Italian special educator Simona Bossoni first learned about Dien Chan, sometimes referred to as multi-reflexology, from her Vietnamese in-laws.

Dien ChanNow she is one of 15,000 professional reflexologists around the world who practice and teach this Vietnamese natural therapy.

Dien Chan was developed by acupuncturist Bui Quoc Chau in Ho Chi Minh City in 1980, when he was working with C class patients, those deemed unworthy of medicine and qualified doctors, which were in incredibly short supply because of international trade embargoes. C class patients were the terminally ill, the mentally ill and drug addicts.

He found he could relieve pain and other conditions by stimulating pressure points on the face.

“The technique is based on the main concept that our face is like a garden where there are `medicinal plants’ that can cure all the states of discomfort we feel,” Simona said. “These `medicinal plants’ correspond to the `reflex’ points that have been discovered, tested and used for over 30 years in more than 40 countries around the world.”

Simona studied with Professor Bui’s younger son Professor Bui Minh Luan at the Viet Y Dao Centre in Phu Nhuan District. “From this experience I wrote a book that collects all the treatments I observed and is currently sold to Italian reflexologists,” she said.

Simona’s interest in Dien Chan was sparked when she attended a free workshop in Italy organised by her brother-in-law. She began studying the technique seriously, attaining basic qualifications in 2012, and completing her master level with Professor Bui earlier this year.

Two years ago, Simona, her Vietnamese husband and their two children moved from Italy to Vietnam. She now works in collaboration with the Viet Y Dao Centre, treating expat patients there, as well as twice a week at Thao Dien Yoga in District 2.

Her clients are usually referred through personal recommendations, and the number one reason people seek her out is for pain relief. “They come to see me for back pain, neck pain, headaches and digestive problems,” she said. “I also see a lot of people with stress problems, and depression.”

Dien Chan translates literally as face diagnoses. “Through the stimulation of the points on the face you send stimuli to the brain which is activated to send the appropriate commands to rebalance the body,” Simona said. “The face is like a remote control or a computer keyboard. Just press a button to get a remote response to an organ, the setting of an organic function, or relief from pain.”

No needles are used in Dien Chan, even though Professor Bui’s background was in acupuncture. Instead, an array of small instruments are used to tap, roll and rub parts of the face and body. Sometimes heat is applied.

Simona said Prof Bui designed more than 120 tools to assist the practice of Dien Chan. Some tools have yin properties, some yang, and some both, as Dien Chan builds on traditional Chinese medicine theories.

“In the beginning he was just focused on health,” Simona said. “Now he’s moving into the field of beauty.”

Simona demonstrates the use of the some of the tools. Despite their rather alarming appearance, the rubbing, rolling and tapping feels quite soothing.

Simona holds regular Dien Chan workshops in District 2 at La Holista and Thao Dien Yoga.

Huynh Thi Ngoc Han is another Dien Chan practitioner working in Ho Chi Minh City. More commonly known as Hieu, she is the owner and chief therapist at Golden Hands Massage in District 2, and has been offering Dien Chan therapy for three years, after studying the practice with an American master.

Hieu said she’s had success using Dien Chan therapy to treat headaches, fever, coughs and dizziness, and she recommends combining a Dien Chan treatment with a massage. “It’s much nicer,” she said.

Simona will host a free Dien Chan workshop at Thao Dien Yoga at 4pm on Saturday 11 November. Bookings can be made via info@thaodienyoga.vn  or (028) 8863 7388.