The scoop on scrubs

I’m watching the snow fly on October 12th in Iowa. Dry skin season is approaching faster than we’d like. When the weather gets cold, there is nothing better than a warm, nurturing body scrub at a spa or at home in a steamy shower

Why do a body scrub?.

A scrub is a product containing a “gritty” exfoliant like salt, sugar, or ground up materials like fruit pits or seeds, mixed with nourishing and hydrating oils. Scents may be added for extra feel-good benefits. Exfoliating with a body scrub helps to remove dead skin cells, boost circulation to the skin, and leave you feeling cleansed and refreshed. A benefit of removing dead skin cells is that your skin can better absorb hydrating products like lotions or oils. When you get a scrub at a spa, you’ll also enjoy incredible stress-relieving and muscle melting benefits. You’ll lay on a warm table and enjoy not only the sensation of exfoliation, but hot towels and light, circulatory boosting massage.

Depending on the type of scrub you you use and your skin type, you can exfoliate 1-3 times weekly, but don’t overdo it! A gentle exfoliation is sufficient, you don’t need to give your body the power-sander treatment.

What’s the difference between salt, sugar, or other ingredients?

Sugar: Sugar is one of our favorite exfoliating ingredients because it is gentle and a natural humectant, meaning it attracts and attaches moisture to skin. It is the best choice for sensitive skin. This may be a finer sugar, or a larger crystal sugar for different levels of exfoliation.

Salt: Salt is mineral-rich and gritty, making it a popular choice for scrubs, especially for dry heels, elbows, etc.. Using a salt scrub on freshly shaved legs or on cracked hands might sting a bit.

Seeds and pits: Ground apricot pits are a common exfoliation ingredient, along with other natural seeds. Look for these to be powdered, if they aren’t ground finely enough, they can be jagged. We don’t recommend this in facial scrubs.

What are our favorite scrubs?

Camille, our Managing Esthetician, swears by the Farmhouse Fresh Shea Butter Scrubs. Camille’s favorite Scent is Triple Shot Caramel Coffee. “The shea butter is hydrating, you can never get enough of that this time of year. Plus, the coffee scent helps me wake up in the morning!”

Kelly, our Spa Director, loves the Farmhouse Fresh Watermelon Vodkatini Sugar Scrub because it smells delicious and leaves her skin dewy and soft.

My personal favorite are the Body Bliss custom Aromatherapy Blended scrubs. The sugar crystals are finely ground (so they don’t fall everywhere in the shower) and it is super rich and hydrating so a little goes a long way. I like using the aromatherapy app to customize a scrub recipe for things like muscle aches, sleep, or more. What is a body scrub like at East Village Spa

Curious about booking a body scrub? We offer a fun and therapeutic aromatherapy body scrub. First, you’ll meet with your massage therapist or esthetician to use our custom aromatherapy app to create a perfect essential oil blend for your needs. Your therapist will blend your recipe into a nourishing antioxidant and vitamin rich oil base. She’ll then use a milk and sugar blend to gently exfoliate your skin and boost circulation during the service. You’ll be treated to heavenly hot wet and dry towel compresses to remove the scrub and ease sore muscles. As a special gift, you’ll get to take home a jar of scrub in a matching essential oil blend to turn your shower  into a mini-spa retreat.

Book a scrub and see for yourself how wonderful they are, especially when the weather gets cold. I recommend adding an additional 30 minute back massage or 30 minute facial on for extra TLC, you won’t regret it!

Which massage should I book?

On October 1st, we debuted our new, revamped massage therapy menu that offers more flexibility to help you get exactly what you’re looking for. Because the expanded menu means more choices and more customization, this post will help you sort through your options to pick the best service for your needs from the options that are the most popular:

EV Signature Massage: This is a 60 or 80 minute full body relaxation-oriented massage with a few fun upgrade options including a variety of hydrating Farmhouse Fresh products in rotating scents. Choose from a warm hydrating honey back mask and a few hot stones incorporated into your session OR a back scrub to boost circulation and a hot towel compress. Available with every therapist. Best for:

  • Total stress relief
  • Light to firm pressure
  • Feeling pampered and relaxed
  • People who love fun scents, warmth, a circulatory boost

Targeted Therapy Massage: This is a 30, 60, or 80 minute massage focused on a few areas of pain to help you achieve your wellness goals. Your therapist has the flexibility and discretion to incorporate more specialized orthopedic techniques, stretching, tools for myofascial work like massage blades or cups, heat or cold applications. Only available with sports or orthopedic trained therapists. Best for:

  • Athletes looking for pre or post event work
  • People seeking to enhance athletic performance or improve activities of daily living
  • People who have a specific injury or issue to focus on (i.e. frozen shoulder, plantar fasciitis)
  • People seeking specific results
  • Pressure can be very firm, but this isn’t necessary for some of the most effective techniques.

