My Experience with Traditional Korean Medicine

Thinking about trying out some traditional healing with Korean Medicine?  After dealing with back pain for years my husband finally found relief after one visit to a  Korean Traditional Hospital…while I was in a nearby room enjoying a holistic facial!  


When I moved to Korea I really wanted to experience traditional medicine. In college I took a crash course on Oriental Medicine and it left me full of questions and eager to get a first hand experience….or so I thought…but after two years of living in the Land of the Morning Calm I had yet to bring myself to try anything. I had loved visiting Seoul’s FREE Medicine Museum and the Medicine Market, but observing was only a tiny introduction to the overall experience.

As a relatively healthy person, I do not visit any doctor regularly and don’t have a huge need for medical assistance, however many practices in Korean medicine are about sustaining health rather then curing ailments…not to mention…I found myself getting sick regularly my first year in Korea due to the new environment and air quality. Also the humid summers and air quality can really do a number on your skin. This sounds like a great reason to visit right?

Korean Medicine Relieves Back Pain !


Two years into my  time in Korea, I finally got the incentive I needed…

In the fall I attended SIWA & the Diplomatic Community Bazaar.  One of the few forms of “gambling” I’m willing to participate in is the Lucky Draw at this event. Kinda a win-win, when I don’t physically win a prize my money still goes to charity…however… I really lucked out  by winning  two gift cards to a traditional Korean medical hospital, Kwandong Oriental Hospital. Finally, the push I needed to get myself to an Oriental Medician Hospital!

My husband had had back pain for several years and I had encouraged him to do something about it.  I reviewed the website and found that the hospital offered a Pain Management treatment and encouraged him to go. He was hesitant, but once I dangled the gift card in front of him he finally agreed.  I on the other hand, found the anti-aging and medicine beauty treatments the hospital offered more appealing and selected a holistic facial!

 Holistic Facial

When I came to the hospital I was greeted by an English speaking staff member  (the hospital offers translators in 6 languages) that explained my treatment. I would begin with an analysis of my skin and body, by a doctor, then move into a pressure point and hot stone massage. The doctor explained that having good posture is an essential part of keeping your face firm and looking youthful. “ Wow! Count me in,” I thought! Any facial that requires a massage sounds good to me! But, on a serious note, the philosophy behind it was very interesting.

After the doctor finished her analysis I met the medical technician that would give me my treatment. The English speaking staff stayed with me throughout my analysis and explained everything. She was available by a bell the entire time in case I had any questions or the tech needed to explain something.

We began with a pressure point massage. The tech pulled on my body and rubbed and pushed at different points. I can’t say it was relaxing, but it was interesting to see my body’s response to the different points, some touches firm, some gentle. After tugging and twisting she finished with the hot stone massage, which consisted of long strokes with smooth stones, very relaxing!

After the massage treatment was over the facial began. Four masks and cleansers were applied to my face and extractions were done by hand.  Each mask was picked out based on my skin type.  My skin is generally very dry so my facial was modified to improve the hydration of it.

The final process of the facial was an inferred mask treatment. A thick gel mask was applied to my face and then I was zapped with lasers. Although my eyes were taped shut and I was given protective eyewear, I could still see the lasers blinking since the light was so intense. To be honest, this was quite uncomfortable and I was eager to get it over with! Once the laser treatment was over, we finished up with some lotion and BB cream and I was done. The entire process took about an hour.

Overall I really liked my facial and found it superior to the facials I had gotten at beauty salons.  The medical team took a holistic approach to my skin and explained how my posture was related to the firmness of my face.  I liked that each step of the treatment was picked out based on my specific skin type instead of the generic facial that most beauty shops offer.  As for the lasers, I am not sure that they offered an additional impact and in the future I think I would investigate this step more before having it done.




Pain Management Treatment

My husband went to the Pain Management section of the hospital for his treatment. He  first met with a doctor who analyzed his posture and reviewed his regular exercise routine, giving him advice on how to exercise to improve his back instead of continue to cause it pain. The doctor discovered that  his spine is uneven and that could be the result of the pain  (something many people suffer with).

A medical doctor stretched his body and did some light chiropractic procedures. He was seated on a chair that would collapse at different places when the doctor put pressure on different points. The doctor (who was much smaller then my husband) would push on an area of his back and tell him to try and move. My husband was completely motionless and had no strength. With his knowledge of pressure points, he was completely controlling my husband’s movements. The treatment was finished with a hot stone massage and my husband feeling well informed and relaxed.

Amazingly since the one visit with the doctor he has been without back pain!


Over all, the experience was an interesting introduction into traditional Korean medicine for us. If you are considering trying some out, I highly recommend going to a hospital or clinic with a staff that speaks your mother tongue. It is essential to understand what the doctors are doing and to understand the philosophy behind the treatment.  It also makes for a stress free experience. Those with Korean/International health insurance can be partially covered for traditional treatments so check with your insurance provider and the hospital prior to going.

Check List for Foreigners visiting a Traditional Korean Medicine Hospitals:
  1. Find a hospital with a  Staff speaking your mother tongue
  2. Check with your insurance provider to see if you are covered
  3. Research the procedures you are interested in prior to going
  4. Know your medical history, especially any allergies you may have and provide this to the medical team prior to going
  5. Try something that you have experienced as a Western Procedure (i.e. I tried a facial so I would be able to compare and contrast the difference since I had already experienced a facial in America)
Korean Medicine at the Free Medicine Market


I've been living abroad for a decade now! My travels have lead me to visit over 80 countries, marry a fellow globetrotter, and reside in 8 countries in four different continents. I am currently based in Brussels, Belgium! Join me as I focus on sustainable budget friendly travel and giving back while living abroad!

2 thoughts on “My Experience with Traditional Korean Medicine

  • April 23, 2016 at 8:46 pm

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