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A recent study at the Cornell Medical Centre, New York Hospital found that massage is effective for physical and psychological wellbeing, as well as reducing anxiety and improving insomnia. Massage is one of the core treatments at spas for good reason. Day Spa Locator has provided a glossary of terms and procedures to help you understand the various treatments that are provided by Day Spas across the nation. The terms are in alphabetical order and can be reached by simply clicking on a letter below.

Search Glossary by Word:

- A -

Acupressure: An ancient Chinese system of healing based on applying finger pressure and massage to meridians (energy points) which release muscle tension related ailments.

Acupressure Facial: Finger massage to acupressure points in the facial area, to obtain deep relaxation and prevent stress wrinkles.

Acupuncture: An ancient Chinese system of healing based on inserting small needles into meridians (energy points) throughout the body to dissolve obstructions in the flow of energy and to correct organ imbalances.

Aerobics: Exercise performed to music which stimulates the aerobic capacity of the heart and lungs.

Aikido: A Japanese martial art.

Alexander Technique: A posture, movement, and massage system designed to improve the way we sit, stand, and move in our daily routine, in order to relieve and prevent pain and stress.

Algotherapy:  The use of seaweed in facials, body wraps, and baths for detoxification and rejuvenation (See also Thalassotherapy).

Aqua (water) aerobics: Aerobic exercise performed in a swimming pool where the  water provides support and added resistance. Reduced impact to the body makes this a particularly advantageous form of exercise for the overweight,  elderly, post-medical trauma, or pregnant exerciser.

Aromatherapy: The practice of stimulating the senses through fragrance by using natural botanical essential oils from plants, leaves, bark, roots, seeds, resins and flowers. Aromatherapy refreshes and relaxes the skin while soothing the mind by helping to induce a sense of well-being. Each individual essence is used to produce a specific beneficial effect.  (See Essential Oils, below, for more information).

Ayurvedic Treatment and Massage: Massage techniques include: Abhyanga- individually prepared herbal-oil massage that deeply penetrates the skin, relaxes the mind and body, breaks up impurities and stimulates both arterial and lymphatic circulation. It enhances the ability for nutrients to reach starved cells and for the removal of stagnant waste. It also heightens awareness that will direct the internal healing system of the body. Vishesh is a deep muscular massage that breaks up adhesions and improves circulation deep within the muscles. Pizichili is a continuous steam of warm herbal oil soothingly poured over the body by two Ayurveda therapists as they massage the body in unison. It provides a deep tissue cleansing and a heightened state of awareness. Udvartina is a deep penetrating herbal paste used for a lymphatic massage. It is an exfoliating treatment that conditions the skin while pressing stagnant lymphatic toxins out of the body. Shiro-Ahhyanga-Nasya is a luxurious combination of a deep head, neck and shoulder massage, a facial lymphatic massage, followed by deep inhalation of therapeutic aromatic steam and a nasal and sinus nasya with herbal nose drops. This is to balance most head, neck and respiratory disorders. Pinda Swedna is a deep cleansing treatment where rice boiled in milk and herbs are massaged deeply into the tissues and joints; relaxing, rejuvenating, and great for detoxifying the body.

- B -

Bach Cures: Healing with floral essences and oils.

Balneotherapy: The uses of water to improve circulation, strengthen the immune system, and reduce pain and stress.

Bindi: Bodywork combining exfoliation, herbal treatment, and light massage.

Bioenergetics: Energy exchange between the giver and receiver of massage.

Bio-Lifting: A non-surgical facial lifting treatment performed with galvanic stimulation.

Body Composition Analysis: Method of measuring the percentages of body fat, lean muscle mass and water, done with skin-fold calipers, a bio-impedance mechanism or a hydrostatic tank.

Body Polish:  A gentle buffing or massaging of the skin with botanical or marine extracts or salt for exfoliation and smoothness. Similar to a salt glow.

Brush & Tone: Dry-brushing exfoliating of skin to remove its dead layers and impurities and stimulate circulation.