R&R (Relax and Recover) Massage: This 60 or 80 minute massage is no frills, all skills. A full body moderate to firm pressure massage. Think of it as the happy medium between the EV Signature Massage and the Targeted Therapy massage. All of our massage therapists offer this service. Best for:

  • People who prefer a totally unscented massage lotion
  • People who want to “feel” the massage but still just zone out and relax
  • Full body work, with perhaps a bit of extra focus in one spot.

Learn more about all of our massage therapies, watch videos of our services, and book your massage online at www.EVDaySpa.com!

Top 5 things your massage therapist wants you to know about couple’s massages

I walked through Greenwood Park yesterday past no fewer than 3 wedding parties posing for photos…wedding season is on! Between pre/post wedding relaxation and celebrating anniversaries, we help many couple’s to relax this time of year. While couple’s massages are one of our most popular offerings, this service also generates some of our most frequently asked massage questions. Over the years we’ve helped thousands of couples relax together and would love to share the top 5 things your massge therapsits wants you to know about couple’s massages:

  1. Couples massages aren’t just for romantic couples.

At East Village Spa we see mother/daughter and BFF duos in the couples room frequently. Particularly heartwarming for our LMTs  are the times our licensed massage therapists get to treat family members together when one person is looking after a loved one with an intellectual or memory impairment and chooses to relax with their family member in the same room to help them feel comfortable. A couple’s service is appropriate as long as both parties are comfortable disrobing (to whatever level they choose) in front of each other and sharing health information with their massage therapist in front of the other party.

2. Let your partner relax without judgment

During a massage, people fall asleep and snore. Your massage therapist sees that as a compliment (and if the session is geared towards relaxation massage, this is the goal!) During a couples massage, let your loved one be themselves, even if they are sawing logs next to you. One of our therapists’ pet peeves during couples massages is when one guest scolds their significant other for snoring during a session. This startles not only your partner but both of the massage therapists too. Don’t wake your sweetie, let them snore! If snoring will interfere with your ability to relax, you might consider booking your services in separate rooms.

3. Don’t stare (or glare) at your partner’s massage therapist!

Licensed massage therapists are health care providers with extensive training and high ethical standards. Nothing is more awkward than one when a guest receiving a couple’s massage stares (or in some cases, glares) at the therapist providing a service to his or her significant other. This makes us incredibly uncomfortable and self conscious. When someone stares at a massage therapist, it is difficult for us to focus on the task at hand: attending to your loved one’s muscles and tissues, watching for subtle signs of discomfort or relaxation to help us provide the best therapeutic service we can.

4. Couples massages on reality TV are far from real!

We’re amazed by the number of couples who want to hold hands during their session. If your tables are close enough for you to hold hands, then they are too close for your massage therapists to work around. Nobody wants only half of their body massaged! Hold hands on your walk to and from the treatment room, but enjoy your own relaxation space by bubble on the treatment table. Rose petals on the table might look pretty on camera but in reality, they’ll stick to you and smash into the carpet and your therapist will end up having to pick them all off as he or she goes. Lastly, you won’t be staring longingly st each other, deep in conversation. You’ll be resting quietly face down in the face cradle or face up looking at the ceiling, much safer, more comfortable positions for your neck.

5. Do you! Couples massages don’t need to be the same.

Some people think a couples massage will be perfectly synchronized, but in reality, they are completely customized for your unique preferences in pressure, technique, and focus area. For example, one person can get a sports massage and another can get a prenatal side-lying massage in a couples service. As long as the massages are the same length of time and we know in advance which services you want so we can pair you with the appropriate specialists. Some services like hot stone massage or our barefoot bars aren’t available in the couples rooms due to space and equipment availability.

