Fish Therapy gone wrong

Article reproduced from New Paper, Singapore
Writer: Hedy Khoo 26 August 2008

Thumbs DownTHE latest health fad in town involves letting little fishes nibble your legs to get rid of dead skin.

These fishes are dubbed “doctor fish”, but two sisters who went for the therapy earlier this month ended up having to visit real doctors instead.

They claimed that that their legs became itchy and turned red and blotchy. They also said they had brown patches and scaly skin after going to a “fish spa” that features the Garra rufa fish, a Turkish spa fish.

Miss Jas Huang, 22, a manicurist, and her younger sister Min, 20, a hairstylist, went for one session at a spa called Dr Fish in Ang Mo Kio on 3 Aug.

The treatment cost them $28 each, for a half-hour session. Clients have to submerge their legs in a tank filled with the fish.

Stinging sensation

Miss Jas Huang said: “Our legs had turned red after the treatment. There was a stinging sensation on my legs when I took a shower after going home.

“But my sister thought it was part of the after-treatment process. We didn’t think it was serious until a week later, when the redness and itchiness still did not go away.”

They then went to see separate doctors who told them that they had fungal infection on their skin. They were given cream to apply to the affected areas.

Miss Jas Huang said: “I was very upset and angry at that time. It was supposed to be a treatment to rejuvenate our skin, but now our legs look so ugly that we have to see real doctors.”

She said she had tried asking for a compensation from the spa – $108 each for her and her sister. This is to cover their medical bills ($80 each) and for the refund of the treatment fee ($28 each).

But the shop declined to pay because she could not produce the medical bills. Miss Jas Huang claimed that she had thrown away the bills – hers and her sister’s – in a fit of anger.

She added: “I regret trying the fish treatment. It was fun and interesting at first, but now it has turned into a nightmare. I wouldn’t dare try such treatments in future.”

Her sister Min said: “I usually wear shorts and skirts, but now I can’t. Some strangers who walked past me even commented that my legs look scary and ugly with the marks.”

Miss Jas Huang said that they did not get any receipts at the spa.

When contacted, the spa owner, Mr Steve Wong, said that his shop issues receipts only to customers who pay by Nets and those who ask for receipts.


When not to have a spa or massage?

As a regular spa and massage goer, I have come to realise that there are times when one should not visit a spa or have a massage. As much as we enjoy going to a spa or massage, doing so at the wrong time will certainly make your spa/massage session less comfortable and may sometimes even lead to discomfort or even fatality. Be warned!

After a full meal
You should never go for a spa or massage on a full stomach after a heavy meal. You will feel extreme discomfort especially if lying on your stomach or if the masseur is pressing on your stomach or abdomen area. In addition, some people are known to feel nauseous on a full stomach if using the sauna or steam room.

It is generally advised that you should only go for a spa or have a massage about 2 hours after a meal. If you are hungry, then you should only have water or light finger food an hour before. However, you should drink water generously before and after a steam/sauna session and after a massage but never food.

Sick or unwell
Never ever go for a spa or massage if you are unwell with illnesses such as a fever, cold or cough. You are only exposing other people to your germs in a tight spa or massage space and a massage or spa is unlikely to make you feel any better. The hot and stuffy air in a sauna or steam room will cause you to feel even worse. Instead, adequate rest at home, plenty of liquid and medication will make you better.

After intensive exercises
Some people like to visit a spa or have a massage session immediately after intensive exercises such as tennis, squash, gym or kick-boxing. I certainly do not encourage having a massage session immediately after intensive exercises as your muscles tend to have tightened up and will not respond well to massage strokes.

Your muscles will be tight and relaxing massage strokes such as aromatherapy will not be effective on overly tight muscles. Hard massage such as Chinese Tui Na or Thai massage may even add pain to tight muscles and cause your muscles to become even tighter.

It is advised that you rest for at least half a day or soak yourself in a hot tub for a couple of hours after intensive exercises before going for a massage.

Menstrual period
This is quiet obvious for the ladies. It is not only uncomfortable but extremely unhygienic for yourself and others. A definite no-no.

New Spas/Under repair/Old spas
Try not to visit a brand new spa or if you know that a spa is undergoing or had just undergone repair or renovation work. There had been occasions in the past when a spa goer had died when the steam room he was in had the wrong gas pumped in just after repair works and another occasion when another man had drowned when the large but old jacuzzi pool he was in malfunctioned and he was sucked and stuck onto the suction hole at the bottom of the jacuzzi.

You can’t imagine there can be fatalities in a spa but it has actually happen before! Do resist the temptation and be sure to let new or recently repaired spas run a few days before visiting one.


Wu You Lifestyle Therapy, Singapore

ZenAlong the stretch of old shop-houses along Upper Thomson Road in Singapore is a unique massage palor, Wu You Lifestyle Therapy.

Upper Thomson Road has always been a hip hangout popular with young people and families alike with a good mix of eateries, cafes, pubs, hairdressing, facial, massage/spa palors and other interesting shops on both sides of the road. A little bit like a Holland Village (a hip/yuppie enclave in the West of Singapore) for the northern part of Singapore. You can take a public bus conveniently or drive to this area although parking may be a little problematic during weekends.

Wu You in Chinese means No Worries. I believe the owner of this massage palor wants to give his/her guests the pleasure of relaxation when they visit this small massage boutique. The words Wu You is also a very Zen concept and philosophy (meditation with no objects, anchors, or content)

Hence, I was not surprised that this massage palor was nicely and simply decorated along the clean lines of Zen philosophy. In the reception area, there is a water feature placed in a corner. It is a Zen concept that the sound of trickling water adds peace and calm to one’s mind. The rest of the palor were also designed along clean Zen line with neutral, earthy or brown colors as it’s main color theme.

