As the daughter of two medical doctors I’ve always placed great stock in using Western medicine to treat ailments and illnesses. But what if you’re not sick with infection or injury, but just not feeling at peak health? How do you recover faster from heavy training? It’s there where the scientific and medical community is still trying to figure things out.
Meanwhile, there are some doctors out there who merge their medical training with traditional healing practices (also known as complementary medicine). My aunt, who is also also a doctor, runs N’dea Day Spa on Taft Avenue. Not only do they offer regular spa services like facials, manicures and pedicures, and the like, but they also offer medical services like body sculpting using ultrasonic cavitation, RF, sculptone, and non-surgical fat reduction and non-surgical cosmetic procedures. They also have a doctor who comes along by appointment to perform traditional Chinese medicine therapies like acupuncture and ventosa, which are supposedly good for helping the body recover. So after my two weekends of racing and really putting my body through its paces, my aunt suggested that I see Dr. Jeannie Talavera.
Dr. Jeannie trained not only as a medical doctor — her specialty is anesthesia — but also studied Oriental medicine at the Ateneo de Manila. She also has clinic hours at the St. Luke’s Medical Center in Quezon City and Bonifacio Global City.
I wanted to get acupuncture done on my legs due to my aching iliotibial band (studies have shown acupuncture is an effective treatment for knee pain). Dr. Jeannie asked me to lie back on one of the spa’s massage tables, then asked me about my training. I told her I had just come off two races and would be restarting proper training again soon. She said that there was a certain timing to getting acupuncture done, and that it should be done during rest periods. As the big performance day approaches, it’s not advisable to get acupuncture one because, in her words, “babagsak ang katawan” — the body will weaken.
“Pinned”. I didn’t want to disturb the needles!
I told her about the pain down the side of my right leg, and she said it didn’t sound like muscle or nerve pain. Rather, it sounded as if the fascia, the thin sheath of fibrous tissue binding together and enclosing my muscles, were inflamed and causing the pain.
needles along meridians on my thigh and wrist
She inserted the needles with light flicks from her fingers, and I didn’t feel any pain. The sensation was more of feeling the needles go in. There was also a strange slight electric current between the needles running down my legs, which she said was a good thing.
Based on my limited understanding of acupuncture, the insertion of needles is meant to open the flow of energy along natural lines or “meridians” in the body. I guess if I didn’t feel the current it would mean the needles hadn’t been inserted properly.
Dr. Jeannie then asked if I were interested in ventosa. I’d seen some videos of professional athletes getting cupping done as an aid to recovery, and some Olympic swimmers have also showed up to their meets with cupping marks on their backs. Of course I said yes I was very much interested!
Ventosa is practiced across many cultures and is touted to promote healing by drawing out illnesses and impurities from deep in the body upward into the skin where these can be released. The medical explanation runs along the lines of the cupping increasing blood circulation to injured areas, which helps the body heal itself.
I flipped over onto my belly and Dr. Jeannie started by applying some massage oil onto my back to make the cups glide along easier.
There are several different methods of cupping. The first one she performed was massage cupping, which involved moving the cups along the skin over the areas to be worked on. She then did momentary cupping, popping the cups on and off quickly all over my back. The last method was stationary cupping, and she left the cups on for five minutes.
I didn’t feel any pain as the cups were applied to my back. I was aware of the sensation of skin being drawn into the cup, but there wasn’t much discomfort even when Dr. Jeannie left them in place. It was a new experience and I was too amused by the whole thing happening to feel any fear about the procedure.
Feels interesting. Looks weird!
immediately after removal of cups
a minute after removal
If you’ll notice, only a few spots turned an angry reddish purple. The rest of them returned to normal color. This means that the dark spots are areas where the muscles are injured or overworked. It makes sense; the two dark spots on the left are because when I’m on my bike on my aerobars, I bear down more weight on my left side. On the right side near the shoulder blade there’s another dark spot, and that’s because my swim coach and I worked heavily on my right arm’s catch two days previously.
These complementary medicine therapies aren’t just for curing, but are also recommended for preventing inflammation and injury. Dr. Jeannie’s asked me to keep coming back at least once a week until two weeks before my next race. I hope this helps me recover faster so I can work harder without breaking down. Let’s see what happens.
N’dea Day Spa is located at 2444 Taft Avenue, Malate, Manila (across De La Salle University).