Slapping Therapy Doesn’t Work
How magical nonsense is killing people
Slapping therapy is an alternative medical technique that has gained some prominence over the last few years. Perhaps that’s because, unlike other fantastical beliefs, slapping therapy — otherwise known as “paida lajin” — involves self-flagellation to the point of bruising, often over the majority of your body.
Yes, you hit yourself until it hurts.
It doesn’t take a doctor to see why that might be something of an issue medically.
The other reason slapping therapy has risen to light is because the person who invented it claims that it can cure anything. He says that you can go off all medicines, leave your worries behind, and slap your way to good health!
People believe him. They stop taking their medicine.
Some of them have died.
Much like chiropractic, homeopathy and many other alternative practices, slapping therapy is a modern invention supposedly born of ancient ideas.
The inventor of this violent modality, Master Xiao, claims that he got the idea from his past life as a Taoist monk, and that he was helped along the way by a Buddhist monk who magically* appeared on his door one day. After travelling for years learning every kind of mystical treatment (acupressure, acupuncture, literal magic), Xiao was walking on a mountain when the Buddhist monk appeared again and taught him self-flagellation as a cure.
Having had the truth revealed to him, he decided to go out and teach this self-cure to the masses.
According to Xiao, the name ‘paida lajin’ roughly translates as “to slap…to strike even stronger” and “striking the wall”, which basically describes everything this treatment has to offer. In ‘paida’ you hit yourself repeatedly, ‘lajin’ you stretch your body painfully against a hard surface (usually a wall). Paida can also be performed by another person on you.
Patients of this therapy are encouraged to repeatedly hit themselves until areas of “poisoned blood” are revealed, and then put into excruciating poses against a wall to move this poisoned blood away. Large red and purple areas are seen as a sign that the therapy is working, and patients are often told to repeat this for extended periods of time to ensure complete self-healing.
It’s amazing what you can learn from Taoist monks and bullies in 70s movies.
I’m not going to go into the ideas behind Paida too much here, except to say that if you think there is the slightest therapeutic benefit from hitting yourself until you are in agony, you might want to google “bruises”. It’s wildly implausible, based on very basic misunderstandings of how the human body works — bruises aren’t poisoned, and since they are subdermal they don’t leave your body anyway — and honestly not worth wasting your time on.
Some alternative medical methodologies — osteopathy for example — have some plausibility despite their problematic beginnings. This isn’t even remotely true of Paida.
It’s simply nonsense, supported by vague references to Traditional Chinese Medicine.
There is no plausible mechanism for slapping to cure any health condition. There’s no research demonstrating the slightest benefit.
And so far, two of its users have died.
Not a great track record.
Where Is The Harm?
Master Xiao is currently on trial in Australia for the death of a 6-year-old child. It’s been reported that he convinced the parents of this diabetic youngster that he was a medical doctor, and that discontinuing the kid’s insulin in favour of slapping was a good choice.
It was not.
After days without insulin, the boy went into a coma and died. This has happened before, at one of Xiao’s English retreats, where a woman discontinued insulin and died in her hotel room.
People often ask “where is the harm?” in relation to alternative medicines. The idea is that, even if they are totally ineffective — which, depending on the therapy, they can be — it shouldn’t matter because at least they aren’t harming people.
Sadly, this is often not the case.
There is a cost to alternative medicine. Whether it is financial, with people wasting their money on useless quackery, or more direct like this case, using therapies that do not work comes with a price-tag. Sometimes the price is very high.
It might be absurd to think that slapping people will cure their disease, but it’s criminal to tell them to stop taking their medicine because you think your unproven therapy works better.
Doctors aren’t perfect. The medical system can be a mess. But licensed, regulated health professionals go through years of training in how the body works, do difficult and intense training, and ultimately know a huge amount about sickness and the human body. They don’t do that for nothing.
If you’re sick, see a doctor, not a man visited by a mystical reappearing monk.
*Yes, as in *that* kind of magic.