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Introduction 

Feeling lethargic and sore? According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), you may be lacking what is known as Qi (or Chi). [1] Qi is the life force flowing through your body that sustains you, keeping your body balanced and connected to the environment around you. When your Qi is disrupted, you may experience a myriad of emotional and physical problems.

TCM massage, or TuiNa massage, makes use of the principles of Qi and other elements in TCM to help with a variety of health conditions, especially pain management, such as chronic pain.

What is TCM Tui Na massage? 

In TCM, Tui Na is a form of therapeutic massage or bodywork that originated in China over 2000 years ago. [2] It is one of the five branches of TCM and is considered a type of External Medicine. [3]

It is performed using special massage techniques, where a TCM practitioner’s palms, fingertips and knuckles are used to knead, roll, brush, press or rub your body to remove blockages along the meridian acupoints in order to stimulate Qi and blood flow which promotes balance and healing.[4]

What are the principles behind TCM Tui Na massage? 

The improper flow of Qi in the body can result in blockages that in turn cause poor blood circulation, tension and soreness in the body. Over time, more toxins accumulate thereby leading to illnesses. Tui Na helps to release the bad energy and unblock the flow of Qi. This helps to relieve tight areas and tension in the body.[5]

To put it simply, Tui Na manipulates Qi and balances Yin and Yang by applying pressure onto the specific acupoints in our body which correspond to our 12 major meridians.

How is TCM Tui Na massage different from Western massage?

Tui Na is a form of Eastern massage where practitioners are trained using the holistic approach to view the body as a unified system that incorporates the physical body, mind and spirit. Meanwhile, Western massage separates the body by its different functions and only focuses on healing those areas where there are pain or disease symptoms. [6]

Both are massage therapies that use touch to heal injuries, relieve pain, and prevent and cure illnesses, derived from customs dating back to ancient history. As both a form of art and science, touch is the essential ingredient in both forms of massage therapy.

tui na for shoulder aches

What is TCM Tui Na massage used for?

There are various ailments and conditions that Tui Na can treat and they include:


Read also: Can Tuina massage therapy help with pinched nerves?


What are the health benefits of TCM Tui Na massage? 

The benefits of Tui Na include:

What are the side effects of TCM Tui Na massage?

Tui Na does not usually have any adverse side effects. That said, some of you may find that you need to visit the washroom more often due to the effects of the treatment, or you may feel a little sleepy due to the relaxing effects of the massage. [3]

Tui Na massage should also not be painful.

Potential side effects include: [2]

can tui na be done for pregnant women

Can I go for a TCM Tui Na massage if I am pregnant?

Tui Na is generally not recommended for pregnant women. Although Tui Na can relieve stress and tension in the body, the pressure on the acupoints may affect the baby or the pregnancy.

We advise pregnant women to do regular exercises if they want to strengthen their back muscles and relieve backaches. [9]


Read also: Is Tui Na massage harmful to pregnant women?


What are some limitations of TCM Tui Na?

As powerful as Tui Na can be as a form of therapy, Tui Na isn’t a cure-all solution. There are some people with certain conditions who are unsuitable for Tui Na due to various reasons.[10] These include:

What can I expect during a TCM Tui Na massage in Singapore?

Before the massage session, the physician will first obtain a detailed understanding of the patient’s condition during the consultation. [7]

Tui Na can be carried out sitting on a chair or lying down on a massage table. It can be performed in combination with acupuncture to maximise the results. Therapeutic oil is sometimes used.

The Tui Na session lasts about 30 to 60 minutes and the number of sessions varies depending on your needs. [11]

Do I need to remove clothes during a TCM Tui Na massage?

During the massage, you may be asked to expose the affected area as needed for treatment. In some cases, the massage can be carried out over clothing. [7]

What misconceptions are there about Tui Na? 

Contrary to what some of you might think, Tui Na is not a form of martial arts. Also, the efficacy of the treatment is not dependent on how much strength is used, but rather, depends on the control of strength and pressure based on TCM principles. [4]

Where can I find TCM Tui Na clinics in Singapore?

Here are some TCM clinics in Singapore offering Tui Na services, in no particular order:

What is the cost of TCM Tui Na massage in Singapore?

At Eu Yan Sang TCM clinics, Tui Na massage alone can range from $40 to $130, excluding GST. [12]

At the NTU Chinese Medicine Clinic, fees for Tui Na are $30 and above, depending on the treatment plan and duration, excluding GST. [13]

Summary 

TCM Tui Na massage is an effective form of therapy and many have benefited from it. As with many other therapies, its effects are better enhanced when combined with a healthy lifestyle and other stretches and exercises that practitioners may recommend you to do in your free time.

TCM focuses on holistic treatments, so remember to take care of other aspects of your health, such as mental health and stress management, on top of your physical wellbeing.

If you’d like to learn more about Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), read this guide on seeing a traditional Chinese medicine physician in Singapore.


What are period cramps?

Periods are part and parcel of being a woman, and something we usually have to go through every month. With this, also comes the occasional mood swings, or even the painful aches and cramps in our lower belly. Dysmenorrhea, more commonly known as period cramps, are painful sensations in the lower abdomen and/or lower back before and during your menstrual period [1].

These painful sensations can range from dull aches to extreme stabbing pain. Period cramps are considered common, with more than 80% of females experiencing painful cramps during their period [2]. Furthermore, up to 20% of women suffer from cramping severe enough to stop them from performing their daily activities [3]. That seems like a huge issue considering women get their periods every month.

What are the different types of period cramps?

There are two main types of period cramps: primary and secondary.

Primary dysmenorrhea

Primary dysmenorrhea usually refers to the common menstrual cramps women get every month and are not due to any other diseases [4]. The pain is usually located at the lower abdomen, back or thigh, and it can range from mild to severe. The pain lasts for 12-72 hours, and it can be accompanied by nausea, dizziness, fatigue or diarrhea.