- C -

Cathiodermie:  The use of low-voltage electric stimulation to revitalize and oxygenate the skin, and improve circulation.

Cayce-Reilly Massage: This massage is intensively therapeutic, manipulates tissues and joints, and uses moist heated castor oil and glycothymaline packs.

Chi Kung / Chi Kong / Qigong: A Chinese energy exercise where breathing and body movement recharge energy.

Circuit Training: Exercise using weight-resistance equipment in an aerobic manner.

Club Spa:  A facility whose primary purpose is fitness and offers a variety of professionally administered spa services on a day-use basis.

Collagen Facial: Freeze-dried collagen is used to plump the skin to fill in the fine lines acquired by stress, sunbathing, or the environment.

Colon Therapy: A high colonic enema that cleanses using water. Benefits include detoxification, cleansing of the blood, and the stimulation of internal organs. 

Colonic: Irrigation of the colon for the purpose of cleansing trapped debris, which is believed to recycle toxins back into the system.

Compression Wrap: A localized treatment for cellulite and fatty deposits on arms, legs and buttocks.

Contouring: Deep toning of muscles using calisthenics.

Crainosacral Therapy: A gentle hands-on method of evaluating and enhancing the function of the crainosacral system (the membranes and cerebrospinal fluid that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord).

Cruise Ship Spa:  A spa aboard a cruise ship providing professionally administered spa services, fitness and wellness components and spa cuisine menu choices (definition by International Spa Association).

Crystal Healing: Healing by using energy believed to be generated by quartz and other crystals and minerals.

Cure: A course of treatment. Also known as kur.

Cybex: Patented exercise equipment used for isokinetic strength training.

- D -

Dancercise: Modified modern dance steps and movements to provide an aerobic work out.

Day Spa:  Services will vary by provider, however, Day Spas typically provide beauty, health, and therapeutic treatments which can be started and completed in a single session, either by the hour, or by the day.   Overnight accommodations are not usually available. (see Resort Spas and Destination Spas for more detail).

Dead Sea Mud Treatment: The application of mineral-rich mud from the Dead Sea to detoxify the skin and the body and to relieve rheumatic and arthritic pain.

Deep Muscle Massage / Primmer Deep Muscle Therapy: This type of massage eliminates knots, locked up areas, and emotional blocks in the body due to prolonged stress. It includes various leverage techniques and kneading for a very firm massage.

Deep Tissue Massage: Frees congestion of the muscle attachments. Deep work brings about realignment of postural distortions and restores proper range of motion. Liberation of emotional tensions may also result. Muscle function and awareness are balanced, and elasticity is revived.

Destination Spa:  A spa whose sole purpose is to provide guests with lifestyle improvement and health enhancement through professionally administered spa services, physical fitness, educational programming, and on-site accommodations. Healthy spa cuisine is served exclusively (see also Day Spas and Resort Spas).

Dulse Scrub:  Exfoliating body treatment, which utilizes dulse seaweed powder, which has been hydrated with either water or an essential oil. This treatment removes impurities and dead skin cells and re-mineralizes the skin.

- E -

Effleurage: Massage technique involving quick, long strokes at the beginning and end of a treatment.

Endermologie:  A form of massage that reduces the appearance of cellulite.

Equilibropathy: A method of balancing the body which can be used to therapeutically treat ailments from asthma, migraines, sore muscles, sinus congestion, vertigo, stiff joints including gout, arthritis & rheumatism, lowered immunity and many more common conditions and is particularly useful in the prevention of all types of illnesses.

Ergo meter: Exercise machine designed for muscular contraction.

Essential Oils:  Natural substances extracted from grasses, flowers, herbs, shrubs, trees, resins and spices, usually through a process called steam distillation. Oils can soothe, relax, rejuvenate, heal, energize or relieve pain, thereby affecting the body's physical, psychological and emotional levels.  Essential Oils used in this manner are traditionally called aromatherapy. 

Esalen Massage: A long, gentle and stroking style of massage.

European Facial: A skin care treatment which includes deep cleansing, steam, exfoliation and professional massage of the face, shoulders and chest area which nourishes and refines the skin. This is followed by a special masque that hydrates the skin.

