Sore Muscles? Jet Lag? Try Korean Hand Therapy

by Jeremy Ferguson, Toronto Star, 07/06/2007


Jet lag? Fatigue? Hangover? In Seoul, do as the Koreans do and pay a visit to your nearest hand acupuncture therapist – who may turn out to be your hotel concierge or chambermaid.

SooJi Chim, or Korean hand therapy, is similar to Chinese acupuncture but calls for mini-needles and is done only in the hand. replica watches

The lengthy list of afflictions to be bettered or cured by Dr. Tae-Woo Yoo's treatment includes headache, asthma, insomnia, fatigue, hangover, snoring, upset stomach and the common cold.

It sounds too good to be true. It's painless. Press "pellets" or patches can be as effective as needles. No preparation is necessary. With a little training, you can do it yourself. Most amazingly, it works.

KHT, as it's called, is on the move. Dr. Yoo's Koryo Hand Therapy Institute has 14 branches in Seoul, and more than 150 elsewhere in Korea. Some 27 foreign branches have opened in the U.S., Canada, Australia, Germany, Spain and other countries. It's even showing up on North American spa menus.

"I love working with KHT and use it daily," says Debra Gibson, a Vancouver doctor of traditional Chinese medicine who's specialized in allergies and chronic disorders for 12 years. "I think Dr. Yoo's work is a revival – a popularization – of an older Chinese therapy dating back at least 300 years.

"The hand becomes a reflex zone for the body and it works: Anything you can do with body acupuncture, you can do with hand therapy. When I travel, I often use it on friends and people I meet."

KHT doesn't pretend to be a substitute for surgery.

"You have a car accident, you see a medical doctor," says tour guide Myung Sung Kim. "You have sore muscles or a digestion problem, you see a hand therapist."

Kim tells of one of her clients, a tourist suddenly felled by something he'd eaten.

"He was part of a group of American students. He was pale. He was cold. He was getting chills and shivers," she recalls. "But we weren't near any kind of therapy centre. We had no needles. The bus driver, who knew about hand therapy, used a pin sterilized with a cigarette lighter. One pinprick and the American began to breathe easily. His body warmed up and he recovered quickly. The professors, who had been skeptical, were amazed."

Dr. Yoo turned to the hand after curing a severe headache with a needle to a particularly painful part of a fingertip. Further studies persuaded him "the hand was the homunculus of the human body."

Charting the hand like a map, he discovered 14 micro-meridian systems and 345 acupuncture points corresponding to the organs of the body. From here on in, the links became disarmingly simple. A tool resembling a ballpoint pen applies the tiny needles.

"It's really very comfortable most of the time," says one patient. "It's much less invasive than acupuncture. The needles stay in for about half an hour."

One Canadian tourist opted for the patches.

"My problem was knees and legs," she says. "A nurse asked me what I'd like to address. I said my knees were sore and my legs were tired, because we'd been doing so much walking and climbing.

"My feeling was I was out of balance. I mentioned this and she just smiled. She applied magnetic patches to my fingers – the sides of my baby finger and my second finger, and to the palms of my hands.

"Then we left to do more touring and climbing. But I noticed my legs weren't so tired and my knees felt better. The catch was, my feet were killing me. My knees were hurting so much, I'd forgotten to mention my feet.

"Was it the therapy? Was it mind over matter? Did I will my knees to stop hurting or did it really work? Well, I came away with a box of patches and I've been using them ever since."

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