An interview with Dr. Zhu, Founder of Spinecare,
a PhD in Acupuncture and Tuina Massage
“Rehabilitation courses can be found in undergraduate education, yet we provide training to what I’d like to call the ‘the two ends in the rehabilitation field’. ‘One end’ refer to those who fail to enter the university and hope to gain a skill with which they are able to find a job. They may just have graduated from high schools or junior colleges. We will provide them with basic rehabilitation-related training and education to help them acquire a specific technique,” said Dr. Zhu, the Founder of Spinecare who holds a PhD in Acupuncture and Tuina Massage.
“But what we focus on more is ‘the other end’ featured by those who have been working in hospitals for several years, even a decade, yet hope to make further improvement. We will invite rehabilitation experts from Europe and U.S to come and train them face to face. Also, we have set a “talent growth path” which is suitable for spa personnel who have been in the industry for about 5 years, since they must have accumulated some practical experiences in healing,” Dr. Zhu told SpaChina.
Dr. Zhu founded Spinecare health and technology company (Shanghai) in 2015. The company combines the specialties of East and West, pools talent in the rehabilitation field both home and abroad, sets up comprehensive rehabilitation chains, and establishes a closed ecosphere of “education + rehabilitation center + research platform”. The subordinated Spinecare sport rehabilitation center focuses on the prevention and management of pains on the neck, shoulders, waist and legs, and female pelvic restoration. In 2018, Spinecare obtained the Pre-A round of finance from The Arena Capital and became a leader in China’s rehabilitation industry. SpaChina interviewed Dr. Zhu.
Unlike spas, “rehabilitation” places a high demand on the personnel’s expertise. Please share with us how do you carry out your education programs.
I heard that in Europe and U.S., spa training always includes anatomy and normally a therapist must receive nearly 2 years of training before serving the guests. As a result, they have a firm foundation of knowledge and skills. However, in China, very few therapists and spa personnel possess professional anatomy and rehabilitation knowledge.
This will cause problems. For example, many small-scaled spas in China offer lymph detox massage. However, most therapists not only fail to smooth the lymph, but hinder lymphatic circulation and can damage lymphatic tissues. Different from blood vessels, lymph vessels are like scales and are semi-opened. So you need to very slightly move in a circle to open the cracks and therefore promote lymphatic circulation. But in many cases, the therapists massage very strongly and thus close the lymph. So it is in fact an anatomy case. If the therapists have certain anatomy knowledge, they will naturally understand how to do lymphatic massage. In Europe and U.S, therapists will never massage strongly in the lymph treatments. But when the treatment is introduced to China, Chinese therapists completely abandon the essence of lymphatic massage.
In our training sector, Spinecare sets up a very clear training and improving path for the students, both in terms of sport rehabilitation training and post-natal rehabilitation training. We will first teach them basic anatomy, followed by some basic skills, methods of conducting assessment and then sophisticated techniques. So the students keep improving along a very clear path. For instance, in the sport rehabilitation sector, we launched a 3-day intensive class of basic level. The courses last for eight hours a day and our trainers explain the content by modules. After finishing the courses, the students will be able to deal with some basic sports injuries. In the post-natal rehabilitation sector, we have launched a 14-day training program and a master-apprentice advanced program during which process you will be able to learn deep knowledge of body structure and biomechanics. In the long term, such investment is very rewarding.
What are your suggestions to spa therapists concerning their career planning?
Many spa therapists share the same feeling that there is no room to improve after they have worked in spas for several years.
When a therapist is able to explain to the guests about their body structure, they will admire and trust such therapists greatly. But if a therapist keeps talking about the old clichés and fails to answer guests’ questions properly, he or she will lose appeal among the guests.
Most spas recruit only therapists less than 35 years old. So when you exceed the age, it will be hard for you to find a vacancy in the spas. However, if someone follows the training path of Spinecare in the field of rehabilitation, the older they are, the more value they have. They are believed to have more profound expertise and richer experience. This is in fact concerning the realization of one’s personal value.
To individuals, if they have the chance to keep growing and improving in their career, they will possess a strong sense of occupational pride. Some therapists are reluctant to tell their hometown people what they are doing in big cities since in the depth of their hearts they don’t think this is a very honorable job. However, if a spa therapist master certain expertise, it will become different. They will think: “I not only do massages, but I can help the guests solve concrete health problems. I feel I am like a doctor.” Then not only they themselves feel good, their parents will also feel proud of them and be willing to tell everyone around what their children are doing in Shanghai, Beijing or Guangzhou.