Exfoliating Treatment: Peels away dry skin cells and removes deeply-trapped secretions that impede oxygenation. Marine sediments, mineral salts, and lipo amino acids can be used to stimulate circulation and add moisture.

- F -

Fango Body Treatment: Thermal fango (fango means mud in Italian) from Italy is applied to the entire body to gently cleanse, release toxins, re-mineralize, nourish, and soothe the skin. Also used to relieve muscular and arthritic pain.

Feldenkrais: A method to reprogram the nervous system through movement augmented by physical pressure and manipulation.

Flotation: Float in tanks filled with sterile salt water regulated so that its temperature is precisely the same as your body temperature for a sense of buoyancy and weightlessness. You float in complete sensory isolation so that no nerve impulses move from the skin to the brain for a unique feeling of relaxation. Can be used in complete silence, music or guided imagery.

Free Weights: Hand held dumbbells or barbells.

- G -

G5: Percussive hand massage to relax tense muscles.

Glycolic Facial: This breaks down the glue bond that holds dry skin on the face, and then creates a rapid exfoliation to soften lines and smooth the skin.

Golden Spoons: A product utilizing twenty-three karat plated "spoons" used as part of a facial; one is hot (actually warm to the touch) and the other is cold. The therapist applies alternately each one to generate efficacious penetration of the creams and lotions, and also to open and close pores, stimulating circulation. Based on the Kneipp Treatment Principle of alternating hot/cold, cold/hot.

Gommage: Body treatment that cleanses and re-hydrates utilizing various creams applied in long massage-like strokes

- H -

Hellerwork: Deep tissue bodywork, stress reduction and movement reeducation. 

Herbal Wrap: The body is wrapped in a cloth soaked in an herbal solution to eliminate impurities, detoxify the body, and induce relaxation.

Herbology: Therapeutic use of herbs in treatments and diet.

Holistic Health: A philosophy of well-being that considers the physical, mental and spiritual aspects of life as closely interconnected and balanced.

Holistic Spa: Spas focusing on alternative healing methods and nutrition, mainly vegetarian or macrobiotic holistic healing seeks "high level of wellness" integrating body and mind in a higher consciousness.

Homeopathy: Based on the principle that "like cures like," this form of medicine treats patients with natural substances that cause symptoms much like those manifested by the ailment, thus stimulating the body to heal itself.

Hot Stone (La Stone) Massage: Bodywork involves the use of heated and cooled stones (Thermo therapy) applied to the body in various ways to bring about relief to stiff and sore muscles 

Hydration Facial: Utilizes enzymes and hylauronic acids which promote superior hydration of stressed skin cells. A mask of paraffin and essential oils are applied to re-hydrate and revitalize the skin.

Hydrotherapy: Water used as a form of treatment by way of jet massages, showers, and baths.

- I -

Inhalation Therapy: Treatments involving the inhalation of steam vapor, which may have been treated with medicine or natural herbal / mineral substances; used for respiratory, pulmonary or sinus related ailments.

Interval Training: A combination of high energy exercise followed by a period of low intensity activity.

Ionization: A form of thallossotherapy where seawater has been ionized with negative ions, sprayed and inhaled; aids the upper respiratory tract

- J -

Japanese Enzyme Bath: - Wooden tub filled with fibrous material (such as wood chips) and plant enzymes, which naturally ferment creating a heated substance. Person is submerged in the mixture and allowed sweating out toxins; aids in the relaxation process, improves circulation and metabolism. Treatment time generally doesn’t exceed one hour.

Japanese Facial: Energizing technique used to stimulate acupressure points through the lifting and toning of the face and scalp; believed to have a cumulative effect when used on a regular basis for firming the skin and preventing aging.

Jin Shin Acupressure: Gentle yet deep finger pressure on specific acu-points with body focusing techniques to help release physical and emotional tension and armoring, assist the immune system, alleviate common ailments, and harmonize the flow of life energy within the body. Performed without oil.

