Top 5 reasons to visit the spa during Promenade

The East Village’s annual holiday kick-off is THIS FRIDAY, November 17th. Thanksgiving is crazy early this year so we’ll get an additional week of holiday festivities before Christmas. As always we plan fun events for the Promenade and encourage you to stop up and say hello! Here are our top 5 reasons to stop up this year!

  1. TREATS! Our friend Anne at Shade Tree Bakery is creating gingerbread cake parfait cups for us. Be one of the first up to make sure you get one. She’s a genius with baked goods.
  2. DRINKS! I’ll be making my spiced cranberry hot toddies. Cranberry, cinnamon, cloves, orange, and a splash of Jameson to warm your body and spirit.
  3. BLENDS! Kelly and Molly will help you craft perfectly blended gifts at our aromatherapy blending bar so you can give a homemade gift that is customized for everyone on your list. Enjoy 20% off of all custom blended lotions, body scrubs, body mists, bath salts, and bubble baths.
  4. MENU UNVEILING: We’ll debut our December and January seasonal menu at the event…need a hint? The menu pairs perfectly with our treats for the evening.
  5. GIFT CARD SALE! As Always, we’ll be kicking off our annual gift card sale on Friday. For every $100 in gift cards purchased in the spa (excludes online) you’ll get a FREE $20 voucher good for regularly priced services in 2018. The sale goes through 12/23, but it is best to shop early to avoid the lines.

P.S. A secret 6th reason? We have restrooms our customers can use between all of the Promenade stops for holiday cheer and merriment. A perk of being part of the East Village Spa family!

European Spa Tour Part 5: Austrian “Kur,” Radon pools, and spa massage

Just tuning into my European spa adventure? Click here to start from the beginning!

Our European Spa Tour started in Switzerland and progressed to Austria where we learned about the 3 week “kur” (pronounced “cure”) and got to experience a spa relaxation style massage at one of the sauna and thermal bath complexes in the most beautiful town surrounded by the Alps, Bad Hofgastein. Like our tour of the Reha Clinic in Switzerland, the rehabilitation clinic at Alpentherme in Bad Hofgastein offered therapeutic medical massage alongside physical therapy, exercises, prescribed “fresh air” walks, sauna and hydrotherapy.

The Kur

At Alpentherme, we learned about the Kur, or a 3 week wellness program that most Austrians qualify for about every 5 years under their government health insurance, depending on what conditions they have and their occupation (i.e. physically demanding jobs or injuries). During the kur, residents spend 3 weeks at the clinic receiving prescribed therapies, eating healthy foods (ideally) doing exercises, saunas, and hydrotherapy programs. Our tour guide stated that her taxes were roughly 50% of her income, which is how they fund such comprehensive wellness programs. Research has shown that for some conditions that are quite expensive to manage, an annual Kur helps to cut costs of medications and more costly interventions so some disabilities qualify for more frequent visits.

She also stated that recently, the government guidelines for treatments are requiring a bit less “passive” therapy like massage and more active therapy like physical and exercise therapy so their treatment providers must coordinate with each other to ensure they meet qualifications for reimbursement. Medical massage therapists seemed able to provide similar services to those at the clinic in Switzerland.

Anyone up for a radioactive dip?

One of my most memorable moments on the tour was when our guide explained that one particular soaking pool for pain and inflammation was available by physician prescription only and with close monitoring. At first we were positive we were missing something in translation. “This one is full of ‘rah-dohn'”

“What? Surely you are mis-translating ‘MAG-NES-IUM’, or something else, right?”

Oh what’s that? A radon pool? Okie Dokie!

“No, no, it is ‘rah-dohn….radon’ pool. See? Look at the brochure!” Our guide pointed to the description in the pamphlet and sure enough, we were looking at one of the radon therapy pools…and once we picked our jaws up off the floor, we had a few questions. “What about the therapists working in the pools?” (According to our guide it is too little radon to hurt the therapists but just enough to help patients) “Has anyone researched this?” (Oh yes! It is very good!) “Should we remove our radon mitigation systems and open health centers in our basements?” (No. Use is closely monitored by physicians.)

I did do a bit more research at home. Interesting.

