Some of you may have come across their pop-up showrooms around locations in Selangor.
In those, you’d find a bunch of elderly folks sitting in chairs, paying close attention to young and cheery showpeople in colourful afro wigs beating on drums to celebrate the healing miracles from chronic body pains.
If you thought a lot was already going on in that sentence, the real thing might leave you even more bewildered.
What I’m talking about is the ongoing fad for Cosmo Dr. amongst the elderly in Malaysia.
It claims to be a form of physiotherapy using “high-voltage electrotherapeutic devices” to alleviate headaches, shoulder stiffness, insomnia, and constipation.
However, younger relatives of these targeted elderly have voiced their doubtful thoughts on this operation.
A Scam-Like Operation, Relatives Claim
“This is a scam operation that targets clueless elderly,” described a Redditor on the thread r/malaysia.
The Redditor went on to describe how the operation worked and his worry about how his older relatives were falling for the claims of the salespeople.
Since the second half of 2019, Cosmo Dr. has been operating in Malaysia, which functions by running pop-up showrooms around the country.
In these showrooms are chairs with mats that supposedly conduct electricity after being hooked up to a central machine that produces the currents.
These currents are what the brand claims help to alleviate a bunch of health problems that the elderly are prone to face.
To make the experience even more attrative to these old folks, the service is completely free and open for them to try every day.
However, there are several catches, of course.
Too Good To Be True
Firstly, Cosmo Dr. is still a brand promoting its own products, which can cost up to over RM12,000.
During sessions, people have been shown photo claims of illnesses being cured by the machine, ranging from cancer, stroke, diabetes, and even skin burns.
All this is to “prove” that their devices work and close sales from those who have been practically brainwashed to believe it.
Secondly, the troupe never lingers around the same area for longer than 3 months.
They move from area to area, and some fans will follow to keep attending the free sessions.
Those who are sceptical of Cosmo Dr. have concluded that this is a tactic used to create a sense of urgency to buy their products.
Some time before they actually move, the salespeople carry out psychologically manipulative tactics too.
Skeptics have highlighted the following claims by Cosmo Dr.’s salespeople as just being a few examples of their manipulative tactics:
- Lamenting that rental cost in the current area is too high, so they need to move or sell more products;
- Saying they aren’t able to sell enough products to sustain the free sessions anymore; or,
- Claiming that they’re selling so many products that the few they have left are now on discount while they’re still in the area.
As someone who’s actually been to several of these sessions in Seksyen Seventeen, Petaling Jaya, at the insistence of a close relative, I can vouch for many of these claims and reports by sceptics being true.
And as someone who personally is dealing with major health issues and getting them monitored by actual health experts, I’m a sceptic too.
What Happens There?
For more insight on how absurd the operation comes off as, let me share more details about my own experience.
The service operates from 10AM to 7.30PM, and that’s why the room is often filled mostly with old people.
Throughout the 15-minute “therapy” session, you’re instructed not to talk, sleep, or use your phone because the “radiation” will affect the therapy’s effectiveness.
The showpeople claim that those machines “massage the blood vessels” and boost your “natural healing powers” by recharging electrons in your body.
This then “purifies dirty blood” to cure many attendees of a whole lot of diseases, even cancer.
After, there would be a testimony sharing session where they’d go around the room to stamp our attendance cards and ask if we’ve felt any improvements from their therapy.
After collecting some stories, the showpeople would pick up a small Chinese drum to beat a rhythm while announcing the participants’ good news.
Together, they would lead everyone into raising their thumbs up and shout, “very good” in unison.
Electrotherapy Is Real, But…
Like the aforementioned younger relatives, I too have many concerns about Cosmo Dr.
There are claims that Cosmo Dr. is overselling the ability of their products, but I also couldn’t find a proper expert opinion on whether these devices work or not.
All that’s confirmed at the moment is that Cosmo Dr. has been around (especially in Singapore) for a while, at least since 2007.
