The torture that is called massage

One evening in Shenzhen when my neck had hurt like hell the whole day and I am not able to turn my head to the left, I decide to get a massage.

I find a blind-person massage place nearby and think that I should give it a try. In China the common job for a blind person seems to be masseur, but never so far have I come across a real blind person in these places. Until this evening.

After explaining where it hurts and a simple conversation, the masseur asks me:
“Where are you from?”
I: “I’m from Austria.”
He: “Aus-what?”
I: “Austria in Europe.”
He (surprised): “Oh, I see. I though that your accent was a bit unfamiliar.”

After a while I ask him:
“Since coming back to Shenzhen three weeks ago, I often have itchy eyes in the evenings. What is this connected to?”
He: “That’s too much internal heat!”

Stupid, I think. Not the masseur, but me. Everyone here drinks liangcha, “cooling tea”, all year round to counteract the effects of internal heat, a TCM term. Everyone talks about internal heat. For example, you shouldn’t eat too many lychees, pineapples or mangos is what they tell you in summer, because this will increase internal heat. Or that you shouldn’t eat food that is both spicy and greasy – exactly for the same reason. I should have thought of it sooner. But while for many Chinese it is obvious that something like itchy eyes is clearly a consequence of too much internal heat, a person not growing up with TCM concepts has a harder time figuring out what certain things are connected to. I make up my mind to drink the bitter liangcha more often in the future.

A little while into the massage, the masseur asks me: “Does it hurt?”
I: “Yes, it hurts a lot.”

I think that now that I told him he will use less pressure, but that’s not how it works. It only hurts when something is out of balance and to try to bring it into balance again it needs to hurt is what they tell you. When he is done with the massage, the masseur asks me if he should also apply guasha, or “scraping”, which could help me with my back pain. I have never tried guasha before, so I want to give it a try.

90 minutes later the torture that is called massage and guasha are finally over and I can go back home. When I arrive at my place, I look into the mirror. My back looks like somebody beat me up really badly and this night my neck and shoulders seem to hurt even more than before. But after a few more days the pain and the rash are both gone and I’m wondering if I’ll go get tortured again soon.

Have you ever tried TCM treatments? What are your experiences with them?

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7 thoughts on “The torture that is called massage

  1. Love this post! Reminds me of all the times when people used to tell me that the acne on my forehead had to do with too much heat. I’ve definitely done my share of massage — including blind — and indeed, it does feel like a beating, but it is oh-so effective and helpful. Hope you’re feeling better!


    • They told me the same thing. I haven’t been to a blind massage place lately, but went to a spa once in the meantime where they do great back massages and put some kind of “medicine” on your back that is really hot, cools off a bit and warms up itself again after a short while. Really interesting! My back doesn’t hurt anymore which is great. Thanks for dropping by, love your blog!


  2. I go to a local ‘tui na’ massage guy. First time it hurt as much as childbirth, and that’s saying a lot from me because I delivered both my boys the natural way without pain relief. I took my Dad there and he joked that he wondered what he had done as A father to deserve that or true. My masseur uses a piece of well-worn rams horn for guasha. He is an amazing healer, and I really notice the difference. But it’s no day spa.


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