Chinese acupuncture

We try needle technique at Beijing Tong Ren Tang

The clinic

Right next door to City Hospital, the small clinic is simple, clean and typically Chinese – lucky red knots and diagrams illustrating acupuncture points adorn the walls, and dark-wood furnishings pervade.

The promise

Founded in 1669, Beijing Tong Ren Tang claims to have supplied medicine to China’s Imperial families since the Qing Dynasty. Today, the clinic blends ‘traditional techniques’ with modern science and technology.

Step by step

After being greeted with a herbal tea, I’m shown the ancient ginseng roots on display, which are incorporated into TRT Beijing’s (hugely expensive) herbal remedies. However, I’m here with a bad ankle, not to mention a nasty knot in between my shoulders, so have been booked in for an acupuncture session followed by an acupressure massage (tui na).

First, though, I need to sit down for a check-up. The kindly Chinese female doctor takes my pulse, checks my tongue, and gently massages the parts of my body I’ve complained about. We then head to the treatment room, where I’m ordered to undress. I’m unsure whether I heard the order correctly, but it’s barked at me again and I strip down to my underpants. I lie face down on the bed, and the doctor gently insert needles into pressure points between my shoulders. The sensation is odd, best described as a dull form of cramp, which becomes sharp as soon as one of the needles pierces one of the problematic areas.

My pain is apparently a result of blockages in the flow of energy (qi) around the body (via meridians), and the purpose of acupuncture is to rid the body of such blockages. Certainly, the needles in my ankle cause the greatest amount of discomfort – after a mild bout of panic on my behalf, I’m assured this is normal.

The needles are removed to make way for the tui na session, administered by a Chinese lady whose petite frame belies her strength. With unspeakable force, she works over my shoulders and legs, forcing me to grit my teeth so as not to yelp with pain. Yet the massage feels far more thorough than the ‘relaxing’ oily rubdowns offered by most Dubai spas.

The results

Afterwards, the knot in my shoulder has been comprehensively beaten out, and the muscle that was hindering movement in my ankle certainly feels looser.


• It’s strange that I should feel so relaxed after being stabbed in various parts of my body and being so vigorously pummelled, but I do.


• The needles mean acupuncture is not for the squeamish.
• Though I feel much better after my treatment, the acupuncture leaves a dull ache around my ankle. However, three to five sessions of acupuncture or tui na are recommended, so don’t expect quick-fix results after just one.

Also try

Synergy Integrated Medical Centre
Offers cupping and acupuncture as well as dietary massage.
Initial consultation Dhs500; follow-up Dhs300. Al Wasl Road, Umm Suqeim (04 348 5452).

Dhs200 for initial consultation, Dhs350 for a one-hour tui na massage. Beijing Tong Ren Tang, Dubai Healthcare City (800 826).

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