Ready to book a couple’s massage? Give us a call at (515) 309-2904. Online booking isn’t available for couple’s services, but we’re happy to help over the phone. We look forward to helping you relax together! Learn more about our services at www.EVDaySpa.com.

Dads Need Day Spas!


According to an International Spa Association study, 47% of spa-goers are men! Father’s Day is a great opportunity to introduce the important men in your life to some the health and relaxation benefits of professional massage therapy, skin care, and nail grooming. The following are benefits of each service that appeal to men:

Licensed Massage Therapy: Licensed Massage Therapists (LMTs) are health care providers with hundreds of hours (most of our LMTs have well over 1000 hours) of training and maintain high standards of professional ethics. An LMT can help with general stress management by stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system, or relieve pain by relaxing tight muscles or addressing soft tissue  injuries with orthopedic techniques. Both relaxation and orthopedic massages have researched and proven health benefits. The American College of Physicians now recommends massage therapy as a first course of treatment for pain including low back pain.

Facials: Men truly benefit from professional facials performed by licensed estheticians (in Iowa an esthetician starts their career with 600 hours of training and accumulates hundreds of hours in additional training in skin health, product chemistry, and treatments). I’d even argue that men need these services more than women. Why? Shaving and beards! While women primarily seek professional skincare to slow signs of aging, men tend to seek skincare for irritation. Shaving can over-exfoliate skin and razor burn is uncomfortable and not the look most guys are going for. Men who wear beards experience dry, flaky skin under the beard. Even guys who rock a full beard can enjoy a facial, your esthetician can work through the beard to the skin below and focus lower on the neck. A professional skin analysis and treatment can help with these concerns. A simple but effective home care routine (sometimes just a product or two) can make a world of difference to a man’s skin and relieve discomfort. 

In addition, most facials at East Village Spa include lots of relaxing massage of the face, neck, and shoulders, which everyone loves, regardless of gender. For a man that is uncomfortable with the idea of booking a full body massage therapy treatment, a professional facial is a safe and healthy, way to experience stress relief.

Nail grooming: Most people associate a manicure (hands) or pedicure (feet) with a perfectly polished finish, but in actuality, the nail polish is the most minor part of the service and can be substituted with a healthy buff to a natural shine. Our hands and feet are some of our body’s most used and abused tools and their health is vital. Plus, everyone loves the hand or foot massage included in most services! Dry, cracked cuticles are an invitation to infection.

Healthy fingernails are a part of a well-groomed professional look and are vital for people in fields working with their hands like musicians or health providers. Safe, skilled care for cuticles and calluses and safe nail clipping to prevent discomfort or ingrown nails is an important part of foot care for athletes, especially in sports that require running. Men who work in industries with steel toe boots often experience foot discomfort and love the results of a professional pedicure. Men with mobility problems who can’t reach their own toenails especially benefit from some TLC, though if they need more than routine maintenance, a podiatrist might be a good first step.

If you want to treat dad, grandpa, or another important man in your life to a healthy spa service, stop in or purchase a gift card online (www.EVDaySpa.com). We also offer convenient online scheduling! We promise they won’t feel awkward at East Village Spa, we have a great mix of guests from teenagers to octogenarians and, YES, we see lots of men!

FAQ: Who is your BEST massage therapist?

If I had to pick one question that makes the front desk cringe the most, it would be “But really, who is your BEST massage therapist?” First of all, asking me that question is like asking someone with kids “Which one is the best, surely all of your kids aren’t good, right?” Second, this is a totally subjective question and the therapist that is best for me one day is not best for me another day. And the therapist who uses a style I’m least fond of may be our most popular.

I liken it to music. If I asked 100 people at random to tell me the best band that ever played at Wells Fargo Arena, answers would range from The Eagles, Garth Brooks, Drake, Lorde, Slipknot, Green Day and more… Some people would be annoyingly passionate about their response, believing it to be the One True Answer.Also, musical tastes change over time and even from day to day. Just because you had an incredible experience for your first massage (which is what we hope for every single massage client anywhere, ever!) doesn’t mean it is the only type of massage for you. If this were the case with music, I’d still be listening exclusively to New Kids On The Block (Anyone else think Jonathan Knight was underrated?)

