Spa Treatments: Pain Management Therapy

Willow Spa

Willow Spa in Los Angeles

Willow Spa offers a complete menu for athletes, but its most unique service is the Willow Enzyme Bath + Athlete’s Stretch (105 min./$166). It involves a dry bathtub filled with wood shavings, rice bran, and fruit and vegetable enzymes imported from Japan. When guests climb in, these ingredients heat naturally to 120 to 130 degrees, detoxifying and boosting metabolism fivefold, according to co-owner Wendy Reeves. The enzyme bath was popularized by Japanese athletes competing in the 1972 Winter Olympic games, and continues to be a hit with athletes seeking to prevent and recover from injury at Willow Spa.

Clients begin the service by slipping into spa-designed loungewear and receiving a citrus flower foot soak and massage. An accompanying glass of cool ginger tea with a shot of enzymes kick-starts internal detoxification. The full benefits of the tub are achieved in 20 minutes, though some clients won’t last that long in the heat (this largely depends on the current health of the body).

Afterward, the guest showers and visits the relaxation room, where a Thai mat is placed on the floor for traditional foot and leg stretches. Clients often opt to add a sports massage after the bath and stretch to take advantage of the open, relaxed state of their muscles. “The service is not solely beneficial to athletes, but suits anyone seeking to detox, improve circulation, prevent illness...it’s even great for skin,” says Reeves.

To spread word about the service, the spa has partnered with area chiropractors, physical therapists, personal trainers and yoga instructors. Administering the bath portion is a challenge, as it requires hands-on attendance to maintain heat, as well as the daily hand-turning and feeding of the enzymatic material. Therapists, meanwhile, must ensure clients get in and out of the bath safely, so they receive education on how the body reacts to heat and how the tub works, and undergo extensive hands-on training before working with clients. But the results are worth the effort, Reeves reports. “The service hastens recovery of soft-tissue injuries—and provides an aerobic workout equivalent to running a mile!” she enthuses. “It’s a very unique but a very deep and healing treatment.”