Whole body treatments
Natural Standard Monograph, Copyright © 2013 (www.naturalstandard.com). Commercial distribution prohibited. This monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. You should consult with a qualified healthcare provider before making decisions about therapies and/or health conditions.
Aromatherapy oils, body bath, body scrub, body wrap, mud baths, mud packs, seaweed wraps, spa treatments, sulfurated mud bath, thermal sheet, thermal springs, volcanic ash, whole body treatments.
Body treatments are a group of therapies that are performed to supposedly improve the appearance of the skin or help an individual lose weight. In general, these treatments involve applying a mixture of substances to almost all of the patient's exposed skin or submerging the body in specialized baths. Body wraps, seaweed wraps, and mud baths are all types of all-over body treatments. Most people consider all over body treatments to be a relaxing experience. Relaxation and temporary cosmetic changes are the primary reason people receive whole body treatments.
Advocates claim that body wraps may successfully alter the appearance of the skin and cause weight loss. Generally, these effects are advertised as being relatively short-lived. However, some providers of whole body treatments claim that regular application will result in long-term cosmetic changes.
Whole body treatments have their origin in a variety of cultures. The diverse and varied materials used in whole body treatments were not created in any one time or place. The wide selection of body treatment types and materials used in whole body treatments in contemporary spas is a unique fusion of many different cultural practices.
Due to the amounts of materials and space required, whole body treatments are most commonly practiced at spas.
Though advocates purport that whole body treatments remove toxins from the body and infuse the skin with nutrients that create a healthy appearance for the skin, there is a lack of higher quality clinical trials have been conducted to evaluate these claims. Research conducted by manufacturers of individual products may be potentially biased.
Some whole body treatments may provide symptom relief for individuals with skin conditions that cover most of their bodies, such as psoriasis. The treatments are also sometimes used by individuals with rheumatic complaints, such as arthritis.
General: Body treatments usually require the partial or complete removal of clothing. The sweating caused by body treatments such as wraps, thick mixtures, or submersion in warm baths may cause a significant loss of body water, so individuals planning to get a body treatment are generally advised to drink at least eight glasses of water within 24 hours prior to the treatment. Body treatments are usually performed before a massage or other spa treatments. Though whole body treatments usually require partial or complete nudity, most attendants cover the undressed person with towels when that area is not being treated. Sometimes, a person's waist circumference is taken prior to applying the wrap as evidence of the amount of weight lost during the treatment. At the conclusion of the treatment, the therapeutic mixture on the body is removed. Most spas use showers for this purpose, but in others, attendants wipe the patron's body clean with warm towels. At the conclusion of the treatment, cold towels and water are usually available due to potential dehydration during the course of the treatment.
Body wrap: Individuals begin a body wrap by removing their clothes and laying on a padded table, which is similar to those used for massages. Body wraps involve the application of mixtures directly onto the body or applying elastic, cloth, or plastic wraps that have been pre-soaked with oils, teas, or various other materials. Pre-prepared mixtures of chemicals, plants, soil, and other materials may be rubbed or brushed onto the body. For instance, a mixture may include very fine clay, essential oils, and flower petals. Following the application of the materials directly to the body, a person may be wrapped in a large thermal sheet.
If the wraps are not pre-soaked, then they will be dry. Wraps are fitted around the limbs and the torso. They may be tied, or the wraps may contain elastic. These wraps usually are adjustable, so that they are snug up against the skin. The wraps are designed to encourage the person receiving the body wrap to sweat. After the wraps are applied, the patron is encouraged to lie still for at least an hour, supposedly to allow the full effect of the whole body treatment to occur. Following the treatment, the wraps are removed. The therapeutic mixture may be wiped off, or the patron may be led to a shower facility where the materials are washed off.
Body scrub: Individuals begin a body scrub by removing their clothes and laying on a padded table, which is similar to a massage table. Because body scrubs are intended to remove dead cells from the surface of the skin, patrons should expect minor abrasion to occur when the mixture is applied. Body scrub mixtures may contain any number of ingredients. Many of the ingredients used are similar to those used in body wraps, with the exception of an abrasive material, such as pumice, salt, or sugar, which may be added to aid in removing dead skin cells. The mixture, which usually has a base of a creamy substance, such as mud, is then applied to the body. Attendants may use a towel, brush, or their hands to gently rub the mixture over the body. The patron then lies on the table for a period of time. The mixture applied to the skin may be allowed to dry, or it may be rewetted and re-applied over the body. A body scrub may involve the application and removal of the therapeutic mixture several times within one session.
