I Paid Someone to Bruise Me with a Metal Rod (in the Name of Traditional Chinese Medicine)


Last spring, my lower back was really hurting. It’s a long story that started with, “ow, my back really hurts”, and ended, many months later, with “thank goodness my back no longer hurts,” but what’s important here is the story of what fixed it.  Not because it is good medical advice (although I would recommend it to others), but because it is so, so weird. It’s called the Magnetic Fork (kind of… it doesn’t really translate well).

Now, before I tell you how I dropped so low as to resort to the Magnetic Fork,  you need to understand how I got to that point.


Chapter 1: What Led Me to the Fork

I wish there was a better way to start this, such as “I was wakeboarding in choppy water, when…” or “after two consecutive hours of hot yoga, as I was moving into my final inversion…” but, I’m going to be honest: one day, I woke up and my back hurt.

I completed the standard check-list for back aches: drank some water, popped some Panadol (Chinese Tylenol), and packed a handy-dandy hot water bottle to bring to the office.

What’s a hot water bottle, you ask?

This hot water bottle was borrowed (read: stolen) from my former roommate, who used it to keep her crotchety old schnauzer warm in the depths of Hong Kong winter. Valuing my comfort over her dog’s (he does have a coat of fur), I snatched the bottle and didn’t look back.

Trying not to draw attention to the fact that the cool, new 24-year old analyst (that’s me describing myself) that my company had just hired had the chronic back pain of a 60-year old, I would sneakily fill the bottle with hot water in the pantry and then rest it against my back while sitting in my chair. All was going well until the bottle leaked and I looked like I peed myself.

I needed a more aggressive approach than leaky dog bottles.

I scheduled an appointment with an orthopaedics doctor, who examined my back, tapped my knees with the red rubber thing, hemmed and hawed, then decided – nothing is wrong, it’s just muscular. Solution? Here are some pain killers to help in the mean time.

A week later, the pain meds were gone (that week was a haze), and my back was throbbing once more. I hobbled back over to the clinic and met with a GP, who chucked me another baggy full of pain meds and decided I also needed a shot in the butt. One spikey injection to the buttock later, I was limping home with throbbing numbness down one leg and a frown on my face.

It was time to take matters into my own hands. No more pain meds, no more butt shots.


Chapter 2: How I Chose the Fork (or, How the Fork Chose Me)

This is where my dear masseuse friend Lisa enters the story. Lisa loved to up-sell me. While rubbing my back, she would rattle off the prices and discounts for various packages in Mandarin. I usually had no idea what she was talking about and would respond with an encouraging “mhm”.

To refresh your memory, this is Lisa (read this other blog post on her if you missed it)

One day, I accidentally “mhm”-ed something I should not have, because Lisa eagerly responded, “okay!” and left the room. A few minutes passed, with me wondering where Lisa had gone to, before she came back, wielding a three-pronged metal rod. Waving it around, she kept calling it 磁叉 “ci cha” (which I later learned means magnetic fork) and praised its healing powers in unblocking my lymphatic system’s congestion. At the time, I really had no idea what she was promising because why would I know how to say any of those words in Mandarin.

the magnetic fork

Taking the path of least resistance (my modus operandi), I smiled encouragingly at her and her mysterious tool and laid my head back down. She proceeded to drag this weird metal pitchfork repeatedly down my back in long strokes. The torture session was delightfully painful.

I somehow agreed to buying a 10-session package of the Magnetic Fork, which they promoted as “Magnetothrapy“. No idea where the magnets or the thrapy came into play, but I was hooked.

ah yes, magnetothrapy, of course


Chapter 3: The Fork Leaves its Mark

刮痧 “gua sha” (spooning or scraping) is a recognized form of Traditional Chinese Medicine, where a smooth-edged instrument is repeatedly rubbed down the body’s key meridian lines, causing light bruises to appear in congested areas that have “blood stagnation”.

磁叉 “ci cha” is not this. If you Google it, in Mandarin or in English, very few results pop up, except for Chinese vendors promising you a cure-all for chubby backs, poochy stomachs, saggy boobs, and eye bags. I had stumbled upon a miracle cure!!

But what they don’t tell you is, if you’re experiencing back pain or stiffness, that means you have a lot of “congested blood”, which will become BRUISES post-magnetic fork. For a few months, Lisa would bruise me up weekly and ugly as it is, the magnetic fork was the only thing to help my chronic back pain go away!


My back after a recent 20-minute session when I did not have back pain. You can see some faint red vertical lines but no blocked blood = no bruising.


My legs and hip after a 40-minute session during my chronic back pain period. Lisa would focus the session solely on my lower back and legs (since legs and butt affect lower back pain).

Interestingly, the more sessions I did, the less my body would bruise afterwards, so it seemed like there was some congestion being unblocked!

The take-away of all this? If your back is hurting and you don’t mind some ugly bruises, go forth and unblock those meridian lines with the Magnetic Fork!

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