These period cramps typically occur in teenage girls and younger women [5], and may stop as you grow older.

Secondary dysmenorrhea

Secondary dysmenorrhea is caused by other medical conditions, and can occur outside of your period. Secondary dysmenorrhea is usually more painful than primary dysmenorrhea, and can cause periods to be longer.

Medical conditions that can cause secondary dysmenorrhea include [4]:


Read also: How do fibroids affect menstrual periods?


What are the symptoms of period cramps?

Symptoms of period cramps include: [4]

Period cramps can sometimes be accompanied by other symptoms such as dizziness, nausea, fatigue, bloating, headaches and diarrhea [6].

What causes period cramps?

Period cramps occur due to the contraction of the muscular walls of the uterus [7]. During your period, the walls contract vigorously to shed the uterine lining, compressing the blood vessels lining your uterus.

This causes the blood and oxygen supply to your uterus to be temporarily blocked, resulting in pain-triggering chemicals to be released. Prostaglandins, which further stimulates the contraction of the uterus, are also produced, hence intensifying the period cramps.

What are period cramps from a TCM perspective?

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is an ancient system of health which believes in achieving a balance between Yin and Yang (Yin referring to the “Cold”and “Matter or Physical” aspect and Yang referring to the “Warmth” or “Energy” aspect) to maintain health. It believes that illnesses strike due to an imbalance of Qi, or vital energy caused by changes in Yin and Yang.

Likewise, in TCM, period cramps are believed to be due to three causes: i) liver Qi stagnation, ii) cold accumulation and iii) Qi and blood deficiency. [8]

Liver Qi stagnation

Liver Qi stagnation can cause distending pain in the lower abdomen, which can spread to the waist and back. Qi stagnation is caused by blood stasis (when blood flow slows and coagulates), and is often observed as the sharp stabbing pain that ladies suffering from period cramps may observe.

The stabbing period cramps are usually relieved by the release of small blood clots during your menstrual cycle.

Cold accumulation

Cold accumulation is often caused by the overconsumption of cold foods and drinks [9], obstructing the Qi flow to the uterus. Cold accumulation results in blood stasis which causes the sharp stabbing pain. Cold accumulation also enhances contraction of the uterine muscles, which contributes to the pain.

Qi and blood deficiency

Ladies who have a weaker constitution (people who are more prone to getting sick), had a major illness or loss of blood would suffer from a deficiency of Qi, blood and kidney essence which are all important in supplying nutrients to the uterus. This will lead to the dull aching pain that occurs before or during your period [8].

Chinese medicine vs Western medicine on period cramps

Western medicine typically focuses on treating the symptoms of period cramps, hence your doctor may prescribe medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or oral contraceptives to help relieve your period cramps [10].

On the other hand, TCM focuses on treating the cause of period cramps, hence you will observe that TCM treatment methods usually focus on liver Qi stagnation, cold accumulation as well as Qi and blood deficiency.

As such, TCM treats period cramps by focusing on returning Qi and blood flow to the body [11], which is shown to reduce the intensity and duration of period cramps by up to 50% when acupuncture is performed [12].


Read also: How to relieve menstrual cramps quickly?


What TCM treatments help with period cramps?

There are many TCM treatments available to help alleviate your period cramps, such as moxibustion, acupuncture, as well as herbal medicine.

Moxibustion

A historical method for treatment of period cramps, moxibustion is a therapy that burns moxa (or mugwort root), which is made from a herb known as Artemisia vulgaris.

Moxibustion helps in warming and invigorating the blood, stimulating the Qi flow, strengthening the kidney Yang, dispelling cold and dissolving stagnation, which helps greatly in reducing period cramps [13].

Acupuncture

acupuncture for period cramps

Acupuncture is a treatment method whereby thin needles are inserted into specific regions of your body known as acupoints. It aims to rebalance the Qi in a person’s body.

Doing acupuncture can regulate your menstrual cycles and prevent cramps by allowing the blood and Qi to flow properly. [14]


Also read: The Complete Guide to Acupuncture in Singapore (2021)


Herbal medicine

herbal medicine for period cramps

Apart from massages and acupunctures, TCM also uses chinese herbs to help improve the Qi and blood flow in your body, which can help with period cramps. These herbs can be incorporated into teas or soups.

Some of the herbs you can consume to help with your period cramps include [15]:

What pressure points can relieve period cramps?

Apart from visiting a TCM practitioner, you can also massage yourself to relieve your period cramps. Locate the acupoints and you can massage the acupoints for 60-90 seconds.

Here are 3 acupoints that can help relieve your period cramps [16]:

What can I expect during TCM treatment for period cramps?

For your first TCM treatment, your TCM practitioner will assess you and your body health before creating a comprehensive treatment plan for you based on your diagnosis. It would also be helpful if you have kept a log of your previous menstrual cycles so your TCM practitioner could factor that into his/her treatment plan for you [18].

The most common TCM treatment to help improve period cramps is acupuncture. The TCM practitioner will insert thin needles into acupuncture points to help improve circulation of blood and relieve pain. The most common acupoint used is Spleen 6 [19].

Another popular TCM treatment to help with period cramps is moxibustion. Moxa, in the form of cigar sticks, will be lighted and placed about 3 cm above acupoints to allow the heat to enter and circulate the body [20].


Also read: The Complete Guide to Seeing a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Physician in Singapore (2021)


How many sessions are recommended?

Acupuncture treatment typically starts 5-7 days prior to the start of your menstrual cycle. Depending on your condition, your treatment will last 2-4 months [21]. Each treatment will last approximately 20-30 minutes. Weekly acupuncture treatments are also recommended to maintain regular menstrual cycles [22].

One course of moxibustion treatment usually comprises about 12 sessions, each lasting about 20-30 minutes long [23].

When should I go to a practitioner for period cramps?

