Spa Guide – your Glossary of Spa & Wellness treatments

spa guide

Are you planning a day spa getaway or a spa holiday and not sure about the meanings of all the treatments that are part your programme?

We’ve got you covered with our handy spa guide based on the vocabulary of different terms commonly used by health & wellness practitioners and providers.



Traditional Chinese pressure-point massage (massage where fingers are applied to key points on the body) used to stimulate energy flow in the body, ease muscle tension, relieve pain and promote relaxation.


Traditional Chinese healing technique meant to maintain or restore the body”s balance of energy by inserting fine needles into energy centers to stimulate energy flow. Used to treat underlying causes of conditions including asthma, headaches, lower back pain, menstrual irregularities, arthritis, allergies, high blood pressure among others.


Seaweed therapy bath that is a form of Thalassotherapy.


Aerobic exercises performed in a swimming pool using the support and resistance of the water and therefore reducing the chance of injuring joints or muscles.


Treatments such as massage, facials, body wraps, or hydrobaths that include the application of fragrant essential oils. Different oils are used for different therapeutic benefits.


An alternative medicine originating in the Vedic traditions of India. It relies on a system of natural healing and balance between the body, mind, spirit and environment. In Ayurveda medicine humans are governed by Vata (wind), Pitta (fire) and Kapha (earth) which make up the characteristics of our mind and body. Balancing these areas (doshas) is the basis of this ancient system of medicine which incorporates nutrition, herbal medicine, aromatherapy, massage, and meditation.

Ayurvedic Massage

Is characterized by deep, therapeutic massage meant to release toxins, invigorate, and relax. It uses massage oils chosen to balance a person’s Vata (wind), Pitta (fire) and Kapha (earth), which make up the characteristics of our mind and body.

Balinese Massage

A massage administered by two therapists working in synchronized movements along the body.


The term origines from Latin: balneum “bath”and refers to the use of water to restore and revitalize the body. Since antiquity, balneotherapy has been used to improve circulation, fortify the immune system and relieve pain and stress. Balneotherapy may involve hot or cold water, massage through moving water, relaxation, or stimulation. Many mineral waters at spas are rich in particular minerals such as silica, sulphur, selenium, and radium.

Body Scrub

A full-body treatment using products such as sea salt mixed with natural oils to assist in the removal of dead skin layers and increase blood circulation. A Body Scrub is sometimes referred to as a Body Polish or a Body Glow.

Body Wrap or Herbal Wrap

Treatment in which strips of cloth are soaked in herbal teas and cocooned around the body.

CAM Complementary & Alternative Medicine

Complementary and Alternative medicine (CAM) is the term for medical products and practices that are not part of “Standard” medical care. Standard medical care is medicine that is practiced by health professionals who hold an M.D. (medical doctor) degree and by other health professionals, such as physical therapists, physician assistants, psychologists, and registered nurses.

Standard medicine may also be called “Western”, mainstream, orthodox, or regular medicine. Complementary medicine treatments include Acupuncture, Massage therapies, Hydrotherapy, among others.


It derives from the Sanskrit term for “whee” an Ayurvedic term for an energy center. It is believed that there are seven chakras located along the spine, each with specific qualities.

Cold Plunge

A circulation-stimulating pool of frigid water designed to be used in conjunction with sauna or steam room sessions.

Color Therapy (also Chromotherapy)

Based on the concept that color has vibrational energy that can help correct imbalances in the body, color therapy uses color in rooms, lights and crystals to enhance mental and spiritual health.

Cranio-sacral Therapy

This treatment aims to improve the function of the central nervous system by balancing the fluid and membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord. Performed through gentle palpitations of specific areas used to treat a range of conditions, including stress, insomnia, headache, anxiety, fibromyalgia, and head, neck, and back pain.

Deep Tissue or Sports Massage

Deep tissue massage works layer by layer through connective tissue and muscles down to the deepest accessible layers to change posture and create freedom of movement by releasing muscle contracture. Adhesions and scar tissue form in muscles because of injury, poor posture, chronic or acute inflammation and repetitive motions. Deep tissue massage therapists use their fingers, thumbs, fists, forearms and elbows to stretch each muscle.

Detoxification (also Detox)

General term used to describe a variety of treatments intended to cleanse the body of toxins.

Essential Oils

Aromatic liquids extracted from flowers, grasses, fruits, leaves, roots, or trees. The oils maintain the odors and tastes, and thus the essence, of the plant they are extracted from and are used in therapies such as Aromatherpay massage.


Is the procedure to gently remove the outer layer of dead skin cells off the face or body. Dry brush and salt glow are some of the techniques used combined with ingredients including salt, clay, sugar or grape seed.

Experience or Sensation Shower

A shower that suggests or evokes natural elements such as a tropical storm or rain forest through changes in lighting schemes and water pressure, often with an infusion of aromatherapy.


A form of Balneotherapy where different Medicinal clays are widely used over the body for health enhancing purposes.

