Al­ter­na­tive ther­a­pies: are they for real?

We tested out six treat­ments to see how ef­fec­tive they are at com­bat­ing com­mon ail­ments.

Shape (Malaysia) - - CONTENTS - By Poon Li-Wei and Zara Nasarudin


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!”


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.”



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?!”


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.”


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!



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.

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