Text tension, computer cramps: Spas offer relief for techno-woes

As more and more technophiles seek relief from computer-caused discomfort, spas are getting creative about meeting their needs. And they don’t plan on being a flash (drive) in the pan.

New York’s Mohonk Mountain House — named #1 resort spa by Conde Nast Traveler— now offers a Texting Tension Tamer, a consistently-booked massage for the shoulders and neck, with help from an organic vanilla cream.

Stuck in a Silicon Valley rut? Dash over to California’s luxurious Burke Williams spa for a Dot.Com enhancement, where customized stretching and massage is meant to “relieve the stress and muscle tension we all develop working at a computer.” Launched in June 2012, the tech-focused treatment has since jumped to the number two position this year, accounting for 28 percent of Burke Williams’ enhancement sales.

And for some wrist rest, national spa chain Massage Envy offers a one-hour massage that focuses on pain associated with carpal tunnel syndrome — targeting the palm, thumbs and wrists. Notice a consistent breakout on your right cheek, where your iPhone rests? Fear not: the Smartphone Regeneration Facial at Gotham Skincare in New York City should clear that up in no time.

Texter’s thumb
Industry veterans say this trend was a long time coming, and medical experts affirm that it’s much more than skin (or even muscle) deep.

Susie Ellis, president of SpaFinder Wellness, has noticed a definite trend towards “designing and branding treatments that alleviate pain, tension or conditions” in tech-affected areas, though the treatments themselves are not necessarily new, but just with “new labels.”

“Therapists are now are much more attuned to tech-centered needs, recognizing, for example, tight shoulders, as a sign someone has been at a computer all day,” Ellis told TODAY.com. (Just consider your posture as you read this article.)

Paul Guditis used to be a commercial pilot, but stress in the cockpit actually led him to think about wellness and de-stressing in the workplace. He is now the owner of Body Charge, bringing massage chairs into corporate environments.
“I go into offices where people’s hands are bandaged from carpal tunnel from being on computers too long,” said Guditis. “Massage therapists come back reporting shoulder injuries and migraines.”

Cornell University professor Alan Hedge, an expert in ergonomics, confirms that our hunched hacker posture has ushered in some new pains. “We jokingly call it ‘homo computeris,’ but it’s also called ‘turtling,’” he said: people sitting in a rounded position like the shell of a turtle.

Overuse of the thumb can also cause injury. “When you’re using thumbs to text — which aren’t very dexterous — those tendons get an awful lot of use, and if they get inflamed, can be very painful.”

Relief, but not a cure
So far, the tech-massage movement already has its loyal devotees. Jenna Groesch, 23, an executive assistant at an advertising agency in New York City, affirms there’s nothing gimmicky about this trend — that these rubdowns generate real results.

“I feel incredible afterwards,” Groesch says of the Body Charge massages which help her alleviate stress built up from working at a computer. “I can really take on my day, without worrying about neck and back pain.”

Others concur: Heather Franks, 28, a digital marketing consultant from Irvine, Calif., goes to Burke Williams every three months for their Dot.Com treatment. “I feel immediate relief and change in my posture,” she said.

“Massage is fantastic for preventing and reducing tension build up,” attests Susan N. Servetnick, a physical therapist who specializes in correcting work positioning in her New York City practice, Back Into Balance.

So are these pod-patron pampering massages the answer? In part, says Hedge. “Massage doesn’t fix the problem; it temporarily alleviates the symptoms. The real key is to change the way they’re working or texting.” He’s hopeful about the improvements that might be brought by touch-free technology like Siri.

Detox from texts
Even spa hotels are addressing the problem. From California to Costa Rica, retreats offering travelers a digital detox experience are gaining popularity. Guests are told to relinquish all their various gadgets or are even offered 15 percent off for checking their iPhones at the door.

Barbara Stirewalt, spa director at Mohonk Mountain House, understands that treatment doesn’t end when her guests leave the spa. “We do try to be the antithesis of technology in some ways — a historic resort that does not have TVs in the rooms,” Stirewalt told TODAY.com. “In a subtle way, we’re enabling people to come back to nature.”

If DIY is more your bandwidth, let your digits do the walking: try some stretches from the experts at HealthyComputing.com, or a quick search on YouTube generates dozens of massage demonstrations for computer aches and pains. And hey — you can live-tweet it, too.

“These spas have hit on something real here,” said Hedge, adding: “Probably the most helpful thing about them is that people won’t be texting while they’rein the spa.”