I am a massage- and spa-therapy client, and I want to tell massage therapists—from the client’s point of view—how beneficial spa therapies are.
I blog about the latest spa therapies and products, and consider myself a fanatic when it comes to body care sessions. I’ve received many types of spa therapies, and I choose them for reasons other than those that motivate me to get a massage.
As a chronic headache sufferer, massages are my go-to for headache prevention and treatment. This means massage is sometimes therapeutically painful. When I book a spa therapy, such as body wrap, mud application or scrub, however, I have a different kind of treat to look forward to.
If I’m feeling sluggish, I might request a salt or sugar scrub to invigorate me. To stimulate circulation, I will probably get an herbal wrap. If relaxation is my goal, then getting a shirodhara treatment accomplishes that for me. (I also get the added benefit of a delicious oil treatment for my hair.)
After I had surgery on my elbow to address tendonitis, my physical therapist suggested paraffin wax treatments. Therapeutic? Definitely. I live in a dry climate, so I am always looking for deeply moisturizing treatments. I also love a good body polish with ingredients that penetrate my skin while I am cocooned in hot linens.
I don’t always want to go to a fancy spa to get these therapies. It’s simple: If I can receive treatments like this from my massage therapist instead of a trip to a high-end spa, that means I can afford more sessions.
Time for Tools
Nothing beats the feel of a thumb kneading a knot in my back, but I’ve had massage tools used on me that I’ve adored—and I’m sure the therapist was happy to use these tools for the relief they provided her hard-working hands.
The knobs on some of these instruments perform a similar job to the therapist’s thumbs and elbows, and in fact some have multiple nodules that work in a spider-like fashion, so I get a multipronged massage.
I once had a therapist perform a sound healing ritual while I was bundled in warm herbal blankets, and I enjoyed it tremendously. She stood behind my head and gently rang tingsha cymbals a few times and alternated this with playing a crystal singing bowl. Using a tuning fork as a form of therapy is also a popular treatment that some therapists are adding to their repertoire.
A favorite massage tool of mine is the herb-filled muslin ball, also called a Thai compress. The first time a therapist used this on me, I was face-down, and for 10 minutes prior to my massage I felt long, sweeping strokes along my back and legs that awakened my entire body. The sensation was invigorating and exfoliating, and the earthy scent was heavenly. She showed me what this item was after the massage, and now I request it all the time.
I see another therapist who uses warm basalt stones on my tight trapezius muscles. I’m not talking about a full-body, hot-stone massage, but an add-on to my regular massage. She keeps a stone warmer in the room to heat up two large basalt stones, which she uses intermittently as hand replacements throughout my Swedish or deep tissue massage. This offers her a much-needed break from the squeezing and palpating, while my muscles enjoy the extra benefit of relief through heat.
I have many massage tools at home, but they’re not all easy to use on myself—especially on my back—and a massage therapist has expertise that I don’t.
I have often purchased a product or tool that has been used on me during a treatment. The oil, mud, herb, or scrub often sold itself during the treatment. I loved how it felt, and I wanted to have that feeling at home. If high-quality products are used and they do their job, the massage therapist doesn’t have to sell it to me. I dislike hard sales as much as anyone, but if I hadn’t asked about the products, I certainly would have been OK with the therapist saying, “I have this product available, if you’d like to use it at home.”
For example, I have been swathed in mud, and I found it so healing and delicious on my skin that I have taken mud products home with me.
Help Your Body and Your Bank Account
Pampering modalities, such as wraps, muds and scrubs, are sometimes viewed as lush indulgences with little or no therapeutic value—but from personal experience, I believe these treatments do offer therapeutic benefit, not only to the client but to the massage therapist. (Many spa therapies are much less taxing on the therapist’s body, offering a respite from the physical demands of a full-body massage.)
I believe a focused spa treatment is best, where massage add-ons or individual treatments cater to specific concerns, such as collagen for anti-aging, shea butter for dry skin or jojoba for exfoliation. Even if it’s a tightening of the skin, a temporary reduction in cellulite or an appearance in weight reduction due to a wrap’s diuretic effect, for some, that’s enough. In fact, many clients are only looking for a short-term boost in their appearance for a special occasion such as a wedding or beach vacation.
Massage may be queen, but healing rewards can come from all kinds of spa therapies. (Most spa therapies can be adapted to a regular session room. They don’t require a wet room. Instead, the therapist can just use moist towels to wipe product residue away.)
Also, if massage therapists are not offering spa treatments, they are missing out on potential income. According to the International Spa Association (ISPA), the average revenue generated for a massage in 2015 was $93, but the average revenue generated for a body-therapy session, such as a wrap, scrub or mud treatment, was $110.
Further, ISPA’s 2017 ISPA U.S. Spa Industry Study states that more than 184 million visits were made to American spas in 2016. Why not get on board with that trend and provide clients with the spa treatments they obviously want, and which offer therapeutic benefits?
Money Well Spent
For me, spa treatments are part of my health care regimen. They remind me that I deserve to feel good. The benefits of soft skin, less-achy joints and a general feeling of well-being are worth a lot, and I’m likely to tell my friends about a great spa experience. This can mean new business for the massage therapist.
The bottom line in this industry is to help clients feel better. If a spa treatment improves my circulation, relaxes or invigorates me, or boosts my confidence because my skin is softer or I see a temporary enhancement in my appearance, then it’s money well spent. And if I can take that experience home with me in the form of products, I’m even happier.
And whom do I have to thank for that? My massage therapist.
Valerie Brooks is a former employee of Ten Thousand Waves spa in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She is a writer and editor with a passion for all things spa. When she is not editing a manuscript or blogging about the latest massage technique or skin product, she is probably playing with her Chihuahua mix, pug or cat.