TCM is effective especially for hormonal imbalance issues, such as those seen in in vitro fertilisation (IVF).
"Synthetic medicines can help stimulate the growth of ovarian follicles in IVF treatment, but Chinese medicine is still tops in 'nurturing' the reproductive system. Besides, herbal medicine has few adverse side effects and the positive effects go a long way," he explains.
Bodily pains experienced by women can also be psychosomatic as stress can bring about pain.
At Como Shambala Urban Escape, Mr Chern provides his own "Balanced Body Approach" to realign the body - using visceral manipulation to release the tension in soft tissue, as well as acupuncture and cupping. "Releasing the neck and shoulder muscles does a lot for the realignment of the central nervous system," he explains.
In a body session with him, he works on physical restrictions by applying very firm pressure points and presses his way up and down lines and pathways of the back - the deep-tissue work is often painful, so don't be mistaken that this is a feel-good session on the surface.
This is before deeper sources of stress are tackled. "I prepare the ground by first releasing soft-tissue restrictions (muscles, tendons, fascia), before the needlework."
In this reviewer's case, a few needles were inserted at the back of my head and along the shoulders, while Mr Chern also used cupping on the right side of the back, which was tighter. He continued with the muscle and tissue relaxant work as a low current was run through the needles, and later moved down to hold on to the soles of the feet, in what he calls "chi activation of the central nervous system".
The worst pain though has to be the loosening of the muscles on the chest and arms - as tight and compressed shoulders are really one of the most common problems of the modern-day person today in our computer-based work environment.
"While acupuncture is already very effective on its own in treating pain and releasing endorphins, my technique goes beyond just using needles. I always set up the groundwork with my clients through soft-tissue work, before using acupuncture to unblock channels. To conclude, the effect of the needles is enhanced with my unique form of chi activation that down-regulates the central nervous system."
The table work can also deal with everyday problems such as trouble with sleeping or stress, naturally. And he also prescribes and creates herbal blends suitable to clients' constitutional needs. For those who are leery of TCM because of the traditional way it's practised, and have problems understanding its concepts because of language, a new world of treatment options have opened up at Como Shambala's Wellness centre in the city.
A session with registered Chinese physician Mark Chern costs $180 for 75 minutes for the initial consultation and assessment, and subsequent sessions are $140 for 60 mins. For more information, go to www.comoshambala.com/singapore
This article was first published on July 19, 2014.
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