Jin Shin Do: An ancient art of harmonizing life energy within the body by placing fingertips over clothing on designated areas.

- K -

Kinesitherapy: Also referred to as physiotherapy, this treatment involves the active or passive movement of various parts of the body, and aids in the circulatory and strengthening of the body.

Kneipp Baths: Developed by Father Sebastian Kneipp. Herbal/mineral baths used as part of a regimented therapy of healing; used in combination with nutritional and exercise disciplines. Hot and cold therapy is a key component of this form of therapy (water, stones, pebbles, etc.).

Kneipp Kur: Treatment combining hydrotherapy, Herbology, and a natural food diet.

Kur: A course of treatment. Also known as cure.

- L -

La Stone (Hot Stone) Therapy: Bodywork involves the use of heated and cooled stones (Thermo therapy) applied to the body in various ways to bring about relief to stiff and sore muscles.

Lomi-Lomi: Traditional Hawaiian bodywork which uses energy in the form of waves. These waves are produced by the mind (intent), the body (touch & motion), and the spirit (energy field).  The therapist uses long, broad strokes and rocking movements, and may walk on the client's back using ceiling-mounted balancing bar.

Loofah Scrub: Brisk rubbing with a Loofah sponge to exfoliate the skin and stimulate circulation.

Low Impact Aerobics: A form of aerobics without jumping which spares the body possible injuries.

Lulur:  An exfoliation and body polishing treatment in which a paste of sandalwood, turmeric, ground nuts, rice, and scented woods is painted on the body, left to dry, then gently rubbed off. The treatment is followed by a hot shower and yogurt mix wiped over the body.  A warm bath filled with scented flowers completes the treatment.

Lymphodrainage: Non-evasive therapeutic massage to the face and neck that uses a delicate pumping technique to purge swollen tissues (lymph nodes) of water and trapped toxins.

- M -

Massage: There are over 80 types of massage in use today. They are as many reasons to seek massage as there are types. In general, massage is based on concepts of human function, anatomy, and physiology and uses a wide variety of soft tissue and manipulative techniques.  A masseur is male massage therapist.  A masseuse is a female massage therapist.

Medical Spa:  Individuals, solo practices, groups, and institutions comprised of medical and spa professionals whose primary purpose is to provide comprehensive medical and wellness care in an environment which integrates spa services, as well as, conventional, and complimentary therapies and treatments.

Mineral Springs Spa: A spa offering an on-site source of natural mineral, thermal or seawater used in hydrotherapy treatments.

Moor Mud Therapy / Treatment: Formed more than 30,000 years ago, Moor Mud is a complete nourishing matter containing over 800 plants with at least 380 having known medicinal value. Treatments re-mineralize, hydrate & exfoliate the skin leaving it with a vital, healthy glow.

Morphology: Attributed to Hippocrates, this specialized form of massage targets specific digestive areas; massage is done in combination with essential oils; this massage therapy requires specialized training and may be barred from practice in some states. The therapy is used to improve digestion and eliminate waste from the colon tract.

Mud Treatment: Mineral-rich mud used to detoxify the body, loosen muscles, and stimulate circulation.

- N -

Naturopathy: Natural healing treatments using plants and flowers.

NIA (Neuromuscular Integrative Action):  A form of exercise that encourages free expression and combines dance, yoga, martial arts, and various cultural practices.

- O -

Onsen:    A Japanese hot spring for bathing in the traditional Japanese method.  The Japanese have wonderfully civilized bath manners.   Prior to bathing, you first take a shower to wash off dust, and then sink into the bath. You exit the tub in order to wash hair and body, and return to the tub for soaking and relaxation, being careful not to bring bubbles with you.  The hot water must be kept clean. Most Japanese people change the water once a day, after all family members have taking a bath.

Oxygen Treatment: Oxygen is used to cleanse and refresh. In an Oxygen Facial, after cleansing, steaming and exfoliation, your face is sprayed with ozone, which increases circulation and creates a warm, healthy glow. Oxygen facials may prevent breakouts, diminish fine lines and buffer the effects of environmental pollution. They're said to be particularly beneficial for smokers.

