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

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

 

 

European Spa Tour Part 1: “Midwestern massage therapists go to Europe”

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to travel with other Midwestern Massage Therapists to Switzerland, Austria, and Germany and visit spas and massage clinics in each country, speaking to therapists, spa managers, and citizens about their experiences receiving massage therapy. I was excited to learn the truth about a belief commonly held by American massage therapists and their clients: “In Europe, everyone gets massage and it is covered by their health insurance.” On our tours and visits I received tons of great information, but with language barriers and info overload, I think I returned with more questions than I had when I arrived in Europe. My research continues!

Clockwise from left: Matt (my husband who was more interested in HVAC systems and mountains than massage) Dale (LMT from Kansas, our fearless leader), Melissa (LMT from Iowa), Barb (LMT from Illinois), Julia (LMT from Illinois), Erin (LMT from Illinois, and Emily (Along for the ride!) and me (Cassie, LMT from Iowa)

For example, on our last night, I visited with a great German couple over dinner and asked if they had ever personally received massage therapy covered by their insurance. The husband stated that his physician prescribed 10 medical massages by a physiotherapist (I’m not sure if this is a physical therapist or medical massage therapist based on what he described) to recover from knee surgery. He has private insurance in addition to the government insurance, so his treatments were covered, but not all massage therapy and not all massage therapists are covered by health care.

I asked our new friend if he understood different licensing and training between the therapists who provide insurance-covered massages and relaxing massages. He stated “Spa therapists are like on Baywatch”  (Record scratching…”WHAT?”) His wife went on to explain “Yes, like, lifeguards. It is the same kind of training. In the spas the massage therapists are also the lifeguards.” (Pro tip: DO NOT Google “German Lifeguard Massage”) Honestly, I think that our new German friends just wanted to perpetuate a stereotype and found any reason to casually steer the conversation to David Hasselhoff.

NOT a massage therapist.

It took awhile to Google the correct phrases, but I eventually realized that, at least in Germany, a 2+ year training program is required to become an accredited massage therapist and “medical pool attendant,” which makes sense because the medical massage therapists we met could do really great therapies in the many warm water pools and could prescribe hydrotherapy. If they continue a year to a year and a half in their training, it appears they would be working toward their physiotherapist qualifications. It seemed like that was similar to the case in other countries we visited. The medical massage therapists typically had a higher level of training than in the U.S. but physical therapists seemed to have a slightly lower amount of training than in the U.S. so the occupations didn’t have quite such a qualification gap.

In this blog series you’ll learn about my spa, massage clinic, and pool/sauna complex visits and experiences our group of midwestern licensed massage therapists enjoyed on our European spa tour!

Click here to read part 2: Avert your eyes!

 

Massage acceptance, a step backward?

I try to keep politics out of the spa (politics is about the least relaxing topic ever). However, our guests value massage therapy and right now massage therapists are caught in a precarious battle to maintain their professional credibility and guarantee clients safe, convenient access to massage as healthcare.

I’ve been on an amazing tour of European massage therapy clinics, spas, and wellness centers with licensed massage therapy colleagues from Iowa, Illinois, and Kansas this week. It has been fascinating to learn the long history of therapeutic and medical massage and how it is an integral and accepted part of European healthcare.

In stark contrast, I woke up two days ago to some distressing news. A city ordinance proposed in Clive, IA would impose additional regulations on legitimate massage therapy businesses in that city. This is a trend in Central Iowa in response to the alarming number of illigitimate businesses, however there are already laws in place regulating licensed massage therapists AND laws against human trafficking and prostitution.

In my visits to the wellness clinics in Switzerland, Austria, and Germany, I’m learning how public visitors can enjoy relaxing massage therapy for stress relief and overall wellness, and patients recovering from surgery, injury, workplace strain, and living with disabilities receive prescribed medical massage alongside physical therapy, exercises, hydrotherapy (soaks in pools and theramal water) and more. These facilities are very accessible and are frequented by senior citizens, families with children, and the population in general.

Meanwhile, back in Central Iowa my colleagues received letters from the police department informing them of proposed restrictions on their business hours (this could especially impact therapists serving shift workers and athletes who like early morning massages before work or in conjunction with gym schedules), additional background checks, fees and more. Seeing the acceptance of massage therapy in Europe compared with our regression in central Iowa was particularly painful.

I agree that human trafficking is a huge problem in the United States and there are an alarming number of illicit human trafficking operations in Central Iowa, but Licensed Massage Therapists are educated, trained healthcare providers that benefit the lives of many of their clients. The State of Iowa licenses massage therapists and has laws regulating the professional, ethical, competent practice of massage. The illicit businesses are easy to spot already, bars on the windows, inappropriate advertisements online, and not following licensing laws. One such business has a handwritten sign instructing cars to park behind the building (out of view of the street, presumably).

I’m hopeful that we can come to a compromise that doesn’t restrict ethical practitioners and the public will continue to receive massage therapy that is convenient, as an effective means of reducing stress and pain. I hope that the municipalities proposing (and passing) additional restrictions on legitimate massage therapy businesses don’t discourage therapists from opening in their areas, making it less convenient for residents to use their services to enhance their quality of life.

If nothing else, I’m thankful to start the conversation. The public needs to be aware of the benefits of massage therapy and learn to speak out against unethical human trafficking operations without damaging the licensed professionals who have the primary goal of making life easier, less stressful, and healthier for the citizens of their communities. I applaud municipalities for making the fight against human trafficking a priority, but please recognize that license massage therapists are heartbroken that these illegal and unethical businesses are masquerading as a profession we love. It adds insult to injury for these legitimate therapists to feel as though they are being punished and lumped in with the people perpetuating these crimes against the victims of human trafficking.