No doubt, visiting a spa has become popular in India. But if spas want to remain popular they will have to sharpen their profile. In the future not only will they need to appear as champions of tasteful interior design and superficial pampering. They will also need to become centers of therapeutic excellence – naturally without compromising on the other aspects that attract people to come, like for example a quiet and serene atmosphere filled with pleasant fragrances.

lynne_mcnees_headshots_tb02-199x300More than advanced technology, therapeutic excellence requires therapeutic skills in the form of a well-trained staff, as well as certain guidelines regarding the suitability of certain treatments for certain clients. At present there are still spas here in this country that fail to ask prospective clients for their health information before they give treatment. However asking these questions, in some cases can be vital, if unpleasant side effects are to be avoided and customer satisfaction guaranteed. Even though this is not taken into account by everyone in the business just yet, like massage, spa treatments might be completely contraindicated; or contraindicated without a physician’s release; or contraindicated for a specific body area; or at least require adaptive measures and increased vigilance. Such restrictions may apply to probably 20% of the people who enquire about treatments.

According to Lynne McNees, president of the International SPA Association, “Good spas will ask you a lot of questions. Staff, whether verbally or in an intake form, should inquire about your allergies, medications and conditions, and it is your responsibility to be upfront. People with high blood pressure, for instance, need to know they should avoid warm wraps, which could cause a spike in their numbers. And if you have had shoulder surgery, you should tell your massage therapist, who can cater his or her treatment or possibly add in a heat pack.” And if good spas ask these kinds of questions, if you are noticing that no one at the reception asks you any question of this kind or hands you a questionnaire to be filled, you hence have entered a sloppy spa. In this case, as a client, it is suggested that you turn around and leave the premises – or stay at your own peril.

In an article in Massage & Bodywork, and American bi-monthly magazine for therapists and interested clients shares the following general considerations that need to be taken into account by the spa staff, “If the client is taking a prescription or over-the-counter medication that distorts his or her perception of hot, cold, pain or pressure, postpone the treatment. For the same reason, clients under the influence of drugs or alcohol should not receive a treatment. Offering wine, champagne or other alcoholic drinks as part of the spa package endangers the client and may affect the legal liability of the clinic or spa. An up-to-date medical dictionary, drug reference and pathology reference books should be readily available to research unfamiliar conditions and medications. If there is any doubt about the suitability of a given treatment for a client, suggest a different treatment or postpone the treatment until you obtain a doctor’s release.”

“Ensure that your health history intake form asks questions about allergies to herbs, essential oils, iodine (present in seaweed), or other ingredients. Heat increases the irritation potential of any products applied to the body, so clients are at greater risk for developing skin irritation during treatments like hot sheet wraps, hot stone massage, or hydrotherapy tub immersion… If a product or its ingredients can penetrate the skin and enter circulation, it must be used with more caution.”

Hannelore Leavy, executive director of The International Medical Spa Association suggests that the client follows a common sense rule of thumb, “Anytime you feel your questions are not being answered correctly, freely and completely, walk.”