In our life path, we all have this ascending and descending curve. When we are old and look back on the whole life, it is important that we don’t have so many regrets. Some people choose to hide some of the past experiences because they don’t even want to face it themselves. But in fact they should have seized the chance to do better. Spinecare wants to provide people with such an opportunity for continual improvement. Indeed, nowadays you must have true expertise so that you can convince others of your abilities to help them solve concrete problems. In spas as well, the treatment prices are more reasonable and transparent than before. During the post-pandemic period, in particular, people consume more rationally. So it becomes even more important for the practitioners to deepen their expertise and techniques.
You spend much time writing articles and making videos to promote rehabilitation knowledge. Could you share more details with us?
Promotion and education of rehabilitation knowledge is of such great significance and we still have a lot to do. With the economic and technologic development in China and the increasing health awareness among the people, rehabilitation should be urgently introduced to more people.
It is of equally importance to promote rehabilitation in spa industry. Therapists need to master basic anatomy and rehabilitation knowledge and techniques. Otherwise, the industry will have the danger to lose its trust among the customers. But frankly speaking, in today’s spa world, most spa owners still heavily focus on revenues. They want to launch programs to meet the needs of the customers, yet they fail to possess corresponding expertise.
For instance, many spas now begin to offer pelvic programs. But I really doubt if they are truly qualified. What worries me most is “the one who knows nothing fears nothing”. They are really bold in launching programs, yet they don’t have any skills at all. This often happens in second and third-tier cities.
At first, I wrote articles on Weibo, then I shifted to WeChat. I insist on uploading short videos on muscle and bone health every day. At the beginning, it was just my personal interest, but later I found it to be a very effective way to promote health.
When I was still working in hospitals, I had plenty of free time. Every day when I was on the metro or bus, I did nothing but to consider the problems or confusions I met with in work and tried to find solutions. Whenever I got any ideas, I would record them when I got back home. In 2012, I had 20,000 followers on WeChat. At that time only 3 doctors in Shanghai had more than 20,000 followers and I was one of them. However, I was then dispatched by Shanghai Sports Bureau to help the national athletes do rehabilitation, during which period I stayed in Australia for a long time. So I stopped posting articles on Weibo and also missed the chance of becoming an online celebrity.
In 2014, I began to post articles on WeChat Official Account. Now we have nearly 140,000 followers on WeChat. During the past 6 years, we keep posting at least 4 original articles on WeChat every week. In earlier times, I wrote the articles myself and posted one article per day. Later, I was too busy to continue this and so I invited our team members and therapists to write the articles together.
I do this because I want to share with more people what I have learnt from my teachers and others. Chinese people lack due understanding of rehabilitation, so I feel the urge to do more in promoting it. Meanwhile, by doing this I’m also recognized by my peers in the industry, which is also very valuable to me. Our short video of “dynamic muscles and bones” has won for us over 25 thousand fans. Some audience comment under the video: “Dr. Zhu, thanks a lot by sharing the video. I will treat my patients the same way as shown in your video.” When I saw this, I felt very proud in my heart since I am able to help someone far away through this video.
What is our goal of life? Isn’t it to fulfill our personal values? Though there are pains along the way, I can feel a deep joy in my heart. More importantly, I want to influence more people by passing a kind of positive energy. I update my WeChat every morning around 6 a.m. When I keep on doing this, people’s hearts are touched by such perseverance and get a lot of encouragement.
The path is not always smooth. Sometimes you may feel confused, exhausted or hopeless. If at this time, there is something, visible or invisible, that gives you a clear guidance and direction, you will be greatly comforted and inspired. This is the biggest motivation for me to keep going. I believe it’s a social responsibility that every company’s founder and manager should shoulder.
Now we are giving online knowledge education on muscle and bone rehabilitation to over 300,000 audience. We are awarded as “Top 10 Health Promotion WeChat Official Account in Shanghai” and “Cooperation Unit of TCM Education Industrialization Project in Pudong New Area of Shanghai”. If we have the chance to do business with spas in the future, they can also use these videos as their marketing and training materials.
What do you love to do most?
The two things that I love to do most are giving lectures and treating patients. No matter how tired I am, whenever I go to the platform in the classroom, all the tiredness instantly melts away, though I may be absolutely exhausted after finishing the class.
Nothing can replace the sense of pride when I manage to help people solve their problems. I am a doctor. This role is engraved in my vein and blood. My goal is to help people remove pains and acquire health. So I often say to my wife: maybe I am not a qualified husband because on the root I am a boring person. I enjoy the feeling of loneliness. So when my family members tell me they will go traveling and leave me alone at home, I am in fact very happy though I won’t express the happiness so directly, because it means I can again enjoy the time of being alone and doing my studies quietly.