Spa Massage Therapy

Like in Switzerland, the massage therapist qualified to provide the medical massages have several years of training. I’m unsure of the training required to provide massage therapy in the spa, but if I understood correctly, it sounded like it might be flexible, with some apprenticeship programs available. The spa at Alpentherme was very well-appointed, but there are some stark contrasts from what people expect from a spa massage in America. Amenities like warm herbal compresses and hot stones, hydrotherapy tubs with color changing lights, plus a table used for body scrubs and a warming table used for body wraps were among the options for therapists.

L-R Bright treatment room with paper coverings and towels for draping, hydrotherapy table for body scrubs, herbal compresses for massage

My massage therapist was very professional, but the service was quite different than what Americans expect from a spa service. The rooms were bright (as bright as in the above photos) and the tables were very firm like in a medical office with paper covers plus towels. The music was static from a local radio station, more like a background noise like in a doctor’s office in America than typical spa music designed to enhance the experience. When my massage started, it was so hard to keep from laughing as Despacito crackled through the speaker.

My husband and I had had the same therapist and he stayed in the room while we got on the table, but turned his back. He asked us both to keep our underwear on.  Others in our group who received different types of massage like hot stone were given a disposable thong. I laughed because they said they were watched by the therapists as they changed, not in a sexually inappropriate way, but in a matter-of-fact clinical way.

The massage I received was very light and rhythmic. It felt like a full body lymphatic drainage technique, lots of repetitive circles over and over. I know that in the countries we visited, they feel that lymphatic massage is very important. It was not a massage to reduce muscle tension or deep tissue by a long shot, but I know I did briefly doze off. My husband reported his treatment was the same.

Crystal healing

One interesting and unique feature of the spa we visited is that one of the spa directors takes much pride in creating herbal, aromatherapy, and crystal blends to enhance the services. While I’ve never personally subscribed to crystal healing, I can appreciate the love and care he imparts into his craft so much that I bought two blends to bring home. For months, crystals, essential oils, and herbs soak infuse a base oil. The spa even puts large crystals into their drinking water for guests. It was a nice touch and an interesting point-of-differentiation that I think fans of crystals and gemstones would enjoy.

L-R An oil infused with crystals, herbs, and essential oils sits for months until it is ready to use. A menu of their specially crafted oils for incorporation into services or purchase for home use, drinking water infused with crystals.

I was thankful for such a comprehensive tour and behind-the-scenes from our gracious tour guide. I love that so many of the pool and sauna complexes have spas or massage clinics attached because there is nothing like relaxing your muscles with heat and hydrotherapy before a massage and continuing the relaxation with a stunning walk in the gorgeous village.

The scenery was as therapeutic as the spa.

Stay tuned, my last two posts on the trip will be coming soon! My next post will be about my Traditional Thai spa experience in Munich, Germany and my last post will be a few highlights.

European Spa Tour Part 4: Rehabilitation in Switzerland

Just tuning into my European Spa Tour series? Click here to start from the beginning and catch up!

Of all the stops on our tour, I’m most appreciative of the opportunities to tour two rehabilitation centers and learn how massage therapy is integrated into the fabric of healthcare in some European countries. For our first stop, we toured the Reha Clinic in Bad Zurzach, Switzerland with our guides Thomas and Julia. Julia trained as a massage therapist in Florida 25 years ago, but that training did not qualify her to practice massage when she returned to Switzerland. In Switzerland, she practices the Trager method. In the United States, many massage therapists know this as one kind of approach to massage or techniques they integrate into their traditional settings. Some of the East Village Spa therapists integrate similar techniques into sessions. In Switzerland, it is a more widely-recognized therapy and according to Julia, it is 80% covered by insurance. (Click here for a brief explanation of the Trager approach).

American Massage Therapists and our Swiss Hosts Thomas and Julia at Reha Clinic

The rehabilitation clinic was in a complex with a large pool and sauna facility that was open to the public and used by patients. The clinic itself was for stays of 2 weeks to 4 months with some outpatient care. I would compare it to a place people would go in America after a joint replacement surgery or hip fracture when they needed intensive therapy but not long term care.  The facility employs 13 licensed massage therapists (Plus physical therapists, doctors, and nurses) and additional technicians to do wraps for patients being treated for lymphedema.

