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Neck Hurt? This Medical Massage Clinic Can Help

Jing Yi Wei (颈医卫) is a Shanghai-based chain of physiotherapy clinics that focuses on treating neck and lower back issues. Its services and staff are more specialized than you'd find at your aver...
2010-06-14 07:40:33
Photos: SmSh Photographers

Jing Yi Wei (颈医卫) is a Shanghai-based chain of physiotherapy clinics that focuses on treating neck and lower back issues. Its services and staff are more specialized than you'd find at your average massage parlor: each clinic has doctors — actual doctors who went to medical school — who use high-tech medical machines in order to assess the condition of the spine and surrounding muscles. The idea is that their specialists are there to help clients through treatment programs that target the root causes of a client's neck or lower back problem, rather than just providing temporary relief through a one-off massage.

SmartTicket is offering deals on Jing Yi Wei's services for first-timers! Scroll to the bottom of this post for info on how to book.

Another thing about Jing Yi Wei is that it is not one of those expat-centric international clinics. Its staff doesn't really speak English. On the other side of that, of course, is that its clinics don't charge the high level of fees of international clinics. And it's covered by several types of insurance (check with your provider first).

But you're going to need some essential Chinese vocabulary to avail yourself of Jing Yi Wei's specialist services. First off, know the difference between jing zhui and yao zhui. The first is your cervical vertebra — the bones at the back of your neck. The latter is your lumbar vertebra, or lower backbone. The services are mostly split between these two areas.

Here's what the full jing zhui targeted treatment package — which includes a doctor examination of the cervical vertebra, neck and shoulder areas, plus 50-60 minutes of massage — looks like, at 298rmb.


First you fill out a questionnaire, giving yourself a rating of 1 to 5 on a variety of physical and psychological issues, from back pain to how well you sleep and whether you often feel anxious. This introductory form is in English as well as Chinese, so it should only take a minute or two to fill in. Then, you go into the doctor's office for a quick interview.

The questions are:

1. What issue(s) would you like to have examined and addressed? Is it the result of an injury, or do you have any past injuries in the area the doctor should know about?

2. How long has the pain existed, and have you have had any prior treatment for it (including other forms of massage)?

3. Do you have (or have recently experienced) any chest pains?

4. Do you currently do any exercises that may affect the problem area(s)?

5. Do you get massages? If so, how often?

We’d recommend that you run your responses to these questions through Google Translate and screenshot those answers for the doctor to read on the day of your appointment. It’s also a very good idea to know exactly what areas on your body you would like to focus on and make sure you have that terminology down before you go, too.

For many white-collar workers, the issue is the same: neck and shoulder pain resulting from muscle stiffness caused by being in the same seated position for too long, exacerbated by looking at computer screens or phones all day. Poor sitting posture might also cause lower back issues that can even extend down into the upper legs. When we visited, the first question the doctor asked was “do you spend a lot of time working on computers?”.


刺痛 (ci tong) - sharp or stabbing pain
酸痛 (suan tong) - sore/aching pain
麻痛 (ma tong) - tingling pain
理疗 (li liao) / 理疗师 (li liao shi) - physiotherapy / physiotherapist
炎症 (yan / yan zheng) - inflammation
慢性疼痛 (man xing teng tong) - chronic pain
疗法 (liao fa) - treatment/ therapy

脖子 (bozi) - neck
肩膀 (jian bang) - shoulder
颈椎 (jing zhui) - cervical vertebra / backbone
腰椎 (yao zhui) - lumbar vertebra / lower backbone
肌肉 (ji rou) - muscle
骨骼 (gu ge) - bone(s)
神经 (shen jing) - nerve(s)
肌肉结节 (ji rou jie jie) - muscle knot(s)

(jin) - tight
凸出 (tu chu) - to protrude/stick out
敷贴 (fu tie) - plasters for muscle tension relief/recovery


After this, he or she will come around to your chair and examine your cervical vertebra, neck and shoulder, searching for abnormalities and pain points by pressing into bits of bone and muscle. You might wince a bit here, since the doctor is trying to pick up on where you're hurting or uncomfortable to get a better idea of your condition.

He or she will probably ask you "tong ma?" (does it hurt?) but note that tong is a very general word for pain. In Chinese, there's a difference between a sharp, stabbing pain (ci tong) and suan tong, which describes the kind of soreness and aches that occur when you're receiving a massage. If you answer "suan tong" the doctor will nod and continue with the examination, but if you say it's ci tong or simply say tong with an obviously pained expression, he or she should stop.

This part of the process might be where those with little or no Chinese skills might begin to struggle. Pointing to certain parts of your body can help, but most important is to not feel overwhelmed; this part of the process is largely basic, standard procedures before the next stages, which become more personalized and specific. So, don’t sweat it too much if you’re missing parts here and there.


After about five minutes, the doctor will lead you into another room, which is set up with enlarged computer screens and a reverse chair to kneel on and plant your face into. The doctor presses a U-shaped wand into the back of your neck a few times, starting at the top and moving down the spine. This shows the shape of each vertebra and its surrounding muscle tissue on the computer screens, after which the doctor will point out areas that look stiff or abnormal.