- P -

Parafango: A combination of Fango mud and paraffin wax (refer to Paraffin Mud Treatment).

Paraffin Mud Treatment: Mud mixed in paraffin provides the benefits of both mud and paraffin treatments.

Paraffin Treatment: Melted paraffin is applied to the skin to trap heat, absorb toxins, and induce relaxation. After solidifying, it is briskly whisked off leaving the skin silky soft.

Paraffin Wrap: A process of removing dead skin cells with hot oil and Japanese dry brushing techniques. Then an emollient wax is applied to the entire body for an intense hydrating treatment.

Parcourse: An outdoor trail with exercise stations along the way.

Perfector Therapy: The use a low current that sends tiny electrical impulses to the muscles, stimulating them which in turn leads to cell regeneration, lymph cleansing, toxin removal and more toned and firmer skin and muscles.

Pfrimmer Deep Muscle Therapy / Deep Muscle Massage: This type of massage eliminates knots, locked up areas, and emotional blocks in the body due to prolonged stress. It includes various leverage techniques and kneading for a very firm massage.

Physiochineitherapy: Therapeutic use of heat, light, electrical and mechanical means and movements to regenerate strength and flexibility.

Phytotherapy: Healing through plants, involving the use of herbs, aromatic essential oils, seaweeds, herbal and floral extracts.

Plunge Pool:  Small hot and cold water pools that are used alternately to enhance circulation. Also known as Roman pools, mineral pools, or seawater pools.

Polarity Massage: A technique of gently rocking, holding and massaging to stimulate relaxation, restore energy flow and encourage revitalization

Polarity Therapy: Balancing energy in the body through a combination of massage, meditation, exercise, and diet.

Polish: A gentle process using large sea sponges to cleanse, exfoliate, hydrate, and soften the body.

Pressotherapy: Treatment with pressure cuffs to improve the circulation of the feet.

- Q -

Qigong / Chi Kung / Chi Kong: Pronounced "CHEE GUNG", a Chinese energy exercise where breathing and body movement recharge energy.

- R -

Radon Therapy: An inert gas used in many European spas as part of a treatment process believed to stimulate organ functions and promote improved secretions of the glands, without any harmful effects of radiation.

Rasul: An Oriental ceremony for body care involving a cleansing seaweed soap shower, medicinal muds, and an invigorating herbal steam bath.

Reflexology: An ancient Chinese technique in which specific pressure points (usually on the feet, but also on the hands and ears) are massaged in order to re-establish the flow of energy throughout the body. Relieves stress and releases energy and pressure throughout the body.

Reike / Reiki: The Ancient Art and Science of balancing the body's energy on a physical and emotional level.

Repichage: A combination of herbal, clay, seaweed or mud face-packs to cleanse and moisturize.

Resort Spa:    A spa owned by and located within a resort or hotel providing professionally administered spa services, fitness and wellness components and spa cuisine menu choices.  

Rolfing: Bodywork that improves balance and flexibility through manipulation of rigid muscles, bones, and joints. Intended to relieve stress and improve energy.  This is a very intense, and at times very painful, deep-tissue massage.

- S -

Salt Glow: An exfoliating treatment where the body is rubbed with coarse salt to remove the top layer of dead skin and stimulate circulation.

Sauna: Dry heat in a wooden room used to open the pores and eliminate toxins through sweat.

Scotch Hose Massage: A massage received in a standing position performed by a therapist who uses a hose to spray strong jets of water on the body alternating hot and cold water or using sea water.

Seaweed Wrap: A wrap of concentrated sea water and seaweed which diffuse minerals, rare elements, vitamins, proteins in the blood stream to revitalize the skin and the body.

Shiatsu: Japanese acupressure massage technique, in which pressure is applied to specific points of the body to stimulate or release the 'meridians' (paths of the body) through which energy flows.

Spa: Means the "cure of water". It has transformed into wonderful treatments utilizing the benefits of sea and mineral water.