You should visit a practitioner for your period cramps when your cramps are so severe that it disrupts your daily activities, or if it occurs outside of your period. This could be due to underlying problems such as endometriosis and fibroids, which may affect your fertility [24]. As such, it is important to seek medical help before it worsens.


Also read: The Ultimate Guide to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Fertility Treatments in Singapore (2021)


Even if your period cramps are not severe, you can still visit a practitioner who will be able to offer a treatment plan to help alleviate your period cramps. Women who do not suffer from severe period cramps can also visit a practitioner to maintain regular menstrual cycle and improve their blood and Qi circulation.


Read also: When should I seek help for period pain?


What can I not do after TCM treatment for period cramps?

After TCM treatment for period cramps, it is highly recommended to rest and drink plenty of water.

Things you should not do include [25]:

What are the costs of TCM treatments for period cramps?

The costs of TCM treatments for period cramps differ depending on what type of treatment you are going for.

For acupuncture treatment, it ranges from $50-$75 for one session, depending on the clinic that you visit [27]. For moxibustion treatment, it can range from $60-$80 per session, depending on the clinic that you visit.

Unfortunately, outpatient TCM treatments are not covered under Medisave. However, your health insurance may have coverage for TCM so be sure to check with your insurance provider before you go for your TCM treatment sessions. Alternatively, you may also check with the clinic directly if they offer any subsidies.

What tips does TCM have for period cramps? 

In case you are wondering what you could do to make your time of the month a little easier, here are some nifty tips from TCM to help soothe your period cramps [28]:

What are the side effects of TCM for period cramps?

The common side effects for acupuncture treatment for period cramps include [29]:

The common side effects for moxibustion treatment for period cramps include [30]:

These side effects usually subside by itself after a few days. However, if the side effects are getting worse, please visit your practitioner immediately.

Summary

Although period cramps are usually non life-threatening, it can be a huge hassle depending on the severity of the pain and affect quality of life. Additionally, certain underlying conditions causing severe period cramps may result in fertility problems if left untreated. As such, it is important to seek help promptly if you experience period cramps.


Introduction

In Singapore, we are pretty familiar with Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) as a form of alternative healthcare. In fact, there are numerous physicians and clinics all over the city that are frequented often, and are especially helpful during instances where we experience ailments that Western medicine cannot adequately address.

TCM has been around for thousands of years and was first introduced to the masses in Singapore by early migrants from mainland China. Today, it has become more recognised and has won the general public for its holistic approach and effective cures. Given the number of successful results TCM garners, it should not be ignored or discounted.

What we should understand is that traditional Chinese medicine and Western medicine are not entirely opposing
forces but in fact, two sides of the same coin — providing a holistic approach to health care. This is particularly
true for TCM fertility treatments, which can be used as a stand-alone treatment or used in tandem
with Western fertility treatments, such as
IVF, to increase the success rate for aspiring mommies and daddies.

In this article, experienced TCM practitioner, Physician Tay, walks us through everything we
need to know about TCM fertility treatments in Singapore for both men and
ladies, the various costs of treatment and what to expect during your visit.

 

What is Infertility from a TCM perspective?

In the context of traditional Chinese medicine, infertility is often distinguished as an individual who is sexually active for two years or more and is still unable to conceive. This can happen to both men and ladies, and could be due to a variety of lifestyle habits or injuries.


Read more: What are the causes of infertility from a TCM perspective?


Infertility in Men

According to World Health Organization (WHO) data, general semen quality has been deteriorating globally over the years. In a study reported in 2017, scientists at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem found that sperm counts among men in the West have more than halved in the past 40 years.

While there is a lack of nationwide data regarding male reproductive health, doctors say rising male infertility rates here mirror the global phenomenon of declining sperm quality in the last 40 years [5].

A drop in sperm count due to bad lifestyle habits can cause infertility in men. Researchers have found that the testicular function is temperature-dependent and requires a temperature of around 2 - 4°C below body temperature.

Elevated scrotal temperature was found in men with occupations and lifestyles associated with high temperature exposure, hot bath and sauna users, men wearing tight jockey shorts and suspensories, and car driving.

Multiple human studies have confirmed the harmful effects of scrotal hyperthermia (having a higher scrotal temperature that is greatly above normal) on the production and development of mature spermatozoa. Hence, men are advised to wear loose clothing for their male genitalia to function optimally [6].

This is just one of the few factors that contribute to infertility in males. Many other factors often point towards bad diet and lifestyle habits such as smoking and excessive alcohol consumption. Being overweight, inactive, consistently using a laptop on one’s lap and even stress or depression can also contribute to a lower sperm count in males. The common contributing factors are:


Also read: Urologist Reveals 7 Reasons For Male Infertility and the Treatments Available


From a TCM perspective, male infertility is usually associated with various forms of “kidney” deficiency and this occurs naturally as one ages.  As far back as about 2000 years ago, the earliest TCM text 黄帝内经 (Huangdi Neijing, Inner Canon of the Yellow Emperor) detailed how one’s age will affect his fertility.

This corresponds amazingly well with modern medical science as research has found that the sperm concentration, motility, morphology and seminal volume decline as age increases [7].

 

infertility in women

Infertility in Ladies

The issue of infertility is more complex when it comes to ladies. Having a more biologically complex reproductive system, ladies can suffer from infertility for a plethora of reasons.

The first point of note for the TCM physician is to examine the menstrual cycle of the patient. Traditional Chinese medicine believes that the “kidney”, “liver”, and “spleen” affect the likelihood of conception as imbalance in these organs will disrupt the menstrual cycle of a lady. This is especially true for the “kidney” as TCM believes that “kidney” stores our “reproductive essence”.

TCM theory had long held that irregular menstrual cycles are one of the most important causes of infertility. This ties in well with modern medical science as irregular menstrual cycles are usually associated with ovulatory dysfunction (meaning ovulation fails to occur, or occurs on an infrequent or irregular basis).


