Saturday, November 10, 2007

IMBS's War on Everything: War on pots and kettles (Alternative medicine)

Nov 11, 2007
No cane, no gain?
Many flocked to Jurong West last week for an offbeat treatment for aches and pains: caning

By Debbie Yong

THEY sat on red plastic stools in a loose circle at an HDB void deck in Jurong West, waiting for their turn to be caned.

They pointed, whispered to one another and occasionally cringed as they watched an elderly man in the middle use a slim wooden rod to repeatedly strike at a bare-bodied man until his flesh turned red and raw.

Some passers-by stopped to stare before continuing on their way with a shudder.Mostly middle-aged and complaining of backaches and muscle soreness, the crowd of about 25 who had gathered at Block 987C in Jurong West Street 93 on Thursday afternoon believed caning to be a form of physiotherapy.

'My shoulders used to be very stiff but after my first caning session four days ago, I feel much better,' said bus driver Chua Cheng Hui, 55, who was on his third visit.

'I want to catch Master Goh one last time before he leaves,' he added, referring to physiotherapist Goh Seng Guan, 72.

Mr Goh, a Malaysian, was on a one-week trip to visit friends in Singapore from last Saturday to Friday.

But he ended up working throughout his holiday after a Shin Min Daily News report on Monday on his unusual form of therapy sent readers knocking on the door of his Singaporean hosts, Mr Png Peng Siah, 60, and Madam Qui Em, 56.

He promptly set up a makeshift shop outside their ground- floor flat, with Mr Png and Madam Qui taking turns to record customers' names and issue queue numbers.

Over the next three days, he whipped a steady stream of about 50 to 70 customers a day, working from 10am to 10pm with short breaks in between for meals.

He charged about $20 per person. The cash was discreetly pocketed at the end of each five-minute caning session.

Mr Goh, who runs two orthopaedic centres in Betong, southern Thailand, and Penang, Malaysia, with his wife, said he learnt the skill from a Tibetan lama when he was 20 and has been doing it for the last 50 years.

He claimed to be a certified Chinese physician in Thailand, but did not have his certificate with him.

His work tools: home-brewed medicated oil with his portrait on the label and 11 wooden rods of varying lengths and thickness laid out on a small wooden table.

The caning helps to loosen up muscles and improve blood circulation, he explained, as he pointed out black bruises that had appeared on clients' skins, indicating 'toxins that were being purged from the blood circulation system'.

Madam Qui, a cleaner, first met him in 1996, when she sought treatment for a pain in her shoulder at his Thailand centre, on a friend's recommendation.

His first visit here was with his wife last December, when Madam Qui invited them for a holiday.

Many of his customers, an equal mix of men and women, said they were trying it out of curiosity.

One resident of the same block, painter Ramdan Sardon, 45, who complained of a chronic backache, said: 'I see so many people here queueing from morning to night, maybe it works.'

Maintenance officer Vincent Loh, 35, said the pain was bearable, but acknowledged that he would have to wait a few days to know if the caning was effective, by which time Mr Goh would have left.

Insurance agent Raymond Goh, 53, said he came because the acupuncture treatment he had received for his sore calf in the past year was not working.

'It's more painful than death - this is the first and last time I'm doing it,' he said as he hobbled away with a swollen calf.

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practitioners interviewed were sceptical about the effectiveness of this treatment.

Physiotherapist Simon Toh, 55, said there used to be a shop specialising in caning therapy at People's Park Complex run by a Taiwanese woman, but it shut after less than a year.

He said: 'Singaporeans prefer to play safe with conventional methods of treatment. People might try it only as a last resort, after taking Western medicine or seeing TCM physicians.'

Retired TCM practitioner Liang Ming Na, 60, said it was a 'very ancient practice' which originated from rural villages and is not orthodox.

Thye Shan Medical Hall's Madam Tang Eng Hua said: 'It does not have any scientific basis. The bruises could be a result of repeated hitting and anyone can rub a sore muscle to make it loosen up and feel better.

'Furthermore, it must be done with skill and care. If not, you could end up hurting someone, especially when it's the elderly.'

One passer-by at the scene, interior designer Wendy Goh, 41, saw the queue and quipped: 'Why should I pay someone to beat me?
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Wow! 50-70 "patients" per day at $20 each, nets Master Goh $30,000 a month at least if he works on weekends as well. T_T I DON'T WANT TO STUDY ANYMORE ALREADY!!!!!! I might as well go cane someone as well!

On a more serious note, can the caning treatment work? Apparently, it could very well "work", according to the
Gate control theory of pain and depending on your definition of what is considered effective. An simple explanation, without all that jargon on wikipedia of how caning is supposed to help relieve your pain goes like this: If you hurt your foot, pinching you arm will "distract" your attention from the pain of your foot, thereby making you feel less pain from your foot. This means that you might was well go cane yourself. You don't need a "Master" to cane you. You could even pay me $10 to cane you!!!

But this is not the main point of this post.

This is the main point

"Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practitioners interviewed were sceptical about the effectiveness of this treatment. "

What were the reasons given by TCM practitioners?

"Retired TCM practitioner Liang Ming Na, 60, said it was a 'very ancient practice' which originated from rural villages and is not orthodox. "

"Thye Shan Medical Hall's Madam Tang Eng Hua said: 'It does not have any scientific basis. The bruises could be a result of repeated hitting and anyone can rub a sore muscle to make it loosen up and feel better. "

Orthodoxy has got nothing to do with the effectiveness of a treatment. A treatment is effective because it works, not because it is orthodox. By the way, I sure the rest of the TCM practices are damn orthodox. :) As for Madam Tang's claim that caning doesn't have any scientific basis, I would say caning is likely to have as much scientific basis as acupuncture. :) Talk about pot calling kettle black!

8 comments:

angry doc said...

Nicely spotted. I've linked to your post.

Anonymous said...

"As for Madam Tang's claim that caning doesn't have any scientific basis, I would say caning is likely to have as much scientific basis as acupuncture. :) Talk about pot calling kettle black!"

Hi.Imbs, really did not surpise me to see this post! But I thought there's a trace of ad hominem here...

I don't fancy canning myself. But to extrapolate to tcm as a sweeping statement is not quite accurate.
-LH

I must be stupid said...

Thanks for the compliment angrydr :)


Hi LH,

I think you misunderstood me. Caning does really work in alleviating pain. There is scientific evidence that stimuating pain and mechanoreceptors helps to alleviate pain. This puts caning on par with acupuncture in terms of treating pain, in my opinion.

And if Madam Tang wants to rubbish caning as a good treatment for pain, she ought to take a good hard look at the scientific basis for acupuncture.

Lim Leng Hiong said...

I'm pleasantly surprised that you mentioned the Gate Control theory of pain.

During my undergrad I read cases during WWII when soldiers suddenly facing emergency situations acquired an almost superhuman insensitivity to pain.

One such case was a airman who suddenly saw a burning flare land inside his bomber aircraft. He picked it up with his hands and threw it overboard, saving the plane but receiving terrible burns on his hands.

Yet he didn't feel anything until after the situation, demonstrating the potent effect of pain gating.

I must be stupid said...

Hi Leng Hiong,

I guess Mr Wang's TAR theories do work in some cases! :)

Anonymous said...

" And if Madam Tang wants to rubbish caning as a good treatment for pain, she ought to take a good hard look at the scientific basis for acupuncture."

Hi imbs, i have misunderstood? oh..maybe I did.*puzzled* -LH

I must be stupid said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
I must be stupid said...

I'm merely pointing out the irony in her statement because caning and acupuncture probably work on the same basis as each other. Hope you get it this time round.