Our music tastes change with our immediate circumstances. My background work music consists of mopey 90s grunge while my run mix includes songs I’d NEVER admit to having purchased on iTunes. Same for massage styles. Sometimes you need a relaxing, nurturing hot stone massage. Sometimes your chiropractor sends you to a massage therapist for focused work to rehabilitate a shoulder injury. Sometimes I want a therapist to let me wallow and cry when life is stressful, sometimes I need a therapist to encourage and motivate me to keep up with my workouts.I hope this makes sense. While all of the massage therapists at East Village Spa can offer a relaxation massage, or can focus on your back/neck/shoulders (This is what 90% of our guests request, I promise we’re all skilled at this!) we might go about it differently. Think of Taylor Swift’s 1989. Love it or hate it, when Ryan Adams covered the album in his own style, her songs gained a new fan base who otherwise would not have listened. Same songs, totally different approach.

I hope this encourages you to branch out. I seek diversity and skill in my massage therapy team. I love all of my providers, but for different reasons. If you aren’t thrilled with one style, it’s fine to “change the station” and try something new, but do remember that just because a style is best for you, or your friend, it isn’t perfect for everyone and that’s ok!

Ready to try a new style of massage, or a new therapist? Click here to learn about our licensed service providers and click here to book!

 

Flower Power Spring Featured Aromatherapy Blends

Every season we’re thrilled to bring a new features menu. For Spring 2018, our team selected three aromatherapy blends to help with common spring concerns. When you schedule our Flower Power massage, body scrub, or facial, you’ll get to select from one of the following three essential oil blends to enjoy during your service and take home as our gift!

Spring Cleaning Blend: Toning and astringent essential oils support lymphatic drainage, increase circulation and boost immune function. Choose this to feel refreshed and revitalized.  This blend includes lemon, lime, geranium, and rosemary essential oils.

Breathe Deep: Clear and protect your respiratory tract and sinuses, soothe congestion and coughs. This is a perfect blend for someone who is experiencing seasonal allergies. We don’t recommend visiting the spa when you have a cold, but the oil you take home will be perfect to keep in your medicine cabinet! Includes lavender, frankincense, peppermint, and eucalyptus essential oils.

Flower Power Blend: This uplifting flower and citrus blend will help give you courage to say “no” to some of the spring events, occasions, and obligations filling your calendar. The energizing properties in the blend help give you a pick-me-up when you feel like your schedule is running you instead of you running your schedule. Includes lemon, rose, and a hint of peppermint essential oils.

Scent is a powerful tool and we like to think that by associating these scents with a nurturing East Village Spa Service, when you enjoy your product at home your mind take a mini trip back to your relaxing visit at the spa. Learn more and schedule our seasonal features here. (Flower Power features are available March- May 2018, after May 2018, this link will take you to whatever our current seasonal features are!)

Our Flower Power Facial includes not only our aromatherapy blend, but a 12-flower mask and cold marble stones in your facial massage to reduce puffiness and help with sinus pain.

What is Reiki and why should I try it?

Brandi Munch, a licensed massage therapist and certified yoga instructor, offers Reiki (pronounced Ray-kee) energy work for relaxation at East Village Spa. Brandi answered a few frequently asked questions about Reiki. Brandi was attuned to Reiki in June 2016 by Reiki Master Erika Nielsen.

What is Reiki?

Reiki is an ancient form of energy work that clears your energy and removes blocks to bring you greater health and wellness. Think of acupuncture without the needles. Reiki gently encourages you to heal from within.

What does Reiki feel like? Are there any risks or side effects?

Reiki does no harm and the only side effect is relaxation. It can be given during traditional, hands-on bodywork or be given hands-off. Reiki feels different for everyone, but a lot of the feedback I have received is that my hands feel warm. Others say they can feel energy radiating through them in various ways. Some don’t feel anything at all except relaxation. There is no right or wrong way to feel.

Is Reiki a massage? Can you include Reiki in a traditional massage?

Reiki can be incorporated into massage but I find it is strongest during a specific Reiki session. In a Reiki-only session, the practitioner is “hand’s-off” and the client would be resting on the table in comfortable clothing or undressed to your comfort under the sheet and blanket.