Body bath: Baths are a type of whole body treatment that involve submerging one's self in a tub filled with aqueous (fluid) material. These baths are primarily comprised of thick mud or volcanic ash. Hot water is then added in order to encourage sweating. Peat moss or other materials may be added to the bath to create a more pleasurable environment because thick mud or volcanic ash usually feel very heavy when sitting in the tub. Advocates claim that the weight of the fluid encourages relaxation. The clothes are removed and an attendant helps the patron into the tub up to their neck. Usually, the patron sits in the tub for about an hour.
The sensation of being wrapped, massaged, submerged, or having treatments applied to the body is typically considered relaxing by most patrons.
The materials used in whole body treatments may be comprised of a variety of mixtures - from aromatherapy oils to hydrated volcanic ash. Regardless of the individual components of a body treatment, they are all intended to enhance the appearance of the skin and to remove what the industry collectively calls toxins, which are substances that are harmful to the body.
The rejuvenation of the skin and removal of toxins from the body is attributed to the process of diffusion, a process in which molecules move from areas of high concentration to those of low concentration without any expenditure of energy. The ingredients used in body treatments are chosen to help absorb minerals that may help the skin remain attractive, while removing substances, especially from the skin, that may result in signs of aging, such as cellulite.
The relatively high temperatures in which most body treatments take place may cause excessive sweating. This sweating may cause the body to appear slightly smaller than before the treatment. Because water is so heavy, losing even a slight amount of water from a whole body treatment may result in the temporary loss of several pounds.
Mud bath therapy has been studied as a potential therapy in patients with osteoarthrosis, psoriasis, fibromyalgia, inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatism (children and adults), fertility conditions and chronic encephalopathies. Mud bath therapy may have anti-inflammatory effects, although additional study is needed in humans to confirm this finding
A 2007 randomized clinical trial by Cozzi et al. evaluated the efficacy of mud baths in alleviating the symptoms of patients with spondylitis (inflammation of a part of the spine) associated with inflammatory bowel disease. Twelve patients received a treatment cycle composed of mudpacks and mud baths over a period of two weeks. Patients experienced some relief from the severity of symptoms, and the authors encouraged a larger trial to explore mud baths as a treatment for this condition.
Body treatments may use a number of herbs and supplements that will come into contact with a majority of the skin surface. Individuals with allergies should inform their attendant before beginning the treatment. Mud bath dermatitis (skin inflammation) has been reported due to cinnamon oil.
Pregnant women and individuals with heart conditions or high blood pressure should not receive body treatments at high temperatures.
Individuals diagnosed with attention disorders, restless leg syndrome, or cognitive impairment may experience difficulty in remaining still for the duration of the whole body treatment.
Mud baths may have effects on the immune system and cardiovascular system. Caution is advised in patients with immune or heart conditions.
This information has been edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com).
Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.
American Academy of Dermatology. www.aad.org
American Society of Plastic Surgeons. www.plasticsurgery.org
Association of Pool and Spa Professionals. www.theapsp.org
Bagnato G, De Filippis LG, Morgante S, et al. Clinical improvement and serum amino acid levels after mud-bath therapy. Int J Clin Pharmacol Res 2004;24(2-3):39-47. View Abstract
Costantino M. [Sulphur mud-bath treatment in osteoarthrosis: therapeutic activity and efficiency on the quality of life]. Clin Ter. 2006;157(6):525-529. View Abstract
Cozzi F, Podswiadek M, Cardinale G, et al. Mud-bath treatment in spondylitis associated with inflammatory bowel disease - a pilot randomised clinical trial. Joint Bone Spine. 2007 May 30. View Abstract
Fioravanti A, Perpignano G. Tirri G, et al. Effects of mud-bath treatment on fibromyalgia patients: a randomized clinical trial. Rheumatol.Int 2007;27(12):1157-1161. View Abstract
Food and Drug Administration. www.fda.gov
Copyright © 2013 Natural Standard (www.naturalstandard.com)
The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.
March 22, 2017