Kjal is spelled the way how Cambodian people say it, while other sources may spell it in following the actual word as Kha-yal or Khyal meaning wind. Skin coining (Kos Kjal), cupping (Choob Kjal) and pinching (Chab Kjal) are all related to wind illness. The functions and purposes of these treatments are pretty much the same, but they are performed differently. Impressively, a study shows there are four types of Kjal: mild to moderate (normal Kjal), moderate to severe (blocked Kjal), severe (ripe Kjal), and life-threatening (mute Kjal).
Skin coining is (also known as Gua Sha) a healing traditional technique from ancient China but remain widely practical in China and Southeast Asia countries such as Indonesia (referred to Kerikan), Cambodia (referred to Kos Kjal – កោសខ្យល់) and Vietnam (referred to Cao Gio). It involves having hard objects – such as coin – as tool to massage and scraping skin in short or long stroke in order to stimulate microcirculation of soft tissue, increases blood flow, detoxify the body, relax muscle tensions, let the brain release endorphin – a chemical that has pain-relieving effect, and it’s also believed to get rid of body’s ‘heatiness and negative energies’ called Chi, which reduces inflammation and promotes healing. It’s commonly performed on a person’s back, buttocks, neck, arms and legs. You need massage oil, skin lotion or water applying over body to ensure smooth scraping on skin, but in Khmer way, we prefer using Tiger Balm or any sort of Chinese liniment oils. Nowadays it has a facial version that requires mild pressures and gradually increase the particular intensity which one can tolerate it. Skin coining is just the culture of Khmer people, but officially the Ministry of Health doesn’t recognize it as a treatment at all because it has side effects. I personally admit that I’ve still had it done till now, but not really often as before (as I am also ticklish).
Skin Cupping is also known as Choob Kjal which serves the same functions as coining does, but with cups in glass or silicone, which are now available in back alleys, traditional medicine clinics and resort spas and wellness centre. According to Asia Life Magazine, though it may be performed to promote common relaxation treatment, it is also now used to release stress, aches and pains, allergies, fatigue, flu, colds, anxiety, skin conditions and fever. In Cambodia, you can find a really good professional wellness centre called ‘Samanta Health and Wellness Studio’ which offers clients their standard cupping services in 4 forms: dry cupping, wet cupping, fire cupping and moving cupping. The good thing about it is it’s less painful than skin coining. My dad loved it! I notice that it’s more likely men than women to have these done so I suppose it may be because men can’t tolerate the pain and tickle of the skin coining. Another interesting thing is skin cupping has been a part of Khmer national tradition medicine.
Skin pinching (Chab Kjal) doesn’t require any tool at all. All what you need is your first and second fingers to pull upward hard on the skin which in turn caused bruises. It was often performed on the skin of the neck, back, chest and between the eyebrows, but Khmer people like to do it in between the eyebrows. Its effect is to heal headaches and dizziness. It’s also a ‘No, thank you’ for me.
Is it safe doing all those treatments? It’s a complicated answer as a study said Yes while others said No. Yes, if you do it right, but it’s a No if you don’t know the contraindications. It’s a bit hard as Khmer practitioners are not up to date with science. Thus, it’d be great to look for professional practitioner with license (more likely skin cupping practitioner) to have it done safely. The practitioner needs to sterilise the tools, just in case they break the skin. If not well-sterilised, the tool used on broken skin will lead to have skin infection.
It’s a cheapest way to heal fever, cold, headache or stomach pain, isn’t it? Though it’s proven to be helpful in relief for some symptoms but you shouldn’t only just rely on these and make an assumption because you don’t know what the underlying causes are. You’d better be off to see real doctors!
What are its benefits? It helps to relieve some symptoms like:
- Hepatitis B: it may reduce chronic liver inflammation.
- Migraine headaches: effective remedy for headaches.
- Breast engorgement (a condition when breast overfill with milk): the study say it’s easy for women to breastfeed babies.
- Neck pain: it works better than thermal heating pads.
- Tourette syndrome: involuntary movements such as facial tics, throat clearing, and vocal outbursts. With Gua Sha,
- Perimenopausal syndrome: the symptoms for this condition includes: insomnia, irregular period, anxiety, fatigue and hot flashes.
Does it have any side effects? Yes, it does.
- Painful: It’s not supposed to be painful, but to Khmer people, if you don’t get that red or purple color, you’re gonna take all of the ‘bad wind’ or ‘negative energies’, and to have that, it requires lots of pressure. I’d say it’s a nice pain (discomfort) where one can handle.
- Bruising: The same as what I mentions above about getting red or purple marks, these bruising will last for about 2-3 days up to a week.
- Bleeding: It can happen due to the incorrect position of the tool on body, using too much pressure, or even on the skinny body or areas with more bones.
- Indentation: swelling of the skin appears on the lines where the bruises are.
- Keloid scars: It’s more likely to occur on sensitive skin or those with baby skin.
Is it good for skin? All of these treatments will leave you bruises, so I would personally say ‘No, it’s not good for skin’. However, I find facial skin coining is good as it simply works as gentle lymphatic massage, which won’t leave you any much bruises like body. It’s always best to find standard salon to have tools sterilise, otherwise, you will get skin infection. Skin pinching is a ‘No-No’ treatment as it doesn’t seem support skin in anyway, aside pulling skin hard to get bruises. That’s not how anti-aging massage can be done either. You can also imagine if you needed to join a party that required sleeveless or shoulderless dress/clothes, then those treatments are not good look to show off bruised skin.
Who can’t have it done?
Not everyone is eligible for this treatment. It’s not recommend to those who:
- Have recent surgery: need to wait till the wound/scar heals at least 6 months
- Take antiplatelet/anticoagulant medications or have issues with coagulation or platelet activity.
- Use blood thinning medication
- Have medical conditions affecting the skin or veins
- Bleed easily
- Have deep vein thrombosis
- Have an infection, tumor, or wound that has not fully healed
- Have an implant, such as pacemaker, or internal defibrillator.
I know those treatments become cultural treatments for most Khmer people, including me. My recommendations to do it safely are knowing your conditions and contraindications whether you are suitable, try to not using much pressure on skin, just to fully expel the wind, and sterilise your tools before and after using to ensure your skin won’t get infected those. If you can, go to proper standard salon, pick either coining or cupping and obviously not skin pinching. Moreover, it’s always best to practice having massage over all those treatments.