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

 

 

Kneipp Wellness: A Fascinating History

Before we invest in a product line, we like to know the story and get a feeling for the company.  Kneipp, a German line we carry, has an awesome story and long history of offering balance, pain relief, and relaxation naturally. The rare instances we have German spa visitors, it is a blast to see them rush the Kneipp product display. It shows that many have the utmost respect for the founder, Sebastian Kneipp (1821-1897)

dpag-1997-sebastiankneippHistory

Sebastian Kneipp was a priest, naturopathic doctor, and is widely considered to be the father of hydrotherapy. He believed he cured his tuberculosis with regular dips in the icy Danube river. He worked with a pharmacist to develop a line of medicinal cures and many of the formulations are included in today’s Kneipp remedies.  He continued to share the benefits of water in wellness treatments, including wading pools, baths, and using water in other ways to ease pain.

People walking in a Kneipp pool

Kneipp pools such as this exist today. Photo source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/simpleinsomnia/

kneipphistoryProduction

Today the Kneipp salts are still mined using traditional methods from Europe’s last remaining salt cave, which is 250 million years old and 1500 feet deep so the salts are not exposed to environmental pollutants.  Products are planted derived, free of animal products, free of preservatives and mineral oil, eco-friendly, and dermatologist tested for skin safety.

The Kneipp Philosophy Today

Sebastian Kneipp believed that the five pillars to health were water, plants, exercise, nutrition, and balance.  This simple philosophy is embraced by spas and wellness providers today.  In the foothills of the Bavarian alps, there is an entire town dedicated to Kneipp wellness, “Kneipp town.” The spa village of Bad Wörishofen features Kneipp treatments at all lodgings and doctors practice Kneipp wellness. In Kneipp wellness communities, you’ll find many hydrotherapy tubs, walking paths where people walk through streams and in nature, and more!

mandarin_oriental_hong_kong_kneipp_pool_and_ice_fountain

The Mandarin Oriental Hotel and Spa in Hong Kong features a Kneipp walking pool and ice bath.  (Wikimedia Commons)

Our East VillageSpa Best Kneipp Sellers:

Kneipp products are incredibly popular, especially with clients who hope to continue their relaxation and pain-relief benefits post-massage. The Kneipp Bath Salts are our top seller, with the top three scents being:

  • Arnica joint relief
  • Juniper muscle relief
  • Eucalyptus Cold and Sinus relief
  • Red Hemp and Poppy “Pure Bliss”

Our top-selling Kneipp oil is the Devil’s Claw, which aids in pack pain, neck pain, and headache relief.  Our massage therapists love incorporating this oil, plus the arnica products into treatments.

Our best selling bath salt from Kneipp is ideal for people who have joint and muscle pain or arthritis.

Our best selling bath salt from Kneipp is ideal for people who have joint and muscle pain or arthritis.

Learn more about Kneipp through their website, or visit us at East Village Spa to smell and feel the different products, pick up literature, or ask our team for guidance on hydrotherapy and aromatherapy!

Source:

My Water Cure by Sebastian Kneipp

Kneippus.com

New Product Line: Kneipp Hydrotherapy and Aromatherapy products

We are beyond excited to present the Kneipp (pronounced ka-nipe) line of aromatherapy and hydrotherapy products to our clients.  Tiffany and I discovered this line while at the ISPA conference this fall and the products we took and tried were phenomenal.

Kneipp was founded by Sebastian Kneipp, a 19th century priest and naturopath and that has been fine-tuned with many years of botanical competence and pharmaceutical experience.  The salts used in the Kneipp pine are from an ancient underground salt water sea in central Germany that is the last remaining salt works in Europe.  These minerals are free from chemical additives or environmental pollutants.  They are high in magnesium, calcium, and zinc which absorb through the skin during bathing.

We will be able to incorporate their arnica, joint, and muscle formulations into our sports massages and deep tissue work and we’re thrilled to have some home remedy options for our guests just in time for winter cold and arthritis season.

A small selection of the great new Kneipp products we have!

A VERY small selection of the great new Kneipp products we have!

We were going to hold off on putting our the Kneipp products until we move the retail area to the expansion and have more space, but our team has already been raiding the order for their own use so we’ve started putting out what will fit in our current retail space, if you’re curious about anything else, don’t hesitate to ask…we might just have the product or solution you’re looking for hiding in waiting and we’d be happy to grab it for you!