Spinning: Performing a series of exercises seated on special exercise bikes: stretching, low intensity aerobics, high intensity aerobics, body contour, yoga, meditation.

Sports Massage: Massage of foundation tissues directed specifically at the muscles used in athletic activities. This is a deep muscle massage often used around the joints. It combines classical Swedish style with trigger points, compression and electro-neuromuscular techniques to reduce soreness. Excellent when preparing for sports activities or after a strenuous workout.

Sports/Adventure Spa: A hotel or resort providing therapeutic baths and body treatments that offer special sports and outdoor adventure programs. Programs include anything from golf to skiing and fly-fishing to marathon conditioning.

Steam Room: Tiled room in which steam is generated at a high pressure and temperature. This treatment is used to open the pores and eliminate toxins.

Step Class / Step Aerobics: Aerobic sessions performed with a small platform used to step up and down.

Stretching: Various parts of the body are stretched by assuming different positions to help eliminate stress and tension and increase flexibility. 

Structured Spa: Spas with a strict set of rules whose entire facility is geared towards the achievement of a particular goal such as weight loss, smoking cessation, or fitness.

Sugaring: An ancient hair removal process.  A warm mixture of sugar, lemon and water, body sugar can remove hair from the eyebrows, upper lip, bikini area, legs and underarms. Like waxing, sugaring removes hair at the root so that it grows in finer and the skin stays smoother longer. But, because the sugar mixture is all natural and goes on warm, it's less painful than waxing and leaves the skin less irritated.

Swedish Massage: A classical European massage technique of the muscles with special oils by therapeutic stroking and kneading of muscle tissue to promote stress relief. It is used to improve circulation, relieve muscle pain and tension, increase flexibility and induce relaxation. It combines three basic strokes to the skin: long, firm strokes; kneading strokes; and small circles. This is the most requested and one of the most enjoyable massages.

Swiss Shower: Powerful shower jets that alternate hot and cold water are directed onto the body at various levels to produce the effect of an invigorating massage.

- T -

T'ai Chi: A form of Chinese martial art that combines mental concentration, slow respiration and graceful movements similar to those of a dance.

Thai Massage: A technique that involves a unique combination of gentle rocking and stretching using range of motion and acupressure techniques applied through clothing without oils.

Thalassotherapy:  The use of sea products used to detoxify, exfoliate, balance the skin's pH, and hydrate.

Thalassotherapy Massage: A massage using seaweed oil.

Trager Approach:  A technique developed by Dr. Milton Trager that involves rhythmic rocking and shaking movements to relieve joint tension.

Tui Na:  An ancient system of Chinese body work in which the practitioner uses acupressure and massage to balance the body's flow of energy, flush toxins, and treat specific ailments.

- U -

Underwater Massage:  Like an aquatic Shiatsu (see also Watsu) is a relaxing, back-to-the-womb experience designed to release tension, boost energy and remove blockages from the body's energy channels. (According to Eastern medical philosophy, such blockages are believed to contribute to illness.) During treatment, a spa therapist keeps you afloat in a body-temperature pool for 45 minutes while pressing on acupressure points and helping you stretch and perform range-of-motion exercises. Watsu is particularly helpful for people with chronic pain, like arthritis, since the water's buoyancy makes it easier to move without discomfort.

- V -

Vichy Shower: A shower taken lying down on a table, usually in a "wet room" where jets of water spray from above and below, or all sides.

Vodder Massage: A manual lymph drainage massage technique.

- W -

Watsu: (See also Underwater Massage) Silent, deeply relaxing aquatic body work.  Done in a pool, shiatsu and acupressure in flowing dance-like movements where the body is supported by water and the practitioner.

Waxing: The removal of body hair with hot wax.

Weight Lifting Work-out: Aerobic exercises that make use of the resistance offered by weights.

Whirlpool: A tub of hot water with jets of high pressure water pumped from the sides and bottom  which massage muscles and induce relaxation.

- Y -

Yoga: Oriental practice that uses special positions (asana) and breath control to stretch and tone the body, improve circulation, calm the central nervous system and induce a meditative and all-embracing state of being.

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