Massage therapy is one of the most popular types of services requested at spas worldwide. New research shows a trip to the spa could reduce work-related burnout.

Austrian researchers set out to measure the benefits of a three-week program of spa therapy, consisting of massage, exercise, balneotherapy (therapeutic bathing) and respite from work, on people experiencing occupational burnout.

A group of 65 actively working individuals (45 women, 20 men, mean age 50.4 +/- 6.7 years) of various occupations who were already undergoing spa therapy primarily for musculoskeletal pain were selected for this study on the basis of their level of burnout, according to an abstract published on www.pubmed.gov.

Two levels of burnout were distinguished: mild burnout consisting of emotional exhaustion; and full burnout syndrome consisting of emotional exhaustion, social detachment and/or performance dissatisfaction, the abstract noted.

Participants were studied in regard to changes in fatigue, distress, reduced motivation and quality of sleep, and variables were assessed at the beginning and at the end of spa therapy as well as four weeks and three months after treatment.

At the end of the treatment, “all four symptoms of burnout showed a significant improvement in both groups compared to their pre-treatment level,” and the improvement was sustained up to three months post-treatment for both burnout groups, the researchers noted. They added, “Spa therapy may be a helpful measure for treating the symptoms of occupational burnout.”

“Association of spa therapy with improvement of psychological symptoms of occupational burnout: a pilot study” was published by Forsch Komplementmed. (2010;17(3):132-6.)

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