Despite that, its machines are still not acknowledged by Singapore and Malaysia’s respective MOH.
Electrotherapy is a real form of therapy. It’s a gentle and non-invasive modality that works by stimulating nerves and muscles through the surface of the skin.
“We physiotherapists use electrotherapy to treat chronic pain, musculoskeletal injuries, muscle wasting and nerve pain by using targeted and controlled electrical stimulation.”
That was said by June Ho, a member of the Malaysian Physiotherapy Association (MPA) who’s been practising for 5 years in pain relief management, stroke rehabilitation and sports injuries.
As electrotherapy varies on the device being used, she shared that it’s thought to work in a few ways:
- Sending out electrical impulses that block or interfere with the body’s pain signals, leading to reduced pain,
- Releasing endorphins that naturally decrease pain in the body,
- Stimulating muscle tissue to correct muscle atrophy,
- Creating a heating effect within the body which improves blood circulation and stimulates healing,
- Stimulating cells which reduce inflammation, promote collagen production, and inhibit pain.
However, the difference between the electrotherapy done by expert practitioners versus Cosmo Dr. is that the former’s is targetted, and the latter’s isn’t.
Electrotherapy works because it’s applied to specific areas of the body that need help.
Sitting on a mat that’s conducting electricity through your butt probably isn’t going to do much for ailments above or below that region then.
While it’s fair for us to have our doubts, I can’t confidently claim that Cosmo Dr. doesn’t work, at least until a study or research proves so.
What we can take issue with, however, is how it’s being marketed to the elderly with no study or research that claims it actually works too.
The Real Value Of Cosmo Dr.
There’s no denying it. Old people love the service. They’re happy to be there, and to come back for free every day.
As long as the machines aren’t harming their bodies in the long run, I don’t see anything wrong with them enjoying the free company and service.
But old people who are ill are also desperate for treatment.
Cosmo Dr. first lures them in with this free service which makes the elderly dependent on it.
When they move away, the elderly who want to continue enjoying the treatment can opt to follow it to the next location, or buy their machines.
They’re never forced to buy the machines, but the desperation of never getting the treatment again can create enough urgency that the elderly will take out their life savings for a purchase.
Why the urgency? Because you won’t be able to see any improvements if you don’t do it every day.
And that’s the main issue that I, and many other relatives of those who are ensnared in Cosmo Dr.’s operations, have.
The sense of urgency that Cosmo Dr. creates later on is inarguably unethical, especially towards desperate, ill old people.
That aside, the fact that the service gets old people out of their homes to meet new friends, and get pampered by the showpeople and the machines isn’t a bad thing.
It could be argued that the “improvements” many of the elderly experience after each session could simply be the result of interacting with others and having fun doing so.
Usually, this group tends to mope about miserably at home alone, and one’s mental condition can affect the physical body negatively too.
Therefore, Cosmo Dr.’s real value to me is how it’s placing the elderly in an external environment and showering them with attention and companions.
Get Expert Help, Not A Chair Mat
With regards to actual healing through electrotherapy, June had some advice for us to share with our older relatives.
“I would recommend that these elderly groups of people actually seek professional medical advice instead of sitting on a chair where there is no proper scientific approval or without knowing how the machine’s electricity is transmitted into our bodies,” she said.
“I personally do not approve of it as I have not heard of any physiotherapy using this machine yet, nor is it approved by the Ministry of Health.”
She added that we must ensure that the currents going into our bodies don’t harm us either, which is worrying because of the lack of studies and research on Cosmo Dr.’s machines and their effectiveness.
There is no shortcut in healing your body because effort is needed to create results. Get a proper diagnosis and treatment from real and certified physiotherapists who can design a specific and correct treatment plan for your body and your health.
June Ho, an MPA-certified physiotherapist
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Featured Image Credit: Cosmo Goodness Malaysia Sdn Bhd
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