Who benefits from Reiki? Do you feel Reiki or massage therapy are more beneficial?

Reiki is for everyone (and so is massage!) I would recommend a Reiki session for those with high-stress levels, anxiety, insomnia, fatigue, those who feel stagnant, who are looking to clear their vibrational frequency, or clear their emotions. Reiki AND massage are both important self-care tools.

How do I book a Reiki session with Brandi?

You can call (515) 309-2904 to schedule a 30 or 50 minute standalone Reiki session or book online. If you’d like to incorporate Reiki into a massage therapy treatment, we suggest booking an 80 minute massage and requesting Brandi. Please let us know in advance you prefer to integrate Reiki into your massage session we suggest booking a 30 minute Reiki session and a 60 minute massage session back-to-back, requesting Brandi for each.

European Spa Tour Part 6: A Thai Spa in Munich

I’m writing a 7 part series on my European Spa Tour with a group of midwestern massage therapists. Start from the beginning here!

Munich was an awesome city and I can’t wait to go back. By the time we got to Munich, I was in quite a bit of pain from travel and I needed a day off of dizzying public transportation (I have major vertigo issues). While the rest of the group took a day trip to a cool castle, my husband and I decided to find a small spa or clinic within walking distance for a really good massage.

Clockwise from left: Sumitra, a Thai massage therapist, esthetician, and spa owner with Cassie (me!), The most amazing tea made daily at Sumitra Spa with fresh ingredients, one of the massage rooms at the spa, and my foot soak with fresh flower petals.

We found exactly that at Sumitra Spa after reading online reviews. While it might seem odd to go to a Thai Spa in Munich while I’m supposed to be on a trip to get a European massage experience, Thai spas were everywhere and my body was needing a more aggressive approach at this point in the trip! We got to the spa shortly after they opened to see about making an appointment and Sumitra, the owner greeted us and was able schedule us right away. One of her employees brought out a delicious homemade hot tea for me to enjoy while I waited (lemongrass, pandan leaves, ginger, and brown sugar), then brought out a foot bath with rose petals and oil to do a much appreciated foot soak and cleanse.

I opted for the oil massage instead of the traditional floor Thai massage and I can honestly say that my massage was one of the best I’ve ever had. Some of the techniques were borderline “out-of-scope” for an American LMT (some incidental spinal manipulations…but I wasn’t complaining) and the draping was more sparse than I would offer a client in Iowa, but it didn’t feel inappropriate at all. I felt like a new human after my massage.

The highlight of the experience was sitting and chatting with Sumitra about our experiences as women business owners while my husband enjoyed his massage. She trained in Thailand and is proud of her experience and that of her employees, who are all from Thailand. She is 44 (but doesn’t look it!) and has been a massage therapist for 7 years and spa owner for 6. She works long hours but loves her work. Sumitra also employs 4 other Thai therapists. Sumitra returns to Thailand yearly for continuing education on specific treatments, for example, Thai Massage for rotator cuff injuries and brings the information back to her staff. She has also incorporated Thai techniques into facial services and she’s proud of her unique methods.

We talked about insurance and licensing and her clients pay out-of-pocket. The government insurance (and most private insurance) would not cover the style of massage they provide. She said “I know what my hands can do. My hands are better than medicine. Many people come to see us before getting surgery and we can often help.” Her business stays very busy and she has many clients, with about 50% local regulars and 50% tourists.

While we chatted, I noticed a group of male tourists standing at the door, hitting each other in the ribs and pointing in at us. From 12 years in the industry, I knew exactly what was about to happen. They walked into the spa and into our little tea party. Sumitra got up to greet them and immediately they told her she was beautiful and asked for sexual services. She firmly stated that they do not do that, they offer Thai massage. They were upset and left. I asked how often that happens and she said that maybe only 2% of the time, but that for the most part people are wonderful. It was unfortunate, but we shared a knowing look and got right back to our chat.

Sumitra’s spa was such a highlight of the trip that I brought one of my new massage therapist friends back the next day to try traditional Thai foot massage on the floor mats. It was just as wonderful as I’d expected and we were greeted like family by our therapists. If you find yourself in Munich, do yourself a favor and visit Sumitra and her team. 

One of my midwest massage therapist traveling buddies enjoying a traditional Thai foot massage on the floor mat at Sumitra Spa.

