Alternative therapies: are they for real?
We tested out six treatments to see how effective they are at combating common ailments.
ROLFING @ BODYWORK THERAPY
Great for Back and knee pains; poor posture; scoliosis.
The history and principle Rolfing Structural Integration or rolfing was developed by the late bio-chemist Dr.Ida Rolf, who studied various healing systems to find solutions to her own and sons’ health problems. She made a fundamental discovery: the human body works best when it is a) in balance with gravity and b) in proper alignment. Often, there is a lack of awareness of the way we conduct our posture and form which leads to us compromising our connective tissues known as myofascial. It is a thin, elastic, connective membrane that wraps around each muscle fibre, groups of muscles, bones, organs and nerves. Problems arise when the myofascial is shortened or clumped together due to bad posture and other factors. To correct this, a Rolfer uses their hands, fingers and even elbows to manipulate them back to their natural position and state.
Li-Wei’s experience “May Chin (my Rolfer) observed that I had very tensed shoulders, with a hunched and heavy posture that leaned towards my right side. She pressed a few points along my arms, back, hips and shoulders to correct the alignment. Throughout, she asked me to focus on my breathing and to become in tune with my body’s reactions. By using firm and gentle pressure, she explained that she was parting and lengthening my myofascial, opening up space to give my joints better movement. I was reminded that it usually takes ten sessions (or more) to address the problems!”
Verdict “As a sceptic, I was blown away by the results! After she worked on my right side, I compared it to my left – it really felt much lighter. I walked out less tensed and more buoyant!”
HALOTHERAPY @ SOL INTEGRATIVE WELLNESS CENTRE
Great for Respiratory and skin conditions such as asthma, respiratory allergies, psoriasis and eczema.
The history and principle In the 1840s, Dr. Felix Bochkowsky, the state authority for occupational health in Polish industry noticed that salt mine workers had no respiratory issues, and in fact, they were the perfect picture of health! It’s thought that anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory salt provides a mucolytic effect: the ability to loosen excessive mucus. Halotherapy, the inhalation of micronised salt within a chamber that mimics a salt cave environment, is said to clear blockages and congestions, improving respiratory and skin illnesses.
Li-Wei’s experience “I was led into a dimly-lit room where the walls and floor are covered in more than six tones of crystal salt, and sound of waves crashing is played in the background; I was told that this is for aesthetic and relaxing purposes. The real deal is a hidden halo generator which infuses the air with controlled amounts of pharmaceutical-grade Himalayan Sea Salt. I took off my shoes, put on a fabric shower cap, and made myself comfy on one of the lounges. I didn’t feel or smell anything, and breathed normally and easily; I was so relaxed, I even managed to sneak in a nap during the hourlong session.”
Verdict “As I don’t have any respiratory issues, I was surprised to be coughing up mucus hours later, and into the next day. I was assured that this was body’s way of shooing out all the icky stuff in my lungs; so there you have it! Also, I slept like a baby that night. If you have more serious issues, 15 sessions are advised.”
REFLEXOLOGY @ URBAN RETREAT
Great for Sluggishness; stress; back pain, headache; bladder problems; period pain; relieve pain and discomfort from some cancer treatments.
The history and principle This therapy dates back to Ancient Egypt, India and China, and is non-intrusive way to enhance your body’s natural healing abilities. It’s based on the theory that each organ or part of your body is represented on your hands and feet; by massaging or pressing them, you’re stimulating the flow of energy, blood, nutrients and nerve endings, thereby relieving your ailments.
Zara’s experience “At Urban Retreat, treatments always start with a warm, relaxing cup of ginger tea (to make one yourself, just boil ginger, pandan and sugar together!). My therapist, Jang, from its Mont Kiara branch, used super-strong yet gentle (am I even making sense here?) pressure on my feet using her thumb, forefinger and sometimes, knuckles – you can request for the wooden stick if you want to, although I was told most Malaysians don’t like it. The 45-minute head-to-toe session includes a leg, head and shoulder massage. I find it fascinating that she somehow ‘knew’ that my left knee and right shoulder were in pain; she put on more greasework on these areas.”
Verdict “Ask anyone in the office, and they’ll tell you, I’m a huge fan of reflexology. I don’t know if it’s actually a placebo effect, but whenever I come back from a treatment, I sleep better and can wake up on my own without any alarm; I would usually need three! This would last for about a week after treatment. But, no therapist have worked on my knee and shoulder like Jang! Can I bring her home, please?!”
AYURVEDA @ SAMKKYA AYURVEDA
Great for Back, neck, and knee pains; body aches; headache; stress relief; more balanced well-being.
The history and principle This ancient (5,000 years and counting!) healthcare system that originated in India believes in integrative wellness, and preventing rather than curing illnesses. In order to do so, you should change the way you live to suit your mind-body type aka
dosha. There are three: air ( vatta), water ( kapha) and fire ( pitta), with one usually more dominant than the rest. Once that’s been determined, a treatment (comprising of substances and actions) will be tailor-made to suit you. As Dr. Shiv Kumar Vats of Samkkya stresses, “ayurveda is not merely a treatment; it’s a way of life.”