I was most excited to learn how massage therapy is covered by the national insurance plans in Europe. As far as I understood, medical massage is covered in treatments like the Reha clinic, but the massages are quite different than what my clients and the typical massage therapy client would expect and if I’m being honest, they are probably not what the majority of our clients would want for their routine massage therapy, but these sessions would be immensely helpful in a rehabilitation setting.

L-R: Thomas shows us how they make their saline towels for hot compress treatments, The massage treatment rooms in the new wing, and some of the treatment tables in the therapy center. Quite different than the atmosphere many Americans think of and prefer for massage.

Probably the coolest feature of the facility was their therapy garden. I initially assumed that this served as a place to practice physical and occupational therapy exercises or that the herbs grown were used in preparations, but I was absolutely delighted to learn that the primary purpose was chronic pain relief. According to our guide “Patients who are in pain forget the things that are not pain. They work in the garden to forget their pain and get new ideas.”

The following are the answers to my 3 most burning questions for our guides about what it is like to work as a massage therapist in a setting like their clinic.

Q: What kind of training is required for massage therapists in a facility like yours?

A: Typical is about 2 years of full-time (40 hours/week) study to become a licensed massage therapist. A relaxation or spa therapist can learn basic “feel-good” massage in about 2-3 weekends, but relaxation massage is not covered by insurance and isn’t licensed. Relaxation massages are out-of-pocket expenses. According to our tour guides, the licensed medical massage therapists respect the spa and relaxation massage therapists and see a need for their services as well.

Q: What type of services do the medical massage therapists offer and how do their services fit into the comprehensive medical treatment?

A: Medical massage therapists work as a treatment team with the physical therapists, doctors, and nurses to deliver rehabilitation treatments including aquatic therapy. They can offer hydrotherapy baths and exercises, and also perform treatments with tens units and lymphatic drainage machines. Therapists use saline (salt) wraps and hot packs. Our guide said “Massage therapists decide when a patient needs treatment like a tens unit. The massage therapist will call up the doctor and suggest it.”

Left: Warm water pools for aquatic rehabilitation. Right: Hydrotherapy tubs that massage therapists could use for treatments.

Our guides said that the types of treatments are generally prescribed by standard guidelines depending on the condition they’re being referred for (i.e. how many hours of massage, aquatic therapy, exercise, physical therapy, etc…). For example, before a patient comes to the clinic to recover from a hip replacement, he gets a plan of care. The treatment team meets weekly for an hour to discuss about 30 patients in their care and their schedule of therapies.¬†Massage sessions are typically 25 minutes long except for lymphatic drainage therapy for lymphedema which usually consists of a 30 minute morning session and a 60 minute evening session.

Q: What kind of ambiance (lighting and music) do you provide for massages?

A: (Confused looks from our guides). “Why would we play music?” We laughed. The massage rooms are stark and brightly lit, patients bring the sheets from their rooms with them to the massage therapy room unless they are paying extra out-of-pocket for special care. I love the idea of “why would they need extra sheets? They have sheets on their bed!”

Q: What is a typical workday like?

A: Perhaps a team meeting to discuss patient care, a full day of back-to-back prescribed sessions with about 2 minutes in between to do notes and clean your table and supplies, a short lunch break. A typical day for a massage therapist in their clinic is far busier and more fast-paced than for most American massage therapists I know, especially because the sessions are so short and they see so many patients.

My takeaway:

I LOVE that massage therapy training in Switzerland is so comprehensive! I have always wished that we had tiered licensing in the United States for therapists who wish to progress into a more medical/treatment oriented setting v. therapists who wish to provide relaxation and stress-relief massage only. I was glad to return to our clients and report that “Yes, massage IS covered by their national healthcare, but not the kind of massage therapy that you are accustomed to and only when prescribed for a particular ailment.” I suppose a benefit of not having massage covered under American insurance is that we can completely customize treatments for our clients and make sessions relaxing, therapeutic, and exactly what our clients want on a given day.

Overall, because of the amount of training for therapists in the medical settings and the very low requirement of training in the spa and relaxation settings, it is hard to accurately compare Swiss and American massage therapists or make accurate professional comparisons, but this tour was probably the highlight of my trip and I’m glad our hosts were able to take time out of their busy therapy schedules to visit with us!

Click here to keep reading! Part 5: Austrian “Kur,” Radon Pools, and Spa Massage