Flotation Capsule

Also called sensory deprivation tank is a soundproof tank with Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) and water at skin temperature, in which individuals float. It is believed that Flotation has a number of health benefits such as release muscle tension, reduce chronic pain and improve relaxation.

Hammam or Turkish Bath

Is a traditional Middle Eastern bath house and its adapted Western versions include steam rooms of increasingly elevated temperature, bathing rituals, relaxation áreas and cold showers.


Also called “water cure” is an alternative medicine, that involves the use of water for pain relief and treatment. It includes a broad range of approaches and therapeutic methods that take advantage of the physical properties of water, such as temperature and pressure to stimulate blood circulation and treat the symptoms of certain medical conditions. Therapeutic methods include mineral baths, Thalassotherapy, underwater jet massage, Vichy showers, among others.


When used in medicine, the term refers to treatment of the whole person, taking into account mental and social factors, rather than just the symptoms of a disease. A holistic approach in health & well-being attempts to treat both the mind and the body.

Hot Stone Massage

Is a form of anti-stress massage therapy in which smooth heated stones used to stroke areas of the body, such as the back, palms, and between the toes to relax tight muscles.

Indian Head Massage

Based on Ayurvedic principles that focuses on the scalp, face, neck, and shoulders to relieve stress and tension and nourish the scalp.

Integrative Medicine

Integrated approach to medical care that combines standard medicine with the CAM practices that have been shown to be safe and effective. They treat the patient’s mind, body, and spirit.


Is a whirlpool bath and its name derives from the first free-standing whirlpool bath that was introduced by Roy Jacuzzi in 1968.

Lomi lomi Massage

Hawaiian massage technique derived from ancient Polynesian cultures and it characterized by its gentle, continuously flowing and rocking motion. May include gentle stretches and joint rotation.

Lymphatic Drainage

Therapeutic massage technique intended to increase circulation, reduce swelling, detoxify and drain trapped water and toxins from the body through the lymphatic system. Manual drainange uses delicate, wavelike movements.

Massage Therapy

Is a general term used to describe various forms of hands-on body and muscle work. This includes Swedish, Deep tissue, Sports, Neuromuscular, Hot stone, Trigger point, Lymphatic, Therapeutic touch massage and many others. It is a common form of complementary medicine used to relax tight muscles, reduce pain, promote relaxation, reduce stress, enhance healing and improve circulation.

Medi-spa or Medical Spa

Is a Spa facility that offers both spa therapies and medical services and/ or treatments supervised by medical professionals. A spa may specialize in diagnostic testing, preventive medicine, aesthetic medicine and cosmetic procedures or a combination.


A self-directed practice for relaxing the body and calming the mind. Most meditative techniques have come to the West from Eastern religious practices, particularly India, China, and Japan, but can be found in all cultures of the world.

Until recently, the primary purpose of meditation has been religious, although its health benefits have long been recognized. It is now being further explored as a way of reducing stress on both mind and body and increasing focus.


Facial exfoliation procedure in which the top layer of skin’s dead cells is removed with ultra-fine crystals of aluminum oxide or other ingredients. It helps smooth the skin”s surface and can minimize imperfections like blemishes, fine lines, and signs of sun damage.


According to mind body green Mindfulness is a “directed-focus” style of meditation, in which you’re focusing on or counting your breath. “It is the art of bringing your awareness into the present moment” involving being aware of oneself and one’s surroundings”.

Mineral Spring

A source of thermal water containing naturally occurring elements from surrounding rocks, sand and soil, that is used in hydrotherapy treatments.

Mineral Spring Spa or Thermal Spa

Is a Spa facility offering an on-site source of mineral-rich, thermal water that is used in several balneotherapy and hydrotherapy treatments.


Osteopathy is a type of alternative medicine that emphasizes massage and other physical manipulation of muscle tissue and bones. Practitioners of osteopathy are referred to as osteopath and its name derives from Ancient Greek “bone” (ὀστέον) and “sensitive to” or “responding to”.


The term can refer to Products and treatments that are free of any types of chemicals including growth hormones, pesticides, fertilizers.

Personal training

Personalized, one-on-one, workout with a qualified instructor.


Is a body conditioning program meant to develop flexibility and strength via a system of controlled exercises. It was developed by Joseph Pilates in the early 1900s and it can be performed on a mat or on specially designed equipment.


It is a controlled compression system which operates using specialized inflatable pumps. The process focuses on moving lymph flow, starting from the ankles and moving to the upper thighs. It also increases blood circulation and helps reduce bloating and swelling by eliminating extra fluids.

Preventive Medicine

Preventive medicine and healthcare consists of measures taken for disease prevention, as opposed to disease treatment. A holistic approach to health in which a combination of conventional, traditional and alternative methods are employed to diagnose and prevent disease, as opposed to a solely conventional medical model that seeks to cure existing medical conditions.


