Shanghai has plenty of sports clubs; but it’s also a city with a wide range of options for other approaches to health and wellness. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) offers an alternative to the Western medicine you’re probably used to, and may help with lingering conditions. Acupuncture and other alternative medical approaches offer a new way of healing. Legitimate massage places are everywhere, and even the most inexpensive streetside place will probably offer a massage from a trained practitioner who knows their craft. More expensive, spa-like places can be infinitely relaxing after a hard day. And bath houses have to be tried at least once, for a full-on local approach to relaxation and wellness.
You’re in an exciting new place, but sometimes you need to de-stress. In Shanghai you can combine being good to yourself with developing a cultural understanding of Eastern approaches to health. It’s a win-win situation.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)
Traditional Chinese Medicine has been practised for thousands of years, and has contributed immensely to China’s rich historical heritage. The sole source of healing and medical care for thousands of years, it has in recent times become a globally respected alternative (from the Western point of view) form of medicine, offering healing and relief to millions of patients all over the world. TCM is based on careful and detailed observation, documented, developed and passed down by generations of scholars and physicians and the most famous texts are more than 2,000 years old.
Based on the philosophies of Yin and Yang and the five elements (fire, earth, metal, water and wood), TCM works on the notion that the human body interacts with its external environment, meaning that wellbeing depends on harmony with one’s sur- roundings and with nature.
Western pharmaceutical companies increasingly acknowledge the medicinal properties of Chinese herbs and incorporate them in their daily supplement products. Even though it is classified as alternative medicine, TCM has gained respect and trust from many patients who have been cured of ailments which Western medicine could not help with.
Acupuncture and Acupressure
In acupuncture, fine pointed needles are delicately inserted into various points in the body that fall in the major meridian of the body; each point is connected to various functions of the body, and acupuncture can adjust the flow of blood, resulting in therapeutic healing. Acupressure employs the use of finger pressure rather than needles. Both help release stress and are also used to treat various ailments and diseases. Regular treatment also strengthens immunity against illness and promotes overall wellbeing.
The practice of TCM has historically involved detailed observation of patients’ condition and symptoms, unlike Western medicine where results are based on laboratory testing. This means a visit to a Chinese doctor is very different to what you’re probably used to. For one, a TCM doctor diagnoses patients through pulse- reading as well as enquiring about history and background. The doctor arrives at a diagnosis based on external symptoms experienced by the patient and by detecting through pulse-reading any Yin Yang imbalance or incompatibility based on the five elements.
In addition to physical health, a Chinese medicine doctor is also concerned with the overall wellbeing of the mind and spirit, which determines the complete life flow of the patient. Therefore, a Chinese doctor normally prescribes a wholesome treatment program combining a number of therapies such as herbal therapy, acupuncture and dietary therapy, as well as tai chi and qigong exercises.
Spas and Massage
Chinese massage has been known to improve blood regulation, release emotional distress, strengthen flexibility of joints, relieve chronic pain, speed up healing caused by injuries and smooth away bruises and scars, as well as strengthen immunity against diseases or illness. It’s not solely meant to relax; it’s essentially a therapeutic practice aiming to heal ailments of the body by working on the deep layer of the body’s tissue and stimulating energy points.
Start with the basic approach. With a traditional Chinese massage in Shanghai, you keep most of your clothes on, removing only shoes and socks, belt and anything in your pockets. You either put them in a locker or in a small container under your massage bed. You then simply lie face-down with your head in the hole in the bed provided, and follow instructions to turn around or to the side as they come. Even if language is a barrier, they’ll quickly prod you into place. These massages can be quite painful until you get used to them, and the masseur telling you to relax doesn’t help. People in neighbouring beds answer phones or talk loudly, and it’s not always the idyllic experience you imagine. But when you get up an hour later, you’ll feel the difference as you sip the post-massage cup of tea.
Many people combine a body massage with another hour of foot massage afterwards, which begins relaxing, with your feet soaking in hot, herb-infused water while your shoulders are massaged. The actual massage can then be rather painful, again if you’re not used to it, or ticklish; once more, you’ll be glad you did it afterwards, and it’s less of an ordeal as time goes on.
But this is just the basic experience. As you move up the price chain, things get more gentle and calming. Mid-range chains like Dragonfly and Green offer a quiet, dark environment, staff trained not to chat to you unless you want them to, special robes to wear and much better tea. The massage will probably aim to soothe rather than bite (unless you ask for more pressure) and there will be oil massage and other options. Prices are very reasonable.
