Searching for a reliable Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) clinic in Singapore?
As an experienced TCM physician, I’m writing this article to help you understand TCM and clinics with physicians that practice TCM in Singapore. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has a long and rich history of more than 2,000 years.
Hopefully, it will shed some light for those of you who are interested in TCM. It covers important points that my patients, friends, as well as family often ask me about such as:
- How to find a trusted TCM clinic in Singapore
- The costs of TCM treatment in Singapore
- How a TCM clinic decides on the best treatment options for you
How much does it cost to visit a TCM clinic in Singapore?
The cost depends on the types of treatment involved and the duration of the treatment. Here's a general guide on the varying treatment costs.
Regular TCM Clinics
Premium TCM Clinics
$18 - $45
$40 - $110
$30 - $110
$30 - $80
$50 - $150
$40 - $130
$60 - $140
$20 - $60
$20 - $60
Herbal medication (depending on type and weight of prescription)
Pregnancy screening test
What affects the costs at a TCM clinic in Singapore?
The cost depends on two main factors:
- Types of treatment involved
- Duration of the treatment
The main forms of TCM treatment include:
- Herbal prescription
- Scraping & more
For chronic conditions, the treatment regime will usually take longer compared to acute conditions.
For example, the treatment regime for chronic conditions such as pain management issues will take longer as compared to an acute common cold treatment.
What should you expect from a TCM clinic physician's examination?
To begin, the patient will first register and get his or her triage taken. Triage refers to the process of determining the priority of patients' treatments based on the severity of their condition.
The physician will check the patient's readings. If the reading is way out of the normal range, such as temperature above 40 degree Celsius, we'll then advise the patient to seek western treatment first. The condition might require emergency attention, especially for young children.
After which, we will ask the patient for his or her main discomfort and the relevant information related to the issue. These include:
- Past medical history
- Family medical history
- Drug or food allergy
- Bowel movement
- Sleep pattern
For TCM, we collect more information related to the main discomfort that the patient is suffering through these 4 steps:
- Observing (望)
- Listening and smelling (闻)
- Inquiring (问)
- Taking pulse and physical checking (切)
An example of the process of a TCM diagnosis in Singapore
Situation: A patient comes in with stomach pain.
- We will observe (望) the way he/she walks and the location of the pain
- Listen (闻) to the strength of his/her voice, stomach growling if any
- Inquire (问) on the cause and duration of discomfort and any other related discomfort
- Take the pulse and check (切) the stomach for the location and the intensity of the pain
Thereafter we will explain the condition to the patient and advise him/her the best treatment option be it herbal prescription, acupuncture, or cupping etc.
We'll also further remind him or her of the specific diet control and other things to take note of.
What are the treatment options at a Singapore TCM clinic?
Typically, TCM treatment options include herbal prescription, acupuncture, cupping, scraping, and tui na, etc. The physician will assess the condition of the patient and thereafter suggest the treatment options for him or her.
Here's a breakdown of the different treatments and what it aims to do:
- Herbal prescription
A customised prescription of multiple herbs that is catered to the individual’s body constitution and the syndrome of the disease.
This type of treatment involves the insertion of hair-thin needles into specific acupoints on the body to elicit a healing response by regulating the flow of “Qi” in the body, thus restoring the health.
The insertion of the hair-thin needle into the acupoint is no more than a slight “ant bite” sensation. A patient might experience soreness, numbness or heaviness at certain acupoints thereafter.
Heat or an electric current will be used in conjunction with the needles to enhance the healing effects. The needles are typically left in the skin for 10-30 minutes while the patient rests, after which the physician will remove them.
For this, it involves a partial vacuum glass cup that is created by means of heat or suction and applied along the Meridians, on the patient’s body. The Meridian system is a concept in TCM about a path through which the life-energy that is known as "qi" flows.
When the cup is left in place, blood stasis is formed by the strong suction exerted. In some cases, the physician may slide the cup along the meridians on the body while it still adheres to the skin. This causes a regional pulling of the skin and muscle.