Also read: The Ultimate Guide to TCM for Irregular Periods in Singapore (2021)


TCM herbal medicine and acupuncture would then be used to help regulate the lady’s menstrual cycle to improve her chances of conceiving. 

Questions concerning one’s work and lifestyle would also be asked as TCM believes that “the way the human body functions is interlinked and closely related to the natural world” (天人相应). Different environments that people live and work in, coupled with the differences in the individual’s ability to adapt to the environment, have an effect on the constitution of the person.

Therefore, when TCM physicians are diagnosing and treating the same disease, they will pay more attention to the season, place, and individual conditions, instead of viewing everyone as being the same.

This is especially relevant to Singapore. This is because as our society advances, many ladies are working long hours or are holding jobs that are stressful in nature. TCM theory had long stated that Liver Qi stagnation (a potential cause of infertility) is closely associated with stress and various negative emotions.


Also read: How stress affects your fertility


This corresponds well with a research conducted by US National Institutes of Health, Ohio State University and the University of Oxford on how stress alone might reduce a lady’s chance of conceiving by 12% [8].

Here is a list of causes (non-exhaustive) that TCM believes can hinder a lady’s ability to conceive:

It is important to note that in Traditional Chinese Medicine, the concept of yin and yang serves as a foundation for understanding health, as well as diagnosing and treating illnesses. This concept applies to diagnosing infertility as well.

 

What are the Traditional Chinese Medicine treatments for infertility?

Traditional Chinese Medicine takes on a different approach when it comes to the treatment of diseases and body constitutions. Centered around the idea of yin and yang, it believes in balancing the internal elements of the body to help all of its organs function properly. Hence, when something is out of order, it will usually be compensated for with its polar opposite to help restore balance in the system.

To do so, acupuncture and herbal medicine are usually used.

Acupuncture is the treatment involving the insertion of very long and thin needles through a person’s skin at specific points of the body.

TCM physicians are experts trained in anatomy and can pinpoint specific areas of the body that require acupuncture to treat different diseases. In doing so, they help regulate the flow of energy or life force (Qi) along the various meridians, and in the long run, are helping to maintain balance in the body.

tcm fertility treatments

The practice of TCM also believes in using herbs to help preserve the balance in the body. As such, herbal products are also often used together with acupuncture to help give the body the boost it needs to compensate for a shift in balance [9]. The physician will also recommend a change in diet to suit your needs.

For example, patients that often feel cold in their extremities are encouraged to consume more lamb meat and beef to warm one’s body. Ginger-red date tea is also another substitute if meat is not an option in the diet.

In the case of fertility treatments, In-Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) and Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) can be complemented by TCM treatments. IVF acupuncture is a treatment that helps to improve the rate of pregnancy for ladies who are trying to conceive through IVF [10].


Also read: What do I need to know when choosing between IVF and IUI?


Chinese herbal medicine can also be prescribed by the TCM physician to prepare the body for conception and 1 treatment cycle will typically last 3 menstrual cycles. TCM fertility treatment will require the physician to follow up with the patients regularly during the course of the treatment.

This is because the herbal medication prescribed will be adjusted according to the symptoms manifested during each menstrual cycle, hence we can say that every treatment is tailored to each individual’s needs. 


Related: A TCM Physician Tells You What You Need to Know Before Trying Acupuncture


 

How is TCM a natural fertility treatment?

Couples trying to conceive should consider trying out TCM as a form of natural fertility treatment and this is especially so if the lady is below the age of 38 and her ovarian reserve is still relatively high. This is because women with the above attributes tend to have a good chance of conceiving naturally through TCM treatments [11].

Some TCM clinics do refer their patients to laboratories for diagnostic testing so that patients are able to check their sperm count, sperm motility, sperm morphology, ovarian reserve, and hormonal profile through semen analysis and blood tests before deciding on a treatment plan.


Also read: What can I expect from a fertility assessment?


It is worth noting that IVF treatment requires the lady receiving the treatment to receive daily hormonal injections and do multiple transvaginal ultrasound scans over the course of the treatment. These procedures tend to create a lot of stress and anxiety for the patient involved, not to mention the fact that undergoing IVF treatment can be quite costly [12].

TCM physicians can complement IVF treatments by prescribing TCM herbal medicine and acupuncture to help prepare the body before the IVF treatment to help increase the chances of success. This process usually takes 3 to 6 months and there are a number of patients who got pregnant naturally during this process.

TCM can also help with unexplained infertility by measuring the internal balance of the individual. Oftentimes, patients will enter the clinic feeling “wrong” without knowing exactly what is wrong with them. In such cases, TCM physicians may help schedule a laboratory test as a primary diagnosis.

However, in certain cases, some couples are still unable to conceive, even though the diagnostic tests may indicate that everything is fine. In such occasions, TCM believes that the body may have an imbalance of elements, resulting in the person’s constitution being either “too cold” or “too warm”.

Through asking a series of diagnostic questions, a TCM physician will be able to determine one’s type of constitution, and will then go on to prescribe individualised treatment plans for the couple.

fertility treatments for men and women

How effective are TCM fertility treatments?

The effectiveness of TCM fertility treatments not only depend on the couple’s medical condition, but also on how committed they are in adhering to their treatment plan. It is important to note that TCM treatment is not a one-time solution to your infertility issues and will require continuous treatment over a period of time.

TCM treatments take time to restore the body back to its balance. As such, fertility treatment plans in TCM normally range from about 3 - 6 months and can go on for as long as a year or two for serious cases (1 TCM treatment cycle is 3 menstrual cycles).

It is worth mentioning that there were a number of cases where the couples managed to conceive naturally within 3 menstrual cycles after following my instructions closely. Unfortunately, many patients tend to stop treatment within 1 - 2 months when they are not able to see instant results.