“Parlor” or Practice: Is your massage therapist legitimate?

Camdine Cox, LMT, uses a hot compress on a client.

Massage Therapists have come under attack from all sides in Iowa in the last year. Early in the year, lawmakers proposed a bill to eliminate massage therapy licensing, which never made it to a vote. Criminals are increasingly and illegally using the phrase “massage therapy” as a front for illicit activities including human trafficking. Local lawmakers are targeting legitimate and licensed massage therapists including long-time small business owners with restrictions and additional fees instead of enforcing existing laws to go after the actual criminals.

At East Village Spa, our experienced licensed massage therapy team provides nearly 7,000 massage treatments per year. Some of our team members have over 10 years of experience, some have transitioned to massage from other health fields like nursing; some from other science fields like engineering. As a whole, massage therapists are skilled, trained, caring health care providers. To help consumers to know what to look for when seeking a massage therapist, we’d like to offer the following suggestions.

  1. Check the Iowa Department of Public Health licensing website to make sure your massage therapist is properly licensed and has not had disciplinary action taken against them. Ensure you have the proper spelling and legal name when searching. To obtain a license in Iowa, a massage therapist must have a MINIMUM of 600 hours of approved education, passed their national boards, adhere to the laws, and maintain continuing education requirements. Many therapists far exceed this minimum standard. It is illegal to practice massage therapy or call yourself a massage therapist without a license.
  2. It is a legal requirement that therapists display their license in their office or treatment space. If you don’t see a license posted, it is safe to assume they are not licensed and you should leave, or check online to verify that they are approved to practice.
  3. Value professionalism. Licensed massage therapists should ask their clients to complete a written health history or intake form and update their health information regularly. Massage may need modified for certain health concerns. Your therapist should also keep treatment notes to monitor client progress and record session data.

    Justin Behanish, LMT, helps a client with a gentle neck stretch.

  4. Look for red flags. Therapists must provide safe, clean work surroundings including clean linens and sanitized head rests and massage tools, proper hand washing and common infection control measures. Does the business provide a comprehensive website or written menu of services with rates clearly defined? Are their marketing materials and advertisements clear and professional? Are clinic hours reasonable for a health provider? If your gut tells you something is “off” then it probably is.
  5. A licensed massage therapist will ensure your modesty and comfort at all times. If your therapist does not step out of the room to allow you to disrobe and lay under covers, or if they work with immodest or no draping, this is a concern and a breach of their professional ethics. If your massage therapist needs to address sensitive areas like the gluteal, abdominal, or pectoralis muscles, they should discuss this with you prior to work in those areas and obtain your consent. You should still remain modestly draped during massage in these areas. If you feel uncomfortable at any time in a session, ask to end the session.
  6. Phrasing matters. Licensed massage therapists use professional terminology when referring to their treatments. A massage therapist will never refer to him or herself as “masseur or masseuse,” terms that have been co-opted by people providing illicit services under the guise of massage. Also, licensed massage therapists work out of practices, offices, clinics, spas, salons, hospitals, in-home, etc… but they do not refer to their work place as a “parlor” which is another phrase commonly used to insinuate illicit activities take place.
  7. Like you would when seeing a new doctor or counselor, seek out referrals for a massage therapist. Read reviews online, read therapist bios, look into education and specialties to find the best massage therapist for your needs and preferences.

Brandi Munch, BA, LMT massages a clients shoulder.

Licensed massage therapists play a vital role now that traditional healthcare expenses are ballooning, where people are realizing the importance of alternatives to opioid pain medications, and seeking to manage stress for their overall health. It is my hope that lawmakers and people in authority will use the existing state laws to go after the human traffickers and people who are hiding under our professional title without punishing ethical, legal, LICENSED massage therapists and making it more difficult for consumers to take advantage of a safe, healthy, massage.

Learn about our licensed massage therapy team here, or schedule your therapeutic massage session by clicking here!

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This post was written by Cassie Sampson, BA, LMT. Cassie has been an Iowa Licensed Massage Therapist since 2005, has served as massage therapy educator, and is proud to employ an incredible team of licensed massage therapists who make a difference in the lives of their clients every day.

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.

Click here to read part 6:  A Thai Spa in Munich