Although this is a small massage boutique, the owner did not simply divide the massage beds using curtains so common of other small massage palors. Instead, each guest gets his or her own individual treatment room. This gives each guest absolute privacy, quiet and peace.

If you want to get the knots out from your muscles in a calm, quiet and nice place, come and visit this palor. Wu You is a great place to go to relax and get a decent massage unlike some of the other massage palours along Upper Thomson Rd which seems to want to squeeze as many massage beds into a small space as possible.

Keeping along the simplistic line of Zen philosophy, the massage menu is also simple and minimal with a only a few massage choices unlike the varied and complicated choices that some small massage palors may try to impress onto customers.

The massage therapists, which were mostly Malay as far as I could tell, are professional and good at what they do. A Swedish massage is less than $50 for a 60 minute session. I remembered I was one of the last customer to leave for the day when I visited Wu You a couple of months ago. The friendly therapist never failed to keep the smile on her face after what must have been a long and tiring day for her.

While I certainly loved the zen concept of this massage palor, I doubt I’ll make the effort to come all the way up here again unless I’m on my way to the northern part of Singapore. Nevertheless, if you are staying around Thomson area, then, I’ll certainly recommend that you should not miss this wonderful place. What’s more…food and drinks choices are aplenty around this area once you’ve come out from your massage!

Note: Advanced booking is recommended. I had to go back more than once before I could secure a place. This is apparently a small but very popular massage palor for the Thomson Road vicinity.

Location of Wu You Lifestyle Therapy
235 Up Thomson Rd, 574366, Singapore
Size: Small massage palor with about 8 private individual and couple rooms done in Zen concept
Facilities: Small shower and toilet area

Friendliness: Polite staff and good massage therapists.
Pricing: Starts from US$30 for a body massage. Discounted Spa and massage packages for members also available.


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Qian Zu Ge or Thousand Feet Court, Singapore

Qian Zu GeA new massage boutique palor is in town and judging from it’s decor and type of massage and spa services it provides, seems to be a direct transplant of one of the higher-end massage boutique palor from Mainland China.

Qian Zu Ge or literally, Thousand Feet Court, is a 3 months old massage boutique palor located in Balestier Rd, Singapore. The 5,000 sqf massage palor is nicely decorated in traditional Oriental Chinese style with a service emphasis on Foot Massage, Foot bath and Foot pedicure treatments. Of course, there are also other massage services such as Chinese Tui Na, Thai massage, Aromatherapy massage to the less common Gua Sha, Ba Guan, Ear Candling and even Ear candling. Other spa services such as Facial services, Nail manicure and Nail art are also available.

(Note: Gua Sha and Ba Guan are specialized Chinese Traditional Medicine treatment meant to restore your body’s Yin/Yang balance. Gua Sha involves scrubbing your back with a horn scraper and Ba Guan involves using heated vacuum cups on your body’s accu-meridien points)

Foot MassageI visited this boutique with my husband on a late Sunday afternoon and there were only a few customers around. Once passed the reception area, there were about 10 luxurious Chinese-style massage chairs in the main hall and another 8 in a private room. The private room can be further compartmentalized into 3 smaller rooms with individual LCD TV where you can have some privacy if you come with a small group of friends. (See picture on left)

We were given a pair of loose Chinese-style shirt and pants to change into.

I opted for a Aromatherapy massage and my husband wanted a Thai massage. Unfortunately, the Thai masseur was not available and he opted for a Chinese Tui-Na massage instead. Incidentally, we were told that the Thai masseur is a Thai and the Tui Na masseur is a China Chinese. Plus point given for employing native masseurs because somehow, only native masseurs practise their art the best.

MassageWe were ushered to a curtained-off compartment with floor massage beds. The compartment was nicely decorated (see picture) and there were space for 4 body massage guests in privacy. We had a pleasant one-hour massage as the masseurs applied the right pressure; slow and smoothing for aromatherapy massage and hard and direct for Tui Na massage.

Overall, this is a nice massage palor with nice decoration, clean towers, soft music and good service. There are even 2 computers with internet you can surf while waiting for a friend or if you have finished your massage before them. The changing room is interesting in that you get those fancy round shower cubicles; complete with side nozzles and music while you shower.

There were however, a couple of issues we were not too happy about. While we were having our massage, some of the staff were chattering away just outside our curtained massage compartment. After 10 minutes of incessant chatter, I had to ask the masseur to tell them off. I came here to relax and chill out; not listen to some high-pitch incessant chatter that is so common of Mainland Chinese folks.

Another issue I absolutely hate was that two of the male foot masseurs were curl up in the foot massage chairs sleeping away! I don’t care how masseurs behave in their rest area or if they sleep during their off-duty period but to do so in front of customers is absolutely unacceptable! I hope the management of Qian Zu Ge realise this and stop this bad practice immediately!

As of this writing, Qian Zu Ge is running a foot detox and massage promotion with OCBC credit card. I will recommend this Oriental massage palor if you want to spend a relaxing afternoon or would like a group massage with friends in privacy.

Location of Qian Zu Ge
221 Balestier Road, ROCCA Balestier #04-01, Singapore 329928, Singapore
Size: Mid-size massage palor with large common room and several private areas
Facilities: Internet PC, foot bath massage chairs, facial treatment room

Friendliness: Polite staff and massage therapists.
Pricing: Starts from US$30 for foot massage and US$40 for massage. Facial services starts from US$60. Discounted Spa and massageĀ  packages for members also available.