Efficacy for Ladies

For ladies, patients of the younger demographic (under 35) will most likely see faster results, with many patients within this demographic conceiving naturally after adhering to the treatment plan for 3 - 6 months.

The length of time and efficacy of TCM fertility treatment is largely dependent on age and if the treatment does not yield results after 6 months, patients would be given the suggestion to try IVF treatment, this is especially so for ladies above the age of 38 whose ovarian reserves are depleting fast [13].

Efficacy for Men

For men, herbal medicine and acupuncture is normally provided. Due to the physiology of the male testicles, male infertility is easier to treat as the main goal is mainly to stimulate the testicles to produce more sperms and improve their motility. TCM fertility treatment is usually able to improve semen quality as long as one’s testicles retain the ability to produce sperms [14].

One cycle of TCM fertility treatment for men typically takes 3 months as on the average, sperm production takes 74 days from start to finish [15]. Clinical research done by Tainan Municipal Hospital in Taiwan between 2013 to 2016 found that TCM treatment significantly improved semen quality.

In this study, it was found that TCM users account for 92.5% of the total semen improvement subjects, the other 7.5% is up to TCM nonusers. The TCM users had 10.7-fold better semen improvement than TCM nonusers after adjustment for age, duration of infertility, BMI, history of smoking and alcohol use, and infertility type [16].

It is important to note that this only applies to men who are infertile due a low sperm count and/or low sperm motility. Men suffer from obstructive azoospermia or testicular azoospermia (azoospermia is the medical condition of a man whose semen contains no sperm) might require intervention in the form of surgery and/or testicular biopsies, which are typically performed in a hospital [17].

That being said, researchers have found that acupuncture may be a useful, non-traumatic treatment for men with azoospermia, especially for those who have had a history of genital tract inflammation [18].


Related: Does acupuncture for fertility really work?


Erectile dysfunction can also be treated with TCM through medication and acupuncture as it would allow for improved blood flow to the penis and help stimulate energy flow in the meridian.

Therefore, it is paramount that you trust your TCM physician and work together with them in crafting a treatment plan that would best suit your needs.

what to expect when visiting a tcm physician

What can I expect when I visit a TCM physician?

When going to a TCM physician for a fertility consultation, patients should bear in mind that although its treatment methods are different from Western medicine, the diagnosis and process remains the similar:

  1. A TCM physician would typically ask for your medical history and relevant diagnostic lab reports.
  2. Questions regarding menstrual cycle, erectile dysfunction, nature of work, lifestyle, stress level/ emotional wellbeing would also be asked.
  3. The physician will do preliminary diagnostic tests such as pulse taking and checking your tongue to see if you are healthy and if the elements in your body are balanced.
  4. Patients could be referred for further diagnostic testing (typically ultrasound scan, blood or semen analysis) if there are information gaps to be filled.
  5. The physician will then decide on the necessary steps and construct a personalised treatment plan that would best suit you.

Couples are encouraged to consult a TCM physician together when seeking fertility treatments. This is because the husband would be able to provide emotional support for his wife and help her feel a sense of ease during the course of treatment. Furthermore, men have just as much chance of being infertile as the ladies and in certain cases, the husband only discovered that he had poor semen quality after being advised by the TCM physician to go for semen analysis [19].


Also read: The Complete Guide to Seeing a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Physician in Singapore (2021)


What is the cost of TCM fertility treatment in Singapore?

The cost of TCM fertility treatments in Singapore depends on the types of treatment recommended by the physician.

Different medicinal herbs may vary in prices, with most of them costing between $15 - $30 a day, depending on if the medication prescribed are traditional herbal decoction (boiling herbs) or scientific TCM medicine (powders, syrups and pills). It is important to understand that traditional herbal decoctions are typically more costly.

It is also worth knowing that TCM medication for fertility treatment tend to be more costly because tonics such as ginseng and deer velvet antler (鹿茸), could be prescribed depending on the nature of the patient’s condition [20].

As TCM restores the imbalances in the body over a period of time, the effects of the medicinal herbs are to be observed over a span of 3 to 6 months (with 3 menstrual cycles being 1 treatment cycle).

Other procedures such as acupuncture and massages vary in cost with some TCM clinics charging higher prices. Unfortunately, TCM fertility treatments are not Medisave claimable as of yet.


Read more:  How much is the cost of TCM fertility treatment in Singapore?


Summary 

You should definitely consider TCM fertility treatments if you desire to conceive naturally.

Acupuncture and herbal medicines date back at least 2,200 years with the earliest recorded use of it being in the 3rd century BCE. TCM has been healing the Chinese people since then and is now being practiced worldwide today. Its effectiveness is now observed by various clinical studies that are being conducted around the world.

As such, patients looking for alternative fertility treatments should consider Traditional Chinese medicine as an option, or as a complementary treatment to IVF and IUI. Perhaps natural healing and strengthening your body may be just what you need to conceive.


Introduction

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), also known as Han medicine, is a traditional medicinal practice that originated from the Han Chinese and boasts a rich history of over 23 centuries. Introduced to the masses in Singapore by early migrants of mainland China, TCM has found its place as a form of alternative healthcare, with numerous TCM practitioners and clinics all over the city.

Traditional Chinese Medicine is generally well-known in Singapore and has won the acceptance of the general public for its holistic approach and ability to address a variety of ailments.

It is important to note that although Chinese and Western medicine are based on completely different principles, they aren’t polar opposites and, in fact, hold quite a few similarities between the two practices!

However, it may still be unfamiliar to you, and visiting the TCM clinic may feel quite intimidating. In this guide, I will share everything you need to know about traditional Chinese medicine, its basic principles, and what to expect when seeing a TCM physician. This includes estimated costs, the efficacy of treatment for certain conditions, and more.

What is Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)? 

In China, the term “Chinese medicine (中医)” (meaning "Chinese" medicine) is more commonly used than
“Han medicine (漢醫學)". However, the latter is a more neutral term still widely used in Japan and South Korea.