It is common to have distinctive circular marks on the skin after cupping. These marks will subside gradually, before disappearing completely in a few days' time.
The exact duration for the treatment may differ. That's determined by the complexity or sensitivity of a patient’s conditions as well as their treatment needs.
This treatment works by applying pressure to acupoints, meridians, and groups of muscles or nerves. This is to remove blockages that prevent the flow or circulation of Qi and blood. Generally, a Tui Na session will last between 15-60 minutes.
The exact duration for the treatment may differ. It is determined by the complexity or severity of a patient’s conditions as well as their treatment needs. If you feel a little sore for a day or two following a session, it is completely normal.
- Scraping or “Gua Sha”
The physician uses a scraping tool to scrape the skin according to the direction of the blood flow. This is done by applying friction in repeated even strokes on the skin, over the area where muscles are tense or tight. Bruises will appear in the applied areas and usually fade off and disappear within two to four days.
How does a TCM physician decide on the best treatment options for you?
TCM physicians adopt a holistic approach in diagnosing a disease. We will first assess your unique body constitution and the disease syndrome. Then, we are able to suggest the best treatment option for you.
For instance, we will recommend acupuncture and herbal medication for patients with migraines.
However, if you have low blood pressure and are experiencing any giddiness on that day, we will not recommend acupuncture. This is because acupuncture promotes the circulation of Qi and blood. This might aggravate the giddiness caused by low blood pressure.
Do TCM physicians in Singapore have specialisations like western doctors?
First and foremost, you need to understand the main difference between TCM and western diagnosis and treatment.
In TCM, we diagnose disease through syndrome differentiation. We start by taking the following factors into account:
- Patient's unique body constitution
- Causative factors of the disease
- Symptoms that individual displays reacting to the disease
Every treatment is created and customised for each individual.
For example: A common cold can be caused either by wind-heat syndrome or wind-cold syndrome, and the prescriptions for these two conditions can differ drastically.
However, someone with hives could also be diagnosed with the wind-heat syndrome.
Different diseases can have the same syndrome. Likewise, the same disease can also have different syndromes.
Therefore, we approach a disease from a holistic view. We don't just focus on the disease itself.
TCM practitioners are able to make a diagnosis for all diseases through our system of syndrome differentiation. There's currently no specific specialisation in TCM in Singapore.
However, some TCM physicians are more proficient and competent in treating specific conditions. They have had many years of practice and have accumulated more experience in specific areas of interests.
TCM physicians in Singapore can also further their studies in specific fields of interest to gain more insights and exposure. This will help them to be more accomplished physicians.
How can you find the best TCM clinic in Singapore for your needs?
To me, there is no “best” TCM clinic. What you need is to find a registered physician whom you are comfortable with. When you feel at ease, you are then able to communicate freely with the physician about your pains and discomfort.
Any physician whom you can trust and have faith in for good advice and treatment is a good physician to you.
Ask for recommendations from friends & family
If you are not sure of where to start with, you can always ask for a recommendation from your friends or relatives who have sought TCM treatment before. Most of the time, they will be able to give you some advice on clinics and physicians to visit. Most of my patients are recommended by their friends and family members who have seen me before.
Personally, I always make it a point to explain profound TCM theories to my patients in simple terms. It is important for you to understand your body constitution well, so that you know what is going on in your body that is causing the illness.
After my diagnosis, I then recommend the most appropriate treatment regime for them. However, if my patient feels very strongly about certain prescriptions, I will always respect their decision. I will work with them to come up with alternative ways to treat it. It is effective communication that helps to foster a greater bond between us.
I hope this article helps those of you who are keen on exploring TCM!
Associate Senior Physician Lin Xiao Yan is a registered TCM physician with Eu Yan Sang. All TCM physicians are meticulously selected by their internal Medical Board and licensed by the TCM Practitioners Board, a regulatory body under the charge of the Ministry of Health. She has more than 5 years of clinical experience and is an expert in acupuncture and cupping.