And then you get to the last category, spas in high-end hotels where 90 minutes can cost you over a thousand RMB. Here you’re paying for a blissful environment, a wide range of impeccably administered massages of any kind under the sun, facials, warm stone treatments and more. Saunas, jacuzzis and private rooms are de rigueur. You’ll never have felt so pampered.
Whatever you choose: you’ll feel better afterwards. Embrace the Shanghai massage experience. Where it might have been an occasional treat at home, you can make it a regular part of your routine in Shanghai – trust us, it’s worth it.
A Shanghai bath house is an extraordinary experience, and one you should definitely try at least once. Talk to your Chinese friends and make an appointment to go as a group – they’ll help you figure it all out and translate for you, since foreigners aren’t that common. Note that it’s gender segregated, since you’ll spend a fair bit of time naked. First you’ll wander around sampling the various services: the baths of course, hot, cold, warm, bubbly; the sauna; exfoliation; maybe a facial. Then you’ll put on a bathrobe provided and head for massage, KTV, card games, TV, swimming pool, even exercise room. At any stage you can order food or drinks. You’ll start to understand why some people simply stay the night, sleeping in a deep chair.
Health and Wellness
Body and Soul
Four clinics across Shanghai offering an integrated approach to health by combining Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) with Western medicine. An international team of doctors and therapists provides high quality medical care for patients seeking to be treated as naturally as possible and as scientifically as necessary.
Mon, Wed & Fri 9am- 6pm, Tue & Thu 9am-8pm, Sat 10am-6pm
Downtown Clinic (Xintiandi): An Ji Plaza, 14th floor, 760 Xi Zang Nan Road, Crossing Jian Guo Road
Mon, Wed-Sat 9am-6pm, Tue 9am-8pm
Century Park Clinic (Pudong): 1518 Minsheng Road, 80 Hanxiao Road, JinYing Building, Building B, Room 1303, Pudong New Area
Mon, Wed, Thu & Fri 9am-6pm, Tue 9am-8pm, Sat 10am-6pmHongmei Road Clinic (Hongqiao): 211 Cheng Jia Qiao Zhi Road, Minhang/Hongqiao
Tue, Wed, Fri, Sat 10am-8pm
Four Seasons Clinic (Jing’an): Four Seasons Hotel, Level 6 500 Weihai Road, Jingan District
Ultimate pampering in the only Evian Spa outside France.
Three on the Bund, 2/F, 17 Guangdong Lu, by the Bund
Asian-themed Marriott spa for luxury massage and treatments.
6/F, 399 Nanjing Xi Lu, by Huangpi Bei Lu
Chi, The Spa
Beautifully designed high-end hotel spa – truly luxurious.
Pudong Shangri-La, Tower 2, 6/F 33 Fucheng Lu, by Lujiazui Huan Lu
Banyan Tree Spa
Celebrated Thai-style spa with themed rooms, aromatherapy and massage galore.
The Westin Bund Center, 3/F, 88 Henan Zhong Lu, by Yan’an Lu
Wide range of pampering options.
Le Royal Meridien, 789 Nanjing Dong Lu, by Xizang Lu
Tranquil and popular Cambodian spa.
457 Shaanxi Bei Lu, by Beijing Lu
290 Jinyan Lu, by Dongxiu Lu
Popular Shanghai-founded chain, one of the first to bring a Western approach to traditional Chinese massage.
206 Xinle Lu, by Donghu Lu
20 Donghu Lu, by Huaihai Zhong Lu ea 134 p.20, C2
Villa 5, Lane 3911 Hongmei Lu, by Shuangxi Lu
193 Jiaozhou Lu, by Xinzha Lu
308 Anfu Lu, by Wukang Lu
Shanghai Racquet Club, Lane 555 Jinfeng Lu
2/F, 218 Xinle Lu, by Fumin Lu and Donghu Lu
Well-run, classy chain at the mid-range level with many locations around town.
376 Hongfeng Lu, Jinqiao
Rm 304, 3/F, Shanghai World Financial Center, 100 Century Avenue, Pudong
202 West Retail Plaza, Shanghai Centre, 1376 Nanjing Xi Lu
58 Taicang Lu, Xintiandi
88 Xingeng Lu, Xujiahui
Yuan Spa – Hyatt on the Bund
Hotel spa with amazing views.
Hyatt on the Bund, 1/F, 199 Huangpu Lu, by qingpu Lu
Newish chain in French Concession, aiming for high-end service for reasonable prices.
Bldg 1, Lane 210 Wuyuan Lu, by Wulumuqi Lu
A spa exclusively for skincare, with all the latest products.
476 Dagu Lu, by Shimen Yi Lu