Beer baths, bird-poop facials, ramen noodle baths — those are just three of the spa services we came across when researching new and unique spa treatments. Almost everything we found was a bit extreme. So, we decided to stick with the less animal- and food-centric services and test out Louisville’s outside-the-box spa treatments. Salt therapy, oxybaric chambers, integrative reflexology and cupping sure sounded intriguing, and all of these services tout their own alternative healing properties, which we love. So, we sent an SB staffer to try them all out, and here’s what we learned.

5 Outside-the-Box Louisville Spa Treatments

Halotherapy (salt therapy)

Treatment & benefits
Living in the Ohio Valley, lots of us suffer from allergies. Turns out a local salt cave has got your back — or, rather, your sinuses. The Louisville Salt Cave is constructed of 5 tons of the Earth’s purest and most unpolluted salt, as well as pink Himalayan salt crystals that are over 250 million years old and contain over 84 trace minerals. “Halotherapy is great for people with allergies because as you breathe in the salt, it breaks up the congestion inside your respiratory tract,” says Nicole Barlett, co-owner of the Louisville Salt Cave. Among its other healing properties, halotherapy balances the pH of the skin, allowing it to heal and better protect the body from environmental and internal toxins.

The process & results
So what’s it like inside the cave? It’s very dark and cold. For that very reason, each reclining chair has a blanket to wrap up in. You’ll hear the gentle prrr of the salt particles as they are dispersed through the room, and maybe a few snores from your fellow participants who doze off during the 45-minute session. The cave environment supports relaxation and allows the body to self-heal. Our SB “guinea pig” emerged rejuvenated and with happy sinuses!

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Once the session begins, the cave is dimmed with beautiful glowing lights overhead. Image: Louisville Salt Cave

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Salt therapy benefits the immune system, life balance and energy. It is $35 for a 45-minute halotherapy session. Book your halotherapy salt-cave experience now at louisvillesaltcave.com. Image: Lousiville Salt Cave

Integrative reflexology

The treatment & benefits
Integrative reflexology is an alternative medicine that involves an intricate and detailed application of pressure points to the feet, hands and ears with specific techniques using the thumb and fingers. It uses the foot structure to work simultaneously with the body’s alignment to create energy pathways through the fingers and toes to help create better circulation. The massage therapists at Elements Massage combine aspects of reflexology with massage techniques to blend the experience into one massage modality.

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The process & results
You relax on the massage table as the therapist begins to massage the neck and scalp. The dim lights and comforting music add to the relaxing environment. Once the first half of the massage is complete, the massage therapist applies pressure to the feet on the different zones. The zone that our sweet, allergy-riddled SB staffer felt right away was the tips of her toes, which is connected to the sinuses. Our staffer opined, “There really is no better way to start off a Saturday morning than with a full body massage to rid yourself of the stress from the prior week and set you up for a great weekend.” No argument here!

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If you wish to add integrative reflexology into your next massage at Elements Massage, you can add it on to a 100- or 130-minute massage for a $25 upgrade fee. To book your session, visit elementsmassage.com.

Hyberbaric oxygen therapy

The treatment & benefits
“Pretty much anyone can benefit from more oxygen,” says Lynn Greene, “Chief Oxygenator” and owner of Oxybaric. ​“Our bodies use oxygen to convert our food into usable energy for the body, or cellular respiration. Cellular respiration helps our cells to perform vital functions. There are numerous reasons a person may have low oxygen levels — for example illness, stress or poor breathing patterns​. Our clients run the gamut — they may seek treatment for autism, MS, fibromyalgia, wellness, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, anti-aging, PTSD, concussion, surgery recovery and many more.” To add an extra seal of approval, professional baseball players and the Louisville City FC members swear by it.

The process & results
You climb inside the chamber and fasten the oxygen mask around your face as Lynn zips you inside and begins to pressurize the chamber. As the chamber is inflating and flooding with oxygen, it feels as if you are on an airplane, ascending towards cruising altitude. Your ears will pop and the chamber will click. This is all normal and nothing to freak out about. The pressure inside the chamber allows the body to absorb 15 to 20 times more oxygen than normal breathing, allowing for many benefits including speeding tissue healing and brain repair, normalizing immune function and serving as a powerful anti-inflammatory.

If you’re still leery about the process, never fear. When you climb inside, there are windows on the sides of the chamber and above your head, which allow you to communicate with Lynn, and she checks in with you every so often to make sure your experience is going well. You are also able to take your cell phone inside to text your friends, listen to music or, of course, Snapchat or Instagram your experience. Some people simply fall asleep in the chamber.