According to this therapy there are thousands of nerve endings in the human foot alone and each of these is a reflex point that corresponds to a body part. By targeting these nerve endings, the reflexologist can assist the flow of energy through areas of the body affected by illness or stress.


Is a Spiritual Japanese healing technique in which practitioners lay hands on areas of the body to channel energy and promote deep relaxation, stress reduction, and well-being.


Is a closed heated room designed to promote sweating and boost circulation. It helps relax muscles and release toxins. The Finnish sauna, which is heated by hot rocks, is the most common in the West.

Scotish Shower

Is a practice of alternating hot and cold water jets and it is believed that it improves circulation, keeps skin and hair healthy and increases energy and well-being.

Seaweed Wrap

Body treatment using concentrated seawater and seaweed that contains nutrients including minerals, rare trace elements, vitamins, and proteins. It helps to detoxify, increase circulation, and improve appearance of cellulite.


An Ayurvedic massage therapy that involves having warmed liquids gently poured over your forehead from a determined height to create the desired effects. Depending on what ailment the therapy is treating the liquids used can differ although oil, milk, buttermilk, coconut water, or even plain water can all be used.


A Japanese finger pressure technique in which the therapist applies pressure to specific points on the body to simulate and unblock meridians (pathways through which energy is said to flow). Similar to acupressure, but involves active and passive exercises and stretching, and the therapist diagnoses the patient as the treatment is in progress.


Spa therapies have existed since the classical times when taking bath with water was considered a popular means to treat illnesses. The practice of traveling to hot or cold springs in hopes of effecting a cure of some ailment dates back to pre-historic times. It is commonly claimed, in a commercial context, that the term is an acronym of various Latin phrases such as “Salus Per Aquam” or “Sanitas Per Aquam” meaning “health through water”.

Nowadays, spa therapies are linked to various domains including beauty, pampering, indulgence, and health and well-being.


Extending and lengthening muscles slowly, then in a static manner when hitting resistance. Meant to increase flexibility and relieve stress by improving circulation and facilitating blood flow to the muscles, heart, and brain.

Swedish Massage

Classical European massage technique manipulating muscles with the use of massage oils and different movements such as long strokes, kneading, tapping, friction, and vibration. Used to soothe tense muscles, increase circulation, flexibility and de-stress.

Thai Massage

Is a full-body treatment where the therapist will use their thumbs, palms, forearms, elbows, feet and knees to press, rock and stretch. Focusing on the ‘energy lines’ throughout the body, each line is pressed repeatedly from every direction which helps to stimulate energy flow, release blockages, relieve tension, align the skeletal structure and increase flexibility. Usually done on the floor with patient wearing loose clothing.

Tai Chi

Chinese martial art in which practitioners move slowly and gracefully through a series of postures coordinated by their breath. Used to reduce stress and improve flexibility, strength, energy, agility, and well-being. Often described as “meditation in motion.”


Is an umbrella term for a serious of water based therapies that use seawater and its elements for therapeutic purposes. It is believed to be highly restorative with various health-boosting benefits. Treatments include the use of seawater, seaweed, and other natural elements from the ocean to administrate underwater jet massage, different types of showers, mineral baths, and seaweed or algae wraps.

Due to the mineral compositions of seawater, Thalassotherapy functions like a soft re-set button, helping the body to heal itself.

Tui Na

Chinese system of manual therapy used to treat specific musculoskeletal conditions using the hands, arms, elbows and sometimes feet.

Vichy Shower

Is a shower treatment in which five to seven water jets spray water on the back of a client lying on a cushioned table. Inspired by treatments in the French thermal spa city of Vichy, it is meant to reduce stress, hydrate, and improve circulation.


Skin treatments that use antioxidant-rich grape skins, seeds, and extracts in a variety of scrubs, baths, and masks.


Healing massage treatment performed in a warm pool in which a therapist administers rhythmic movements, pressure-point massage, and stretches similar to shiatsu to relieve muscle tension and pain and promote deep relaxation.


An individual’s state of being that signifies positive health and quality of life, including physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional components. According to the Collin dictionary: “the quality or state of being healthy, especially as the result of deliberate effort.”

According to the medical dictionary: “philosophy of life that views health as not merely the absence of illness but the full realization of one’s physical and mental potential, as achieved through positive attitudes, physical exercise, healthy diet and the avoidance of unhealthful practices (smoking, drug and alcohol abuse, overeating).


Ancient Indian philosophy that involves mind and body and is aimed at self-development and self-realization. The physical practice of yoga involves performing postures (asanas) and using controlled breathing and meditation to stretch and tone the body and improve circulation.


A Japanese school of Buddhism emphasizing the value of meditation and intuition rather than ritual worship or study of scriptures.


18 September 2017 | Trip for Wellness |


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© Copyright 2016 by Trip for Wellness - Agência de Viagens registada no Turismo de Portugal, RNVAT nº 6086

© Copyright 2016 by Trip for Wellness - Travel Agency License Nr. RNVAT 6086

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