Li-Wei’s experience “A consultation with Dr. Vats, where I was asked about my habits and thoughts, concluded that my dosha’s pitta-kapha – a mix of fire and water. According to him, this explained my tense shoulders, back aches, and adult acne. He taught me several breathing techniques and exercises that can bring my body back into balance. He then drew up a chart of foods I should eat more or less of. I was then ushered into a room for oil and kizhi (herbal poultice) body massages to help me de-stress and relax my muscles; both blends were unique to my health problems.”
Verdict “I never fall asleep during a massage, but I dozed off throughout all my sessions here; that’s how syiok they were! Take note that each session, including the consultation, can take up to three hours, and that you will be covered in oil. So it’s best not to schedule anything thereafter, and to shower asap.”
INFRARED SAUNA @ SWEATSPA
Great for Pain relief; detoxification; weight loss; better blood circulation; skin purification.
The history and principle Sauna’s been a way of life in Finland for over 2,000 years, and it’s used as a place to relax either alone, or with family, friends and even business partners! Unlike traditional saunas, an infrared sauna therapy works by penetrating the muscle and joint tissues, raising your core temperature. As you sweat from within, it is a far more efficient way in boosting your metabolism and detoxifying your body; in fact according to SweatSpa, with its Sunlighten sauna, you sweat out 20 per cent toxin and 80 per cent water, whereas with a conventional one, it’s three and 97. There are three infrared spectrums: near, medium and far; each targets different areas and problems.
Li-Wei’s experience “During the initial consultation, a machine measured my body fat percentage and metabolic rate (shh, the numbers are a secret!). I chose the detoxifying package. A blast of warm air hit me as I entered the cabin, but it wasn’t stuffy or sweltering. I ‘chilled out’ as the temperature slowly climbed up. I only started sweating after about 20 minutes but was told that’s normal for first-timers because of the ‘blockages’ in my body. With repeated sessions, I would be able to sweat and thus, get rid of toxins more easily.”
Verdict “You know that rush and lega feeling you get after a great sweat? That’s what happened minus the icky and sticky feeling! When I got weighed again, my fat percentage had dropped and my muscle mass increased. Pretty epic for just chillin’ in a cube, eh? To gain maximum benefits, SweatSpa recommends 10 sessions.”
Price RM572.40 for 6 sessions, RM1,144.80 for 13 sessions. You can even buy a cabin for your home!
WET CUPPING @ VIPER BEKAM
Great for Detoxification; sluggishness; back and joint pains; muscle relief; migraine; insomnia.
The history and principle What do the Eyptians and Greeks have in common? They were great advocates of cupping, and used it to treat various diseases. It involves making incisions / pricks on selected acu-points on your skin, and pulling blood out using vacuum, created by warm cups. The theory’s simple: remove this stagnant ‘bad’ blood, clear up your clogged up systems and increase blood flow into areas that need optimal healing and functioning.
Zara’s experience “I asked Shark Radzuan, founder of and therapist at Viper Bekam, if it’s advisable to come in a few days after my period ended, and he assured me it’s completely fine. On the day itself, I changed into a sarong and laid face-down on the table. First up; a back massage to prep me mentally and physically. Next, the female therapist sprayed my back with alcohol, and then, the pricking started, using a new, unopened needle. Surprisingly, it wasn’t painful at all. What did hurt? The cupping, especially when the cups were on the back of my neck. The suction was so tight, I was afraid to move a muscle. I also stiffened up a lot, coz I wasn’t used to strangers seeing me unclothed – even thought it was just my back! An infrared lamp was used to draw out even more blood. Li-Wei, who accompanied me, almost fainted at the sight of the pudding-like blood.”
Verdict “I’m not going to lie; I ached all over, especially my neck and shoulders, for a few days after bekam, and that my back was sorta itchy as the prick points healed. While I don’t suffer from any serious illness, I was happy that it improved my focus and alertness tremendously; I was able to concentrate on writing and subbing for much, much longer. And it’s hard to explain, but there was also a feeling of ‘lightness’. These feel-good effects lasted for about two weeks.”
Price RM150 for back/ legs(22 cups); RM15/cup for head; RM100 for face.
A study of 71 randomised multiple sclerosis (MS) patients found that many reported improved motor, sensory and urinary conditions after 11 weeks of reflexology.
We cannot stress this enough: consult your family doctor before you begin any alternative therapy, especially if you have serious health problems. While we enjoyed some of the benefits of these treatments, keep in mind they work differently for different people.
The majority of systematic reviews to date suggest a favourable effect of wet cupping, when used either alone or in combination with conventional treatment, for pain, especially tension headache and musculoskeletal pain, said a study in the AlternativeandIntegrative Medicine journal. Always check if the bekam centre is registered with PERHIJAM, which is licensed under Ministry Of Health.