The basic principles of TCM believe in preventing or healing diseases by restoring the yin and yang balance and the five
Elements (五行,金木水火土), the human body is regarded as the unity of Qi (气), Form (形), and Spirit (神). When
your body is off-balance, it means your yin or yang is weak, causing you to feel lethargic and ill.

Four classical medical texts formed the foundation of TCM principles that help guide physicians and acupuncturists today and they are:

  1. Huang di Nei Jing (皇帝内经, Inner Canon of the Yellow Emperor) [1]
  2. Shang Han Lun (伤寒论, Treatise on Cold Damage Diseases) [2]
  3. Jin Gui Yao lue (金匮要略, Essential Prescriptions from the Golden Cabinet) [3]
  4. Wen bing Xue (温病学) [4]

Also read: What are the different body constitutions in TCM?


What are the common Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) treatments?

TCM consists of the following treatments that you may already know about:

These different approaches have been studied through clinical research. [5]


Also read: How effective is TCM?


What can one expect during a consultation with a TCM physician in Singapore?

The physician will typically ask a series of questions that will help give them a
holistic understanding of your health and to determine what treatment would be most suitable for you.
Just like any consultation, your blood pressure may also be taken.

In my practice, during a consultation, I look at a few things:

The above process is concluded by naming the disease and summarising the type of syndrome using the principle of syndrome
differentiation. The methodology also involves the use of the four main methods, which are:

  1. Looking (examining the tongue and any external signs of the disease)
  2. Smell (Asking the patient if they have any pungent discharge)
  3. Asking questions
  4. Pulse taking

What is Health from a TCM perspective?

Traditional Chinese medicine has a complete theoretical system. It comprises a holistic view of "nature and man are
one" (天人合一) and strongly believe that “the way the human body functions is interlinked and closely related
to the natural world” (天人相应).

The three main features of TCM that we’ll look at are:

  1. Balance between Yin and Yang
  2. Environment and the natural world
  3. Viewing things as a connected whole

Yin and Yang

Human beings are considered to be an integral part of the natural world, composed of the most basic matter (named "qi") and
its movement. This movement consists of two basic movements with different trends—Yin and Yang.

The basic idea of this principle is that yin and yang are mutually opposed and yet mutually interdependent, and they
are always in motion and change. Under normal physiological conditions, the two are in a dynamic balance.

Once this dynamic balance in our bodies is disrupted, it will appear as a pathological state through illness. When
the physician is treating diseases and correcting the imbalance between yin and yang, he/she does not view the problem
from an isolated manner but rather he/she will examine the issue from a broader perspective.

The environmental context

As mentioned earlier, it is believed that man and nature are a unified whole, that is, "Nature and man are one" (天人合一)
and “the way the human body functions is interlinked and closely related to the natural world” (天人相应).

The activities that people engage in and the occurrence of diseases are closely related to various changes in the
natural world. These include:

The different environments that people live in, coupled with the differences in the individual’s ability to adapt
to the natural environment, have an effect on the constitution of the person.

Therefore, when TCM physicians are diagnosing and treating the same disease, they will pay more attention to
the season, place, and individual conditions, instead of viewing everyone as being the same.

Viewing things as a connected whole

TCM physicians believe that the various tissues and organs of the human body are unified, and they are interconnected
and influence each other both in physiology and pathology.

Hence, TCM physicians do not look at certain physiological or pathological phenomenons in isolation, but rather view
the treatment and prevention of diseases from a holistic perspective.

How do TCM Treatments Complement Conventional Western Medicine?

TCM physicians base their diagnosis on symptoms that manifest on the patients, in contrast to Western medicine’s method
of examining the virus or bacteria responsible for illnesses.

In Singapore, when one suffers from pain or muscle-related issues, muscle relaxants or painkillers are usually prescribed
to them, however these medications may or may not work for everyone.


Also read: What Is Pain Management With Traditional Chinese Medicine?


Some of my patients who take muscle relaxants find that they do not help alleviate their pain, and so they visit
TCM clinic to seek further treatment. From my experience, TCM treatments such as
acupuncture,
tuina,
cupping
and gua sha
treatments are quite effective in alleviating these pains, this is also why TCM is well regarded for pain management in Singapore.

How much does it Cost to Visit a TCM Physician in Singapore?

The costs of consulting a TCM physician could vary significantly depending on the medical condition that
you have and which TCM clinic you visit.

Treatment Estimated cost range
Consultation fees $10 - $50
Cupping treatments $30
Acupuncture treatments $30 to $50 (per session)
Acupressure massages $75 (per one hour session)

The cost of the medication varies as it depends on what is prescribed to you, but do note that medication
for fertility
tends to be more costly as tonics such as ginseng and velvet antler (鹿茸), could be prescribed
depending on the nature of the patient’s condition.

You can find more about TCM clinics and cost in
The Complete
Guide to TCM Clinics in Singapore
.

Are TCM treatments Medisave claimable in Singapore?

Unfortunately, most TCM treatments are not Medisave claimable.

However, some companies have group insurance coverage for TCM treatments performed by registered TCM Clinics
(AIA, Aviva, AXA, Cigna, etc), so do check in with your HR department for further details. Most insurance
companies also cover TCM treatments for injuries caused by accidents.

How safe is Traditional Chinese Medicine in Singapore?

TCM is generally safe if you are treated by a well-trained traditional Chinese medicine physician. This is especially true in
Singapore, where one is only allowed to practice Traditional Chinese Medicine if they have passed the Singapore TCM-Physicians
Registration Exam (STRE).

What training does a TCM physician undergo in Singapore?