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The oxybaric chamber looks something like this. Oxybaric offers sessions for $100 and packages are also available. Lynn also works with her clients on a sliding scale in order to make this service available to those who need the experience as part of their health journey or treatment plan. Image: Oxy Health

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Here’s what it looks like from inside the chamber.

Our SB staffer climbed out of the chamber singing nothing but praises for how relaxed, rejuvenated and refreshed she felt. Lynn says that a lull of sleepiness might last for about 30 minutes afterward, but you’ll soon be able to think clearly and have the energy to make it through your day feeling relaxed. “Just call me Michael Jackson, because I moonwalked my way right out of Oxybaric and felt energized and ready to rock the rest of the work day and welcome the weekend,” our staffer shares.

Trigger point dry needling

The treatment & benefits
Lots of people stumble across this treatment by recommendation of their physical therapist, as did our staffer after a neck injury brought her to the physical therapists at ProRehab Chenoweth Plaza. The objective of trigger point dry needling (TDN) is to insert the filament needle into trigger points in the muscle, basically knots, with the goal of relieving pain, managing soft tissue injuries or improving range of motion.

A lot of people confuse dry needling with acupuncture. The two are similar, but not the same. Acupuncture is performed to treat energy meridians within the body, whereas dry needling is used to treat musculoskeletal pain. The use of dry needling is usually part of a larger treatment plan, and the benefits range from improving chronic pain, reducing muscle tension and helping to speed up the patient’s return to his or her everyday routine. This treatment isn’t something you would seek out unless you were experiencing pain or had hit a plateau with other treatments you were doing.

The process & results
The TDN-certified therapist conducts an initial consultation to assess the situation and confirm that dry needling is in fact the appropriate treatment. On the first appointment, the therapist inserts dry, non-medicated filament needles into the target spot — in this case, the back of our staffer’s injured neck. The results? “I only needed the dry needling performed during two of my sessions before my neck felt back to normal,” she says. Et voila — just like new! The dry needling service is $50 for a 30-minute session and $85 for an hour. New clients must go in for an evaluation first.

Cupping

The treatment & benefits
If you watched any of the 2016 Olympic games, you probably noticed bizarre, dark circles covering parts of quite a few competing athletes. It turns out those marks are the result of the ancient Chinese practice of cupping, which involves placing small jars on the skin and suctioning the air out of the jars, so that the muscle, tissue and blood within is sucked into the cup. Some think of it as a reverse deep-tissue massage, and the benefits range from enhanced circulation, pain relief, reduced inflammation, relaxation and even detoxification.

The process & results
Our SB staffer walked into J Michael’s Spa and Salon knowing very little about cupping, but technician Lane Barclay walked her through every step. The process, she learned, would not be painful and would take less than 45 minutes. Lane placed a total of 20 cups up and down the entirety of her back, along the bladder meridian. Once the cups were placed on her back, he applied five pumps of suction. “I could instantly feel my body react to the subtle pinch,” explains our staffer. “Once the final pump was given, I could feel the blood pulse up inside the cup, which felt like I could feel my heartbeat around the outside of the cups.” The cups sit on the skin, sucking all the muscle, tissue and blood up to the surface, for 10 minutes. In that time frame, Lane also applies pressure and massage behind the neck and the bottoms of the feet to complete the experience.

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The standalone cupping service is $35. Add the service to your next massage, and the cupping price drops to $20 with your total for massage plus cupping coming out to around $90. Call J Michael’s Spa and Salon to check the availability and make your reservation with Lane or Alan at (502) 742-8790.

Our SB staffer reported that her back was surprisingly relaxed. And, of course, she had those signature red circles dotting the back of her body. Lane explained that some of the circles would be darker than others. The darkness, as well as how long the marks will last, varies from person to person and is entirely dependent on the lifestyle they lead — how active they are, the level of toxins in their system, the amount of stress or tension they carry and so on. The marks left from the suction cups are bruises, so be prepared to feel a little sore after your service. “After just one treatment, I have become a supporter of this technique,” our staffer shares. “Because anything that can alleviate the constant, annoying pain in my upper back is a godsend.”

If you’re feeling bleary, tense, tired or run-down, maybe one of these intriguing spa treatments is for you. Grab a spa session, and start off your weekend feeling rejuvenated and refreshed!

The information provided should not be taken as medical advice. Please consult a healthcare professional before undergoing any treatments or therapies.

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