Managing Pain: East-West Alliance

For the past three years, Eu Yan Sang’s senior physician, Tang Yue, has been collaborating with Dr Bernard Lee, Director of the Interventional and Chronic Pain Management Service sessional clinic at the KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital. The clinic is open only on Wednesdays.

One Aim, Two Approaches

“Both Western medicine and TCM principles are aimed at reversing the underlying abnormal processes; it’s just that they use different approaches,” says Dr Lee, explaining why these two modalities work well together to relieve pain symptoms.

Western medicine


Drugs are prescribed to stop an inflammation

Treatment involves correcting imbalances in the body that resulted in the inflammation or nerve dysfunction in the first place

Although she acknowledges that Western medication is often administered first before other modalities are considered, Senior Physician Tang asserts that the “treatment can be supplemented by acupuncture to soothe nerves and facilitate blood circulation.”

The clinic bridges the gap between surgery and conservative treatment approaches, while TCM can be used as supportive therapy after the inflammation subsides. By regulation, only acupuncture is allowed to be offered in this clinic as a supplement to Western medicine.

Types of Pain

“There is no conflict between TCM and Western medicine on treatment of chronic pain conditions,” insists Dr Lee. “It doesn’t mean that TCM is a default for certain conditions, nor is it a last resort.”

In fact, he explains that TCM and Western medicine are complementary when it comes to managing chronic pain. “There is a lot that TCM and pain management speciality can do together to help patients,” he reveals, listing the following problems:

  • frozen shoulders
  • plantar fasciitis
  • slipped discs
  • neck and back pains

Other conditions the clinic treats include:

  • general body aches
  • headaches
  • foot pain
  • osteoarthritis of the knees

Patient Profile

“There are many patients with chronic pain who do not get better from standard treatment. This increase in demand is more about patients wishing a more holistic approach to their condition,” reveals Dr Lee. The clinic sees twice as many women as men, and they come from a wide range of age and occupation, although a large portion of them are peri-menopausal.

This kind of collaboration is quite unique; as far as Dr Lee knows, it doesn’t exist in Western countries. But, as far as the hospital is concerned, TCM is complementary — not mainstream — medicine.

Although they acknowledge that pain issues can’t be completely eradicated, both Senior Physician Tang and Dr Lee advise patients to consume foods with more calcium and perform exercises that strengthen bones and muscles, as these lifestyle changes will go a long way to prevent a recurrence of pain.

Herbal Plaster and Herbal Plaster Plus

Whether you prefer Western science or traditional Chinese medicine, these plasters can address some of your pain points. Containing wintergreen oil, they are great for relieving muscular aches and pains in the shoulders and the back, as well as discomfort due to arthritis and rheumatism.

These plasters are easy to apply, painless to remove, yet they stay put even with vigorous movements. Effective, long-lasting and non-staining, they are halal-certified and packed in a GMP-certified factory.

This is an adaptation of an article, “Pain Pain Go Away”, which first appeared in Issue 7 of Natura magazine