Water, which forms the basis of spa therapies, has been used for healing and relaxation for many thousands of years. Bathing, as a form of social activity and as a health treatment, has been used since the time of ancient civilisations in Egypt, Babylon (now Iraq), China, Persia, Japan, India, Greece and Rome.
During the 17th and 18th centuries, spas became highly fashionable in England, with people from all walks of life travelling to take the waters in the Spa towns of Bath and Tonbridge Wells. Now, in the 21st century, water as a therapy has been restored to popularity and there is a vast range of different spa treatments available, each of which is designed to provide specific benefits to the client.
Steam treatments were first used by the Turks and Romans and provide heat and humidity. Steam therapy can be experienced in a steam room (where a number of clients can relax together) or in a steam cabinet (where the individual client sits within the enclosed cabinet, but with their head outside so they can breathe the normal air of the room).
Because steam therapy uses wet heat, it is not recommended for people with a range of medical conditions including heart and respiratory problems.
A doctor’s advice should always be sought before booking a steam therapy. Clients who suffer from claustrophobia may prefer the steam cabinet to the steam room.
Saunas, which originated in Scandinavia, use hot dry heat to stimulate the metabolism and induce significant perspiration. Clients use the sauna for cleansing and relaxation and many homes in Scandinavia have their own private sauna, either in the house or in the garden. The temperatures in a Sauna vary between 50 and 120 degrees centigrade, and anyone with medical problems (especially heart and respiratory conditions) should talk to their doctor before booking a sauna session.
The use of mud for health and healing dates back to 400 BC, when Hippocrates used medicinal mud for healing wounds and lesions. Today, there are spas in Greece, Austria, Italy, Germany, Hungary and, of course, the UK which offer mud therapy to provide relaxation and healing for a variety of skin, bone, joint and muscular conditions.
Thalassotherapy is based on the principle that by immersing the body in seawater and marine extracts, minerals will enter the system and begin the process of detoxification and renewal. Thalassotherapy combines water, seaweed and mud with baths, showers and massage to allow the client’s skin to absorb the beneficial minerals and trace elements contained in these substances, and begin the processes of oxygenating, moisturising and revitalising.
Algotherapy uses seaweed extracts and algae-based treatments, usually in the form of body wraps, baths or beauty products. Body wraps are often marketed as a slimming treatment, and also provide additional benefits such as deep skin cleansing and moisturising, firming, toning and contouring, improving the appearance of cellulite and stretch marks, and body detoxifi- cation as well as producing an overall sense of deep relaxation and general revitalisation. Aside from seaweed, body wraps can also be prepared with flowers, essential oils, herbs, paraffin wax, mud or aloe vera. Hydrotherapy baths
A hydrotherapy treatment is usually provided in a bath that has an air pump attached to allow air to be added to the water. The client’s experience is of sitting in a bath full of warm, scented water, which provides a gentle massage. Hydrotherapy is excellent for back pain and for tense, tired and aching muscles and joints. Some baths have a hose attached which is used by the therapist to massage the client under the water.
The Kneipp cure was first developed by a Bavarian, Sebastian Kneipp, who provided cold baths and wet wraps alongside more traditional hydrotherapy baths. It is the theory of alternating hot and cold temperatures on the tissues, depending on the condition being treated, using, for example, an aqua treatment where alternate showers of hot and cold temperatures are jetted onto the client.
Jacuzzis are also known as whirlpool spa baths which, by means of jets of air and the action of fast-moving water, provide a massage which produces deep relaxation and a sense of well being. The whirlpool massage effect can be alternately gentle and quite vigorous.
Spa therapies can be used to treat a wide range of conditions including muscle tension, skin problems such as eczema and psoriasis, and sinus problems, but are generally used for stress relief and general relaxation purposes.
Spa therapies deep cleanse the skin helping to release accumulated toxins and help to relax tense, tight muscles, tendons and ligaments. Some therapies, such as body wraps, can help with inch-loss, and are particularly popular with clients who want to look their best for a special occasion. Primarily, they aid relaxation.
In general, Spa therapies should be avoided by clients who suffer from cardiovascular disease, high or low blood pressure, respiratory problems, infectious skin diseases, or epilepsy, and those who are pregnant. It’s important to always talk through any health problems with the therapist before the session begins and, if you are in any doubt, have a chat with your doctor before booking a treatment.
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