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Traditional Chinese Medicine in Singapore

The Lunar New Year is just around the corner, and for a traditional Chinese holiday Pacific Prime Singapore is highlighting Traditional Chinese Medicine. Find out more about TCM in Singapore, and learn more about some of the more common treatments it provides. Who knows? You may just decide it's for you!

Posted on Jan 26, 2016 by Travis Jones

We’re starting to see more red and gold all over the city, red pockets are being purchased and the level of anticipation is rising to palpable levels. That’s right! Chinese New Year is just around the corner once again. As the year of the monkey comes swinging towards us, Pacific Prime Singapore is taking a look at the various forms of Traditional Chinese Medicine available in the city. Let’s have a look at some of the most popular TCM treatments in Singapore and their purported effects on your health.

For those with minimal experience with TCM, it should be known that, in Singapore, practitioners of the art are governed by a statutory board that operates under the Ministry of Health.  Additionally, all practitioners must have the appropriate credentials from an accredited TCM school, as well as have passed Singapore’s TCM Physicians Registration Examination. Needless to say, if you are being treated by a TCM professional in Singapore, it is more than likely that they will be trained, knowledgeable, and capable healers.



Of course, one of the 1st thoughts that come to mind for many when Traditional Chinese Medicine is mentioned is a person with covered with pins. As with other forms of TCM, Acupuncture has been practiced for thousands of years, although it has only been popular in the Western world for a handful of decades. The practice involves placing needles at various spots in a patient’s skin in order to relieve pain and allow for better flow of energy in the body. Despite the way it may look when a person has 100+ needles in their skin, acupuncture actually does not involve much pain at all, and even reduces pain as endorphins are released by the body.

Acupuncture has been said to help with a wide variety of ailments, including:

  • Asthma
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Back pain
  • Arthritis
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Tennis elbow
  • Menstrual cramps
  • Headache
  • Stroke rehabilitation
  • Addiction
  • Nausea
  • Myofascial pain


Cupping therapy

Perhaps one of the most horrific looking TCM practices, cupping generally leaves your back covered in large, dark red circles. This is because cupping therapy involves place a gas cup on a patient’s back and then using fire to create a suction that gently draws the skin upwards for up to fifteen minutes.  The goal of cupping is to treat pain, swelling, muscle knots, and scar tissue in connective or muscle tissue. In TCM, cupping is thought to get rid of stagnant lymph and blood, which improves qi (energy) flow in the body.

There are two types of cupping: wet and dry. Wet cupping is the more common of the two, and ends in some amount of bleeding. However, this bleeding is intentional and controlled, and meant to be more of a curative procedure, whereas dry cupping is generally thought to be more for relaxation. Cupping can also use fire to remove oxygen from the cup too and create greater suction. This fire cupping method is the one most known for creating dark red circles on patients’ backs.

Beyond the uses mentioned above, cupping is also thought to aid the following conditions:

  • Skins conditions
  • Infertility
  • Gynecological disorders
  • Rheumatic diseases
  • Blood disorders



The translation of qigong itself means ‘cultivating energy’, and that is what qigong practitioners aim to achieve.  This holistic technique mixes the physical, spiritual, and medical to promote wellbeing via manipulation of the body’s energy. Another way of thinking about qigong, as it relates to TCM, is that it promotes harmony within the body and mind.

Since 1989, China itself has recognized qigong as a “standard medical technique”, and it is even included in the curriculum at prominent Chinese universities. In Singapore, universities may not be training people in qigong, but there are a number of specialized qigong schools that churn out generations of trained qigong experts in the city state. This may lead many to ask, “So what exactly do qigong practitioners do?”

Actually, qigong can be performed on one’s own, in a fashion quite similar to tai chi, with a number of choreographed physical & mental exercises, poses and breathing techniques that can have numerous health benefits, including:

  • A boost in self confidence
  • Reduction of anxiety
  • Increased balance
  • Boosted immune system
  • Better blood pressure
  • A slower bone loss rate

Furthermore, a typical trip to a local qigong master for some medical qigong is likely to have the patient lying on a bed or examination table, and the master waving their hands over the patient’s body in an effort to get rid of negative energy and balance the qi within the body. Sometimes the master’s hand is said to emit a great deal of heat as it heals the patient.



There are other popular types of TCM that you can be done in Singapore.

Herbal medicine: With everything from dried seahorse to ginseng root to exotic organs from exotic animals, herbal medicine in TCM has an expansive list of ingredients with a vast array of intended effects. This list has been painstakingly categorized over the ages, and authentic herbal healers will have an extensive numbers of cabinets, vials, and other containers that house the full list of accepted herbal remedies.

Tui na: Tui na is a method of massage that draws some parallels to the shiatsu or acupressure massages found in the West. It is quite often used alongside other techniques mentioned in this article as part of a holistic approach to health.

Gua sha: Another seemingly painful technique. Gua sha involves using items such as smooth minerals, animal bones or horns, or other such items to create abrasions on the patient’s skin. The marks created can take up to 10 days to heal. The belief behind this technique is that it stimulates blood flow and healing, and that abrasions made over injured parts of the body helps to release unhealthy energies from the location.

Dit da: Also known as bone settings, practitioners of dit da are the ones to go to for serious injuries such as bone fractures, or contusions, or sprains to the body. Focusing on maintaining the wholeness of the body, dit da doctors treat without surgery. Patients of dit da can expect a very hands-on approach from the doctor, as they are rubbed, pulled and stretched back to health.

Moxibustion: This type of TCM involves the burning of dried mugwort (also known as moxa) to heat specific points in the body. This is believed to increase circulation of blood and qi within. While it is thought to aid in curing some ailments, such as chronic health conditions, western medicine has yet to determine the scientific veracity of these claims. Moxibustion is commonly performed alongside acupuncture.

All of these various treatments can have a profound impact on your health and wellbeing. As far as cost, most TCM treatments won’t have you breaking the bank, but what can make them even better for you is that they might be covered by your health insurance.  Unfortunately for those that rely on Medisave to pay for medical treatments, outpatient TCM treatment is not eligible under Medisave.

Fortunately, there are a number of health insurance plans, including the international health insurance plans offered by Pacific Prime Singapore, which will provide benefits for TCM treatment. If you would like to find out more about how to have your TCM treatments covered, contact one of the knowledgeable agents at Pacific Prime Singapore. They can answer all of your questions, provide plan comparisons from major insurers, and even give you a free price quotation.

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