A spa break is a great way to take time and relax, think about changes to make in your life while dozing by the pool.
But if you have something specific you would like to address – back pain, stress levels, or support with a chronic illness, for example – many spas can help there, too.
Based on the latest research, certain treatments have been shown to help with a wide variety of issues, from pain relief to mental wellbeing.
Many spas offer retreats that can improve your sleep, diet or general health. These can also be tailored to a particular life stage, pregnancy, the menopause or simply stress.
Here are ten spa hacks for life’s aches, pains and troubles.
1. Good for Sleep
A good night’s sleep is the modern holy grail, insomnia its plague. No wonder the popularity of sleep retreats is on the rise. The Good Spa Guide enjoyed one recently at Lucknam Park (they are running another in March 2020). This featured hypnotherapy, sound baths, yoga and equine therapy, focusing on anxiety as a root cause of insomnia. Ragdale Hall also run a serene sleep break, with Tai Chi, sound baths, meditation and yoga. No time for a retreat? Try a sleep treatment instead. In 2019, a systematic review concluded that aromatherapy was effective in improving sleep quality in healthy adults; we experienced a deep and relaxing night’s sleep after our A Chance to Dream massage at the Source Spa at Saunton Sands Hotel in Devon.
2. Good for weight loss
With obesity on the rise and causing all manner of health problems, it’s important to drop the extra pounds and discover new ways to maintain a healthy BMI. A 2011 study in the British Medical Journal found that people who lost weight in groups lost three times the amount of those dieting alone. Slimming World and Weight Watchers are great, but a spa fitness retreat is a more focused way of breaking bad habits and changing your mindset. Champneys offer Weight Loss and Detox Retreats where you will learn to train your brain to regain control of your eating habits, motivate you to exercise and increase body confidence. For an elite workout, join The Lanesborough Club and Spa and enjoy personal training, a monitored nutrition plan and high intensity classes in the most exquisite gym.
3. Good for menopause
Regular relaxation has been shown to improve menopausal symptoms. A small-scale Swedish study tracked menopausal women on a 12-week relaxation programme and found that, overall, their hot flushes reduced by 73 percent. You don’t need to go to a spa for 12 weeks to get the same result. Simply book a regular spa half-day, ideally in the week when it’s quieter. To get you started, book a 2-night menopause retreat at Lifehouse Spa in Essex. The break includes treatments and one-to-ones with the resident naturopath, Reiki Master and personal trainer.
4. Good for back pain
Our Senior Spa Spy was impressed with her Back Pain Retreat in Portugal. It was run by Restore and Reform who organise holidays abroad with physiotherapy and Pilates programmes designed by clinical experts. But you don’t need to go far to ease your aches and pains. A review of current research on 2017 found strong evidence that massage therapy helped lower back pain, as well as tension in the shoulder and neck. Other treatments said to benefit bad backs include Reiki, acupuncture, Ayurvedic treatments and hydrotherapy, as well as yoga, Pilates and Tai Chi. Try a blissful Ayurvedic Kundalini back treatment at The Three Graces Spa at Grantley Hall and relax in the outdoor hydrotherapy pool.
5 Good For Recovery
While spas can’t claim to cure cancer, there’s increasing evidence that certain styles of massage can help with quality of life and wellbeing, whether you are in recovery from or having treatments for cancer. Cancer Research UK say that reflexology is one of the most popular treatments among patients; a 2008 study found it reduced anxiety in those with breast and lung cancer. Many spas on the Good Spa Guide website have cancer care trained therapists: just check the icons at the top of the spa listings. If you have any concerns, talk to your oncologist before you go.
6. Good for pregnancy aches and pains
A recent study showed that massage can relieve many of the normal discomforts associated with pregnancy. The most common health problems in the second trimester were headaches, back aches, sleep disturbance, anxiety, muscle cramps; all of which showed a significant improvement after massage. Check your spa menu for mums-to-be treatments: they often use special pillows or beds to support your bump during the massage and will know the right products to use. Cottonmill Spa has The Babymoon Spa Day with an ESPA or Elemis massage and a manicure or pedicure.
In this narcissistic age we tend to focus on getting fit for looks rather than feels. In yoga, you are encouraged to experience your body from the inside out, relishing the feel of stretches and energy flow, letting go of the perfectionism and competitiveness of other work-out activities. With deep breathing, you can slow down and really enjoy what your body can do. A 2009 study found that women practicing yoga at least once a week felt less self-objectification and more body positivity. Ragdale Hall Spa run Real Life Yoga Breaks with Meg Jackson, catering for every level and including basic meditation and mindfulness techniques.
9. Good for gut health
Gut health is the new buzzword in wellbeing as we discover more and more about the microbiome (bacteria living in our bodies, especially our stomachs) and how it can impact everything from sleep to mental health issues. A Belgian study found people with depression had smaller amounts of certain gut bacteria. Grayshott Medical Spa in Surrey is well known for its Health Regime which focuses on promoting the health of the microbiome by eliminating foods that irritate the intestinal lining. Sounds unappetising, but the food is reportedly delicious.
10. Good for headaches
What can you do for headaches other than take painkillers and lie in a dark room? A study on sedentary female workers showed that acupuncture improved neck and shoulder pain as well as headaches up to three years after the treatment. If you have acupuncture, make sure it’s with a qualified and registered Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner. We reviewed a TCM inspired treatment at the Spa at the Mandarin Oriental in London with the legendary Professor Song Ké of the Asanté Academy.