When "beaten' black and blue is good for you

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A man receives cupping therapy at a traditional medicine hospital in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo by Thanh Tung

In eastern medicine, a bruise is not a problem to be treated, but a treatment for other maladies.

Eastern medicine has the flow of qi (natural energy or energy flow) as its central principle.

Its therapies cure pains by making sure that the flow is clear, by putting pressure on the blood flow to mobilize it.

That leaves the skin bruised, usually with some patterns.

Eastern medicine doctors say that although bruise therapy is only considered an alternative to mainstream remedies, it has been there for a very long time.

Millions of Vietnamese adults have received the treatment as it is simple, cheap and effective for certain conditions.

Doctor Tran Duy Linh said bruising can remove pain and cure cold and nausea, because these conditions are caused by blockage to qi.

"When a person starts getting a cold, cold air penetrates the body through the eyes, then moves to the head, down the ears, neck, shoulders and the spinal cord until the belt.

"That's why it causes pain to the head, eyes, neck and back."

The most popular form of bruising is done by scraping a hard, smooth item, preferably  a round-shaped silver one, on the back, shoulders, and along the spinal cord, after applying herbal oil on the skin.

Pinching of the forehead, and soft skin areas like the front of the neck, temples and belly is another way the therapy is used.

Cupping therapy is a more complicated form, and is sometimes offered in massage parlors as part of the service.

The practitioners create a partial vacuum in cups either by means of heat or suction and press the cups on the skin. It does not use oil and there is the risk of burns.

Linh also warned that bruising does not always work, and can be risky for people with heart diseases, or those with dermatological conditions.

Bruising heavily or for a long time at one spot is unnecessary as it only damages the skin, and can break thin blood vessels under the skin and cause hematoma, he said.

Doctor Nhu Ta said the practice is not recommended for pregnant women and children.

It can cause more pain than they can bear, and also be dangerous in cases where the child suffers from dengue fever by worsening hemorrhage, if any. He said the disease starts with similar symptoms as a cold, like fever, headache and physical pain.

Children having a cold can receive the therapy by rubbing directly with hands or a bag of peeled boiled egg containing a piece of silver.

As the principle of bruising therapy is to get rid of the cold air in the body, it should be done in closed rooms and the person needs to keep warm afterward.

The therapy can be facilitated with warm drinks and foods such as porridge or ginger tea.

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