Who says you need to travel the world for luxury spa treatments to soothe your RA pain? You can get the relief you need right in the comfort of your own home!
Spa specialists overseas use relaxing treatments to unknot tense muscles and soothe aches and pains away—and if you have rheumatoid arthritis (RA), that may be just what you need. But you don’t have to book an international flight to get in on the benefits—you can find what you need right in your own home! Whether you’re looking to relieve joint pain or that nagging ache in your lower back, these at-home treatments will turn your ouches into ahhhhhs...
There is a reason saunas are so popular in European countries—these hot rooms help you sweat out toxins and relax tight muscles for an overall feeling of relaxation. In fact, a Finnish study published in the American Journal of Medicine suggests that saunas can alleviate pain and improve joint mobility in patients with rheumatic disease. And a Dutch study also found that infrared sauna treatments eased pain and stiffness and lifted fatigue in patients with RA and ankylosing spondylitis. While you can go to a nearby spa to luxuriate in a sauna, it’s easy enough (and way cheaper) to turn your own bath into a makeshift steam room. Pick the smallest bathroom in the house, tuck towels around the door so heat can’t escape, then turn on the hot water in the sink and bath. If you like, spritz your favorite aromatherapy scent into the air. Let the room fill with steam, then sit on the side of the tub and relax for 10 minutes or so.
Paraffin treatments—in which heated wax is applied to the skin to lock in moisture—can also relax and soothe achy joints. In fact, some research indicates they might actually be helpful in the temporary relief of arthritis symptoms. Today, you can get paraffin warmers at beauty supply stores and give yourself an at-home treatment: Simply dip your hands, elbows, knees, feet, ankles—any body part that bothers you—into the warm paraffin several times (the wax will create a seal), wrap in plastic to create a mini hothouse around the area, then sit back for 10 to 15 minutes while the heat works its magic. Of course, if you don’t want to go to the trouble at home, you can likely find the treatment at your local nail salon!
Note: Do not apply a wax treatment to any area that has open cuts, sores or cracks.
In many European spas you’ll find two plunge pools: One quite hot, one quite cold. The idea: People jump into one, then the other and alternate back and forth. The sharp contrast in temperature is thought to increase circulation and leave you feeling invigorated. No plunge pools near you? Try this at-home technique from Cygalle Dias, founder of the Cygalle Healing Spa: If you have a separate bath and shower stall, fill the bath with cool water and the shower with steamy water by letting the hot water run. To prepare, get inside the shower—but do not get wet—and absorb the steam for as long as 10 minutes. Drink a cup of warm herbal tea. Take a cold water plunge in the bath and then jump back into the hot shower (this time getting wet). Alternate soaking your body in the two temperatures quickly several times.
Low-level heat wraps are used in many spa treatments. Why? Vivianne Garcia-Tunon, vice president of operations in the U.S. for the international spa company ESPA, explains, “Heat increases blood circulation to the muscles, joints and skin. This rise in circulation decreases muscle aches and tension, and brings freshly oxygenated blood to all tissues.” And a Temple University study found that the therapy helped ease wrist pain brought on by osteoarthritis, tendinosis and other conditions. So it’s no wonder that some of the massages at Peninsula Spas by ESPA kick off the relaxation process with the application of six hot, steamy towels to the body. Low-level heat wraps are available in drugstores, but you can get the effect by tumbling some dry fluffy towels in the dryer on high heat for several minutes and immediately placing them where you ache!