By Elizabeth Halliday-Reynolds

With the colder weather adding steam to your massage can be just the right add-on to your session. Adding Steam to your massage is not just a spa treatment. Steaming the body is used to assist in healing by offering:

  • Relief from Generalized Pain & Chronic Pain
  • Stress Reduction
  • Detoxification
  • Enhanced Mood
  • Increased Immunity
  • Weight Loss
  • Improved Skin

Since ancient times, steam therapy has been used by traditional healing systems around the world to improve and maintain good health and beauty. Turkish baths, Indian sweat lodges, Finnish saunas, Japanese steam rooms are examples of cultures that harness the power of steam.

In Ayurveda we learn that the skin is our body’s largest organ. It is part of a natural and essential process in eliminating impurities. As we sweat, the skin pores begin to open and built-up sebum and impurities move out. Dead skin cells are softened and exfoliated as new softer skin can emerge.

Our steam tent lies over the massage table making it an easy way for the client to sink into a deeper state of relaxation since the massage session is not interrupted by going into a different room. Clients like that their head and neck are not covered or heated during the treatment (avoids feelings of claustrophobia and dizziness/overheating possible with saunas).

The most immediate benefit of adding steam to a massage session is relaxation. In just a few minutes the gentle warmth of steam softens the hard knots caused by stress. This results in looser muscles and a more effective and lasting massage treatment.

Here are some facts about steam:

Relief from Pain

Heat therapy was more effective than analgesics for low back pain – A New Jersey Medical School Researcher.

Steam therapy has been used for hundreds of years by many cultures in the treatment of arthritis, rheumatism, joint stiffness and muscle spasms. Muscles relax most readily when tissues are warm. The deep heat of the steam tent helps to relieve pain by causing the blood vessels to dilate. This causes increased blood circulation and allows more oxygen to get to soft tissue injuries and sore muscles. This helps to reduce pain and speeds up the healing process. Increased blood circulation carries metabolic waste products and delivers oxygen rich blood to oxygen-depleted muscles so they recover faster. As heat penetrates the muscles, capillaries dilate and there is an increased flow of oxygen to sore muscles. Muscles and tissues become more pliable and relaxed helping to increase mobility and reduce stiffness.

Sauna bathing has been used as a thermal therapy to treat pain and other symptoms of rheumatic disease. In studies based on interviews of 0ver 200 patients, 40% to 70% of participants reported that sauna bathing alleviated pain and improved joint mobility. – The American Journal of Medicine February 1, 2001, Volume 110


Clients are increasingly aware of the wide variety of toxins that may be in their bodies, including herbicides, pesticides, food additives, air pollution, and household chemicals. When ingested, these chemicals can remain in the body for years, altering our metabolism, causing enzyme dysfunction and nutritional deficiencies, creating hormonal imbalances and lowering our threshold of resistance to chronic disease. Today, studies show that most of us have between 400 and 800 chemical residues stored in the fat cells of our bodies. When our bodies exceed the limit that we can excrete, we begin to store these toxins.

The following symptoms are often related to toxicity: allergies, acne, anxiety, burning skin, brain fog, chronic fatigue, chemical sensitivities, depression, eczema, frequent colds or flu, insomnia, loss of dexterity, low body temperature, memory loss, mood swings, muscle and joint pains and poor concentration.

Ayurvedic detoxification treatments reduce levels of toxicants by 50% – Sept/Oct 2002 Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, Vol. 8, No. 5 pp. 93-103

Steaming speeds up the chemical processes in the body, making it one of the most simple and comfortable ways to rid the body of accumulated toxins. As the pores open up and the million of sweat glands start to excrete, the body rids itself of metabolic and other waste products. Sweat contains almost the same elements of urine, as for this reason the skin is sometimes called the third kidney. Regular sweating can help detoxify your body as it rids itself of an accumulation of carcinogenic metals (lead, mercury, zinc, nickel and cadium) as well as alcohol, nicotine, sodium, sulfuric acid and cholesterol.

Benefits of detoxification include weight loss, pain relief, increased alertness and energy, lustrous skin and eyes and enhanced immunity.

Increase Mood

We often think to use the steam tent in the winter, not only because the heat will feel good in contrast to the temperatures outside, but also because the light levels in winter can cause many to experience a change in mood. An artificial fever induced by steam treatments can also help with mood elevation.

mood states of cancer patients following whole-body hypothermia show a significant improvement in depression. This is attributed to the increased B-endorphins, the same endorphins released with exercise. – University of Wisconsin

Immunity Boost

Hippocrates recognized that by creating an ‘artificial fever’ (which is what happens during a steam treatment) he could cure many illnesses. Traditionally, the benefits of steaming include increased energy, decreased incidence of infections, and fewer colds and flu’s. Many regular steam or sauna bathers have experienced that a good long sweat bath at the early onset of a cold or flu can help ward off the disease before it manifests as actual symptoms.

White blood cells increased by an average of 58% during an artificially induced fever – Mayo Clinic researcher, Dr. Wakim

The heat generated by a steam treatment raises your core body temperature, inducing an artificial fever. During a fever, the production of white blood cells is increased, as is the rate of their release into the blood stream. White blood cells are the primary agents of the immune system. As the generation of antibodies speeds up, so does the production of interferon, an anti-viral protein. In this manner, your body’s immune system is strengthened as it works to combat the fever.

Lustrous Hydrated Skin

Steam helps exfoliate the skin as it opens the pores, allowing the superficial and deep layers of the skin to be receptive to the nutrients in natural skin care products. The deep penetration of vitamins, minerals and moisturizers help restore and maintain skin elasticity and tone. The steam creates a seal on the skin’s surface, enclosing the nutrients within the layers of the skin where they may be absorbed and processed.

Stimulating the skin on a regular basis with steam helps combat the collagen breakdown that generally results in aging and sagging skin. The resulting effect is deeply moisturized, hydrant skin.

For Acne, steam causes perspiration. Perspiration emulsifies the fat of the sebaceous glands, clearing them of sebum and bacteria.

Weight loss

A moderately conditioned person can easily sweat off 500 grams of sweat in a sauna. This is the equivalent of running three to four miles or burning 475 to 600 calories. While the weight of the water loss is regained by re-hydration, the calories burned are not.

Sauna bathing is well tolerated, safe and has therapeutic value for most healthy people, as well as for most patients with stable coronary heart disease. – The American Journal of Medicine

Weight loss becomes possible because body fat becomes water soluble at 110 degrees and the body can sweat out fats, toxins, and heavy metals. During a heat treatment your heart works harder pumping blood at a greater rate to boost circulation, supplying the conditioning benefits of continuous exercise. Heart rate, cardiac output and metabolic rate increase. Because the metabolism rate increases during the Steamy Wonder™ treatment you are burning calories, not just water!

Many of us who run do so to place a demand on our cardiovascular system, not to build big leg muscles. Regular use of a sauna imparts a similar stress on the cardiovascular system, and its regular use may be as effective, a means of cardiovascular conditioning and burning of calories as regular exercise. Journal of the American Medical Association – August 1981

Let your therapist know when you are ready to enhance your next session with steam.

This article is adapted from