This machine is from an American company called Sigma Instrument, so the names of the vertebrae and muscles showing on the screen are in English. This is useful if you know medical terminology, but even if you don't, something like "upper trapezius" points directly at the image of a shoulder, so you'd have a pretty good idea what's going on.

Here, the doctor may point out specific vertebrae, which are clearly labeled on the screen, that may need special focus or concern. On one screen each vertebra is represented by a line on a graph; the closer to flat the line is, the better, so any vertebrae that show a steep up-and-down curve is one that could prove to be an issue. You may want to note down the vertebrae names that your doctor points out to you so that you can do some of your own research into it later on.

This is where things might get trickier language-wise, not only when it comes to identifying what exactly the lines on the screen mean, but what the implications might be for your health. Even those with above average Chinese might not be able to pick up on terms like ‘blood pressure’ (xie ya / 血压) or ‘circulation’ (xieye xunhuan / 血液循环). However, our doctor was more than happy to start running their advice through a translation app and presenting the info that way. Don’t be shy.


After that, you'll be asked to stand up straight in front of a wall marked with measurements. The doctor will first take photos of you facing straight ahead, then turned to the side. You'll return to the doctor's office, and he or she will show you those photos on a tablet, and give you some notes on how to improve your posture. The images clearly show where you're out of alignment, so you can also see for yourself whether you slouch too much or hold your head at a bad angle.

Then, the doctor takes a worksheet with a human outline on it and marks out the areas of your body that he/she notes as problem areas (or potential problem areas), not unlike a rental car that's marked for scratches and dents before you can drive it off the lot. He or she will give you a summary of their examination, which you can ask politely to have written down if you'd like to take it home and translate.

The last step before the massage portion begins is to complete a yes/no checklist of the following questions:

1. Do you have high blood pressure?

2. Have you had any surgeries within the past two months?

3. Do you have any medical implants in the body -- eg, pacemaker, dental implants?

At first this might look like some sort of scary Chinese-language waiver form, but it really comes down to those three questions.

On our visit, the doctor used his phone to translate it for us. Check off and sign the form, and you're shuttled off into another room, where the massage therapist is briefed by the doctor and your 50-60 minute "targeted massage" begins.


All the jing zhui treatments are done completely seated, the therapist working on your neck, shoulders and upper back muscles with small, targeted back-and-forth tui na massage. Customers seeking treatment in the lumbar region may receive a short, seated upper back massage before lying face down on the bed and getting the same kind of treatment from their shoulders to their lower back.

If you’re more used to getting massages for pleasure rather than for medical reasons, be aware that they aren’t quite as… soothing. There might be moments that feel a little rough or uncomfortable, but if that’s the case then it’s totally fine to let them know, whether in proper Chinese or with good old-fashioned grunts of anguish, at which point they’ll ease up. Usually just repeating “tong” will be enough.

During the last 10 minutes or so, your massage therapist may get an electric massage gun to administer targeted deep-tissue massage. It may make your teeth clatter. It may make your knees go weak. You may purr.

It’s nothing to be afraid of, and is actually a pretty soothing end to the experience. First-timers usually get the lowest setting at 30HZ, but their machine is capable of going up to 60HZ.


Then it's back to the doctor's office for a 10-minute wrap-up and consultation on how to move forward: the doctor writes out your specific treatment plan in your file, which in addition to a set of long-term massage therapy sessions, will also include lifestyle changes and small at-home exercises that you'll need to do a few times daily.

If you plan on taking this advice seriously and want the treatment to stick, you’ll want to make sure you understand this part clearly, so don’t hesitate to whip out the phone or extend the wrap-up a bit longer to ensure you’ve gotten everything clear. The doctor will demonstrate how to do the exercises and ask you to repeat it in the office to show that you've learned it properly.


The last step — the doctor will press around on your neck and shoulders again, this time to feel the effects the massage has had on your muscles, then puts on a few TCM-based fu tie on the areas you've been massaged. These are plasters meant to help you with recovery; they can be hot, cold, or mildly warm, depending on what the doctor thinks you need, and you need to keep them on for at least three hours before removing them.

They will also encourage you to follow them on WeChat before you leave, so that you can contact them with any questions or issues that you might have relating to the treatment. They may send you a follow-up message checking in on you the next day. Needless to say, this is done in Chinese too, but going through WeChat makes any language barrier more surmountable.

After this first visit, you can skip the doctor's examination and go in straight for the targeted massage treatments, which are priced at 208rmb each. First-time visits with an examination for the yao zhui (lumbar region) are 338rmb, with follow-up massage sessions at 238rmb each. First-time visits for jing zhui are 268rmb.


SmartTicket has a deal on both massages for first-time customers. Book through our site and the packages include everything described above. You will receive an e-ticket that you take to the clinic to redeem, after making an appointment at any of Jing Yi Wei's eight clinics.

Scan the QR code below to book!

(QR link to:

For the article above, we sent writers to the Xinchang Lu clinic (good for people in Jing'an) and the Xietu Lu clinic (good for people in Xuhui). There are several other locations, including this Siping Lu clinic in Hongkou, and many more.

Jing Yi Wei (颈医卫) is open from 10.30am to 7pm, Mondays to Saturdays and 10.30am to 6.30pm on Sundays. They are open during the same hours for Dragon Boat Festival.