TCM professionals in Singapore generally undergo a 5-year degree course followed by a licensing exam. You may find that your
TCM physician is a graduate from certain institutions recognized by Singapore’s Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners
Board. [6]

Just like medical doctors or allied health professionals, they also have to fulfill mandatory Continuing
Professional Education requirements in order to maintain their practicing license. This ensures
TCM physicians’ knowledge is constantly updated, thus improving the quality of care provided to the patients.

How do I know which TCM practitioner is best for me?

As many Traditional Chinese Medicine treatments require long-term commitment, the best Traditional Chinese
Medicine physician for you is one with who you can communicate well with. It is paramount that you share
both your health issues and treatment outcome desires with your TCM physician in order for them to craft
a treatment plan most suited to your needs.

Having an experienced TCM physician who also has a basic knowledge of Western healthcare could also help,
especially if your medical condition requires the physician to be able to understand the results of various lab tests.

How Effective Is Traditional Chinese Medicine?

Traditional Chinese Medicine is effective for treating many medical conditions, especially those related to people having
weak body constitutions. In my experience, I have helped patients with illnesses like
shingles (生蛇 / 带状疱疹) — and most of them recover completely after a two-week treatment plan.

For muscle pain-related conditions, a majority of patients experience significant relief within 1 to
3 sessions
 of acupressure massage,
cupping and gua sha (skin scraping).

As for TCM fertility treatments, the recommended length of treatment is generally 3 to 6 menstrual cycles
(1 TCM treatment cycle is 3 menstrual cycles), although there were a number of cases
where couples managed to conceive naturally within 3 menstrual cycles after following my instructions closely.


Also read: The Ultimate Guide to TCM Fertility Treatments in Singapore (2021)


As a TCM professional, I will not claim to be able to solve every health issue, especially if the patient’s
conditions require surgery
, in which case, I would advise patients to seek treatment at the hospitals.

Sometimes, TCM treatments work best concurrently with Western medicine. For example, a patient with blocked fallopian
tubes may have to go for IVF treatment and complementary TCM treatment 3 to 6 months before the
commencement of  IVF treatment can improve their chance of getting pregnant.

The efficacy of the Traditional Chinese Medicine treatments is dependent largely on the physician’s training and
areas of expertise, which makes it paramount to find a good practitioner that you can trust.

How should you prepare for a visit to the TCM physician in Singapore?

Come with an open mind. Bring your lab test reports, wear shorts and loose clothing if you are going for acupuncture,
and keep yourself relaxed. 🙂

The short answer is yes, it can.

TCM offers a way for healthcare providers to assess and clinically manage patients with mental health conditions and
integrates well with Western medicine.
[7]

For example, when treating infertility,
acupuncture has been shown to relieve stress and anxiety associated with the arduous IVF process,
and hence, increases your chances of conceiving. Other studies examined a decrease in stress for
patients with hypertension [8],
or lowering perceived stress in students and faculty
[9].


Also read: How does stress affect your fertility?


Beyond that, research into TCM in sleep and mood disorders supports
acupuncture for treating insomnia. Other research areas examine use of herbal medicine for psychotic
disorders like schizophrenia, and cognitive disorders like dementia. [10]


Also read: The Best Tips From A Singaporean Psychiatrist On How To Take Care Of Your Mental Health


Summary

I hope this article has helped you understand Traditional Chinese medicine better, and that now you have a clearer view of what seeing a TCM physician in Singapore is like. Acupuncture and herbal medicines date back at least 2,200 years with the earliest recorded use of it being in the 3rd century BCE. Perhaps it’s just what you need to help with your condition.

Learn more about Physician Tay and his practice here.

You may also read more on the topic of TCM here. We have an array of TCM-related articles and questions that will definitely be useful to you.


Most of the time, periods aren’t a pleasant experience. Unfortunately, as women, it is something we have to go through every month. Periods are important, though, because menstruation is our body’s way of cleansing and flushing out toxins naturally.

Irregular periods happen when our period cycles are too long or too short. This may be disconcerting and worrisome, but know that there are alternative remedies to help, such as Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) treatments, that can bring your period woes to an end.

What is an irregular period? 

On average, a period cycle lasts about 28 days, although it is perfectly normal for it to last a little shorter or longer than this.

However, if the duration of your period keeps changing, or if the cycle is longer than 35 days, it is known as an irregular period. [1] [2]

Generally, the main symptom of an irregular period is the varied length of the cycle or an unusually long cycle, but there could also be changes in blood flow or clots that are more than 2.5 cm in diameter.

Amenorrhoea is a phenomenon where one’s period stops coming completely. An absence of a period for 90 days or more is considered to be abnormal unless you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or undergoing menopause. Amenorrhoea also applies to those who haven’t started menstruating by age 15 or 16 or 3 years after breast development.

Oligomenorrhoea, on the other hand,  refers to periods that are infrequent. In this case, one only experiences about 4 to 9 periods per year. [3]


Read also: How does TCM help with amenorrhea in teens?


Some common causes of irregular periods include: [4]

Oligomenorrhoea could be a sign of a disease. The following could be reasons for oligomenorrhea: [3]


Read also: When are irregular periods a cause for concern? Do I need to get my hormone levels checked?


What is the TCM perspective on irregular periods? 

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a form of alternative medicine that dates as far back as the Han dynasty, over 23 centuries ago. Performed by licensed practitioners, TCM uses the concept of Qi as a force of life that can be regulated to prevent or treat diseases and ailments. Qi is altered by the complementary forces Yin and Yang, which can be manipulated through the use of traditional treatments such as acupuncture, cupping, tui na (massage) or a multitude of herbal remedies. [5]

TCM views irregular periods to be caused by deficient blood production due to an exhaustion in essence and blood that weakens the body. There may be blood stasis or stagnation of blood flow and dampness that obstructs channels in the body. [6]

TCM also regards irregular periods as an imbalance between the Yin and Yang of important organs, namely the spleen, kidney and liver. [7]

A period cycle can be viewed in four phases:

There is a descending flow of energy and old blood is expelled while new blood regenerates.

