Acupuncture in Hong Kong

Mrs B Senior has been in town for an extended visit. Complaining of a very painful shoulder, she's been recommended to give accupuncture a try. After several weeks' treatment, what's the verdict?

Mum's got in to a regular routine now, heading along to the doctor's every afternoon. Each treatment lasts for between 30 minutes and two hours, though it's never a continuous treatment. Instead the doctor starts with a check on what's hurting, puts some needles in her head (click photo for a bigger image)

then sends her out to sit for a while. The needles don't hurt as they go in, but as the doctor jiggles them she says she feels something like an electric shock, and that can be very painful. There's quite a social atmosphere in the waiting room, as pretty much the same people are there for treatment at the same time every day. Several of them have become unpaid translators, helping the doctor communicate with Mum!

Chinese people are not surprised to hear about the problem -- in fact, Mr B's Mandarin teacher said knowingly "Ah, 50-year shoulder" when she heard about these acupuncture sessions. The doctor says that some problem -- usually a minor injury -- causes the person to start limiting the movement of their shoulder. As time goes by, the muscles in the shoulder start sticking together, further imobilising the shoulder and upper arm, and making it more painful. If left untreated, gradually the problem extends throughout the arm.

Back at the doctors, the second part of the treatment gets underway. The needles are taken out from the head, and a different longer set of needles are used in the limbs and body. This part can often seem miraculous. The doctor will find a movement that hurts mum, then insert a needle and ask her to try the movement again. Hey presto, no pain any more! This doctor says his speciality is in helping remove people's pain. There is also extended and vigorous massage, aimed at pulling apart those stuck-together muscles and getting everything moving. The doctor has very strong fingers, as the bruises show.

So, what's the final verdict ? Generally, after the treatment and for the next day, there is no pain in the shoulder, and it can be moved freely. However when we went away from Hong Kong for a five-day break, the problem came back with a vengeance. The doctor would prefer to give less frequent treatments but over a longer time, instead of this intensive treatment during Mum's short stay. The final proof will be in hearing how Mum gets on after she returns to the UK.

However, there is no doubt that the doctor is both skilled and hard-working. We have several friends who have been very happy with the results of their treatment, and younger patients have been fully repaired after just five sessions. So, if there is a persistent pain that you can't get rid of, and if you're not squeamish about needles, it's definitely worth a try.


Acupuncture update

I've just finished my first course of Acupuncture, so thought a report was due. First an update on Mum though.

It's over six years since she went along for the acupuncture shown above, and she's been happy with the long-term results. She's had very little pain in that shoulder since. Then when she visited us last November, she complained about pain in her other shoulder - get those needles sharpened!

She reported good results again, so when I had a sudden, sharp hip pain last month, I thought I'd give it a try.  I'd been along to my usual GP first, who diagnosed it as a back problem, told me to rest, and gave me some painkillers. I hoped that acupuncture would help take away the pain faster, and without the pills.

I went along to the Baptist University's Chinese Medicine Clinic (details below), where mum had gone for her treatment last year. The doctor is one of the teachers from the University, and had a couple of advantages over the first one Mum visited in 2002. First, he speaks good English, second it was less than half the price - around $300 a session. The only downside I could see is that as it's a teaching environment, sometimes there are students watching the doctor at work - the doctor did all the diagnosing and jabbing though!

Each session started with a chat about how the pain was, then I'd lay face down to have the needles stuck in. 8-10 each time, in my back, hip, calf, and ankle. Then he'd turn on a heater lamp with a timer. Halfway through he'd give the needles a twiddle, then when the timer pinged I was 'done', and he'd take the needles out.

To start with he said there would be four treatments, then a review, and that I could expect 4 - 8 treatments in all. Sure enough, today's visit was number 6, the last one. I felt a lot better after the first treatment, and got steadily better since. There's only a slight pain left, but he gave me a set of exercises to do, and the remaining pain should go over time.

So the key question - do the needles hurt? Not much when he first sticks them in. Certainly less than when a doctor pricks your thumb for a blood sample. But as he moves them in deeper there can be a sharp pain as he finds the right spot. Or sometimes an ache, or sometimes a numbness. The conversation is a bit disconcerting, as it is repeated for each needle:

Dr: Does it hurt?

Me: No... no... no.. yes... YES!

Dr: Good.

It doesn't hurt much after that, until he comes back and gives the needles the half-time twiddle. After they're out, he warned me there can be a slight discomfort for the next 24 hours or so - some visits I had that, other times there was nothing.

I asked him what he thought acupucnture was best for. "Relieving pain" he said. "Neck pain and back pain are common problems we treat, headaches too." So, if you're suffering from some type of pain, acupuncture could be something to try.

They have clinics in Sheung Wan, TST, and at the Baptist University. Details here. Give them a call (the receptionists speak English) to make an appointment to see an English-speaking doctor. I saw Dr Kwok Dung-Fong.

You'll have to register on your first visit. A minor grumble is that the centres' computers don't seem to be connected, so you'll have to register again if you visit more than one clinic - but after that everything is straightforward.

If you do try it, please write back and let us know how you got on.



I enjoy your article about your mom's and yours experience.

I am looking for a place to learn accupuncture in Hong Kong or China, your information is very helpful. Are you taking classes?

If you don't mind, i would like to communicate with you in the future for more information since you have probably done a lot of research.

Thanks again.


There are 3 universities offering  5-year degree programs in Chinese medicine: HK University, Chinese University and Baptist University. Courses are offered in Chinese (Cantonese and  Mandarin). All three offer selected non-degree programs in Chinese medicine such as Chinese massage but none in accupuncture that I know of. One can arrange private lessons from traditional Chinese doctors but the courses are conducted in Chinese. After that you could only practise on yourself as it won't entitle you to practise on others. As practise is key to this craft, I am not sure how useful it would be... Let us know if you find more information.

re: Acupuncture

Vera - sorry, I've only been the customer, never done any classes.

Sophia - that's helpful info, thanks for finding it.


Thanks for your information. I am exploring the opportunities learning accupuncture in Southern China. If i find anything, i will let you know.