Learn About Spas with the Spa Treatment Glossary

If you don't know the difference between acupuncture and Ayurvedic treatments, look it up in the Spa Treatment Glossary!

Many people are intimidated about going to a spa because they don't know what treatments they want. So they'll end up with a basic (probably Swedish) massage, enjoy it, but wonder what all the fuss is about.

Or worse, they'll order the "latest and greatest" treatment without understanding it, hate the experience, and never come back.

They're missing out on some wonderful spa experiences! There is so much more to a spa vacation than a simple massage or facial. Your massage can be light or firm, you can have a body wrap or polish, you can try an ancient Eastern method of treatment like acupuncture, or a high-tech medical procedure like Botox.

woman relaxing on a massage table overlooking a pool

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Below are descriptions of some of the most common spa treatments to help you make your decisions. Choose a spa and a treatment, and enjoy!

Acupressure/acupuncture - Both free the flow of chi (energy) to relieve pain, restore health, and assist the body in healing. Acupressure uses pressure from the fingers at specific points related to the health of a body part; acupuncture uses long, thin needles inserted into those points.

Ayurveda - Meaning "the science of life", this very popular Indian philosophy brings together the body and mind, and utilizes nutrition, exercise, massage, meditation, herbs, and oils to bring balance to life. Ayurvedic healing

makes use of herbs for health rather than drugs. There is a wide array of herbal remedies for specific ailments.

Ayurvedic massage with oils is also used to facilitate the flow of energy through the body and promote relaxation.

Body Polish or Scrub - The use of loofah sponges or fine grains to cleanse and exfoliate the skin. Spa body scrubs act as a body polish to smooth away rough, dry skin. Sea salt is one of many ingredients that can physically exfoliate the skin, sloughing off the top layer of dead cells. Other scrubs use sugar, coffee, or ground almonds. After a quick rinse, body oils or lotions can be applied to moisturize and keep your skin smooth.

Body Wrap -Wrapping the body in linens, towels, and/or plastic to warm the body, which helps it absorb the beneficial minerals, enzymes, and oils from products applied to the skin. Used in conjunction with a mud, seaweed, or herbal mask, the body wraps are often detoxifying spa treatments, ridding the body of toxins through sweat. They can also be used as a beauty treatment. The body is first exfoliated with a scrub, then the mask is applied and the body is wrapped to raise the skin's temperature. After the wrap is removed, the product residue is removed with a shower and more lotion is applied.

Botox Treatments - One of the newest and most popular wrinkle treatments, Botox is injected into the skin to soften and reduce the appearance of facial wrinkles.

Craniosacral Massage Therapy - The use of gentle massage and pressure on the neck and head to relieve stress, neck or back pain, and migraines.This massage is performed with the client fully clothed and laying face-up on a massage table.

woman receiving a facial or craniosacral massage

Deep Tissue Massage - A massage technique that loosens the fascia (connective tissue) to release muscle tension and promote healing. This technique uses very firm strokes, but should not be painful. Hot stone massage can be performed with equally firm strokes.

Holistic Therapies - Health spa treatment that addresses the person as a whole - physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Herbs, massage, meditation and stress relief are the focus of holistic therapies. Ayruvedic therapies are holistic.

Hot Stone Massage - Heated stones are applied to chakra points for massage and balancing of energy. The stones are used to assist the therapist in massaging and loosening the fascia beneath the skin, as well as warming the muscles during the massage. The massage may be gentle or firm; just let your therapist know your preference.

Lomi Lomi Massage - A traditional Hawaiian therapy using rhythmic rocking and chanting to relax muscles and stimulate circulation. This is a gentle, relaxing massage.

Lymphmatic Drainage/Massage - Rhythmic massage used to detoxify the lymph system and reduce water retention. Usually started in the head or neck area, the therapist very gently "pushes" the liquid away from the affected area, such as the sinuses, to drain fluid and reduce swelling. It is also used to reduce swelling of the arms or legs after surgery.

woman doing core-strengthening Pilates exercise

Pilates Method - An exercise technique developed by Joseph Pilates in the 1920's. Pilates workouts are designed to strengthen your "core", or abdominal and back muscles, as the basis for a strong, healthy, and flexible body. Originally designed to be performed on an exercise machine, the exercises can also be done with bands, rings, or other equipment.

Pressure Point Therapy - Massage techniques designed heal specific body parts by applying pressure to a "trigger point" associated with that body part. Acupressure, Reflexology, and Shiatsu are examples of pressure point therapy.

Reiki- A Japanese technique for relaxation. A therapist lays hands over chakra points to balance energy and relax the body. The hands may or may not actually touch the body; the treatment can be performed with the body fully clothed.

Rolfing - A sometimes painful technique used to correct musculo-skeletal problems. Massage treatments are progressively more intense, from relatively superficial to very deep tissue massage.

Sauna - Dry heat in a wooden chamber, using the body's perspiration to cleanse and detoxify the skin. Finnish in origin; often followed by a immersion in cool water.

Shiatsu Massage - A Japanese massage therapy using pressure points to clear blocked energy. Similar to acupressure.

Swedish Massage Therapy - A classic massage therapy using 5 movements - long strokes, kneading, tapping, rolling, and vibration - to relax the body and improve circulation. Swedish massage therapy can also help reduce the stiffness of arthritis and other joint pain.

Thai Massage - A massage therapy involving stretching as well as massage. Usually done on a floor mat, there are no oils involved and the recipient wears comfortable clothing.

Turkish Bath or Hamam - A Middle-Eastern bathhouse ritual involving many steps: wet or dry heat to promote perspiration, mud body masks, showers or drenching from a water bucket, scrubbing and exfoliation, and massage. The cleansing and purification ritual takes several hours and involves warm and hot rooms, exfoliating scrub, a foamy bath, and relaxation in a cool room at the end of the process. Hamams cater to both men and women, although they are separated.

Yoga - A Hindu tradition of balancing the body and mind through movement, breathing, and meditation. There are a wide variety of yoga techniques and philosophies. Yoga is often associated with Ayurvedic therapies (because of its Indian tradition) and also Pilates (because of the stretching, flexibility, and strength in the movements).

Not sure how to behave at the spa?  Learn about Spa Etiquette!

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