New blood and essence needs to fill the space in the body, and this can be done by strengthening the digestive system or kidneys.

This is an increase in kidney function that stimulates the ovaries for ovulation.

The yang energy from the kidney facilitates the implantation of the fertilised egg. In the event where there is no implantation, the yang energy peaks and then declines as menstruation begins again.

Irregular periods are when there are deviations from the above phases. Acupuncture can help to maintain regular period cycles.

Acupuncture through the use of needles on acupoints of meridians can stimulate the flow of energy and blood, enabling smooth flow of Qi in the body and organs to improve blood circulation.

Some important meridians include:

This vessel runs up the pubic area to the mouth and is important for pregnancy and often used to treat irregular periods.

This meridian is yang in nature, running from the tailbone up the midline of the back to the head. This vessel facilitates the body’s Yin-Yang balance.

This meridian passes through the uterus. It can be used to treat period or infertility problems, and is also used for digestive and respiratory issues.


Read also: The Ultimate Guide to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Fertility Treatments in Singapore (2021)


This meridian is used for reproductive issues and also muscular weakness.

How do Chinese and Western views differ for irregular periods?

Western medicine views the period cycle in two phases: The follicular phase (dominated by estrogen) and the luteal phase (dominated by progesterone).

Two areas of the brain influence your period — the hypothalamus and the pituitary — which control the release of hormones during your period. Western medicine believes that imbalances in the hormones may cause irregular periods. [8]

tcm approach towards irregular period

TCM views the period cycle in four phases: Blood, YinYang and Qi.

Blood Phase

This is the menstruation phase where blood should be nourished and Qi-circulating acupuncture points are avoided. Vigorous activities and stimulating foods should be avoided too. Herbs can help during this phase.

Yin Phase

There is an increase in estrogen during this time, which causes the lining of the uterus to thicken and the follicles to develop. Protein and mineral-rich foods (such as meats, eggs, leafy greens) can be consumed to replenish the blood and Yin.

Yang Phase

In this stage, the body shifts from building the uterine walls to preparing for implantation. If there is no fertilisation, the uterus prepares to shed its lining.

Qi Phase 

The levels of estrogen drop drastically and so do serotonin levels, which may result in a depressed mood or post-menstrual syndrome.

Mood swings, as well as physical symptoms of breast tenderness and bloating, are caused by Qi stagnation. Acupuncture points that circulate and smooth the Qi help to improve these symptoms.

What TCM treatments help with irregular periods? 

Acupuncture

Acupuncture for irregular periods

Here are some of the ways that acupuncture can help with irregular periods: [6]

Acupuncture activates the “energy gateways” to help with the stagnation of Qi or clear blockages in the body’s meridians. This stimulates energy and blood supply to improve blood circulation in the body.

Acupuncture can help increase energy levels and strengthen the immune system. Pathogens that disharmonise the body are eliminated.

When there is harmony between the Yin and Yang, or passive and active forces in the body, there will be improved health.

Acupuncture is also known to regulate the feedback loop between your brain and your ovaries known as the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Ovarian (HPO) axis. [9]


Read also: The Complete Guide to Seeing a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Physician in Singapore (2021)


What TCM herbs are there for irregular periods?

TCM herbs for irregular periods

The Sichuan Lovage Rhizome or Chuan Xiong is a powerful herb that helps blood to flow properly in the body, preventing blood stasis that can cause irregular menstruation. Western medicine views it to be anti-inflammatory, anti-spastic and an analgesic. [10]

Ding Jing Tang is a Chinese medicinal formula often used for Qi stagnation in the liver or kidney deficiencies to treat irregular menstruation. The herbal ingredients of Ding Jing Tang include: Chinese Dodder Seeds, White Peony root, Chinese Angelica Root and Cooked Rehmannia. [11]

Xiao Tao San (Free Wanderer Powder) can regulate liver qi and the blood while having a cooling effect. [12]

Some herbal remedies like black cohosh, chasteberry, licorice root and turmeric have been said to help, but their effectiveness has yet to be confirmed. Ginger is often used as a home remedy that relieves post-menstrual syndrome (PMS), but again there is no evidence to back this up. Do check with a doctor regarding what you can or cannot take if you have irregular periods.


Read also: How safe are TCM herbs in Singapore, given that China TCM herbs are known to contain high levels of lead, metals and pesticides?


What can I do or not do after TCM treatment for an irregular period?

You should avoid cold food and drinks, as well as exercise regularly and sleep early to maintain a good menstrual cycle.

What are the costs of TCM treatment for irregular periods?

Acupuncture for irregular periods cost about $30 to $80. [13]

What can I expect during my first consultation?

Do keep a menstrual calendar so as to describe your period patterns to your practitioner.

There will be an in-depth consultation with an experienced practitioner who will look at your lifestyle and emotional factors to see the cause of the Qi blockage.

Treatment will then involve a multi-prong approach of acupuncture, herbal medicine and lifestyle changes. [14]

What tips does TCM have for irregular periods? 

Yoga has been shown to help with irregular periods [15], as with other forms of exercise.

A study done on 220 participants showed that those who have a normal BMI are less likely to be affected by irregular periods as compared to those who were overweight. [16] Therefore, maintaining a healthy body weight is important to prevent irregular periods.

Vitamin D and calcium supplementation has been shown to help women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), of which include period regularity and ovulation. [17]


Read also: Can a low body fat percentage of 17.5% cause irregular periods?


Summary

Irregular periods can be worrying, but acupuncture and herbal medicines might just be the answer for you, along with proper lifestyle practices. It is always important to stay active, maintain a nutrition-rich diet, and keep your stress levels manageable. With the right treatment and guidance, you can get your menstrual cycle back to normal in no time.


You can read more about the topic of traditional chinese medicine (TCM) here. We have a wide array of articles and questions which will be helpful to you.


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