The fix is in
We asked six hardworking Chicagoans what ailed them, and set them up with services designed to repair, relax and revitalize. See if the treatments
do the trick.
25, MED STUDENT
Hazards of the job: Stress, exhaustion, headachesShares her pain: Lawyers, doctors, cocktail waiters and waitresses, anyone who works long or odd hours
The TOC prescription: Inspired by Ayurveda, an Indian system of holistic healing, Shirodhara: Journey to Serenity at Spa Nordstrom ($90, 60mins) is said to improve body and soul by balancing the doshas, or mind/body characteristics. After a consultation determines her dominant dosha, the client lies down for scalp, face, hand and foot massages using herbal oils incorporating lotus flower and gotu kola (described as “the medicine tree of India”). Then, a stream of heated, custom-blended oils is poured onto her “third eye” (forehead) and massaged into her hair and scalp.
Problem solved? “The aftereffect was all good,” says Sacro, who felt less stressed and more relaxed. “But I felt pretty much back to normal after a couple of hours.” Though she didn’t notice any sensation of spiritual balance, she enjoyed a cosmetic perk: “My hair’s been great for the past couple days.” —Ruth Welte
- The Big Night Out Facial ($135, 60mins) at Asha bypasses extractions to ensure a blemish-free night on the town, but we recommend it for the big morning after—and the raccoonlike circles and splotchy cheeks that come with it.—Martina Sheehan
- The St. Tropez Tan at Kaya Day Spa ($65, 45mins) battles pasty-white winter blues in four spa-friendly steps: Exfoliate, buff, apply tanning lotion, buff again. Be sure to wait as long as possible before showering afterward—we washed eight hours later and much of the golden color went down the drain.—Amy Carr
- Lie face-up on a water pad warmed to match your body’s temperature during the Hydrotherm Massage ($90, 60mins) at Michael Anthony Spa & Salon and allow an aromatherapist to ease a semester’s worth of stiff necks and achy backs. After your body has received its due attention, it’s time for a scalp massage and gentle hair brushing.—Jenn Thompson
Treatments to go
Aveda’s Tourmaline Charged Radiance Masque ($26 at www.aveda.com) is no miracle in a tube, but the all-natural mask is soothing and seems to tighten pores. Tourmaline, a mineral said to energize skin, is combined with the likes of shiitake-mushroom extract and corn-derived sugar to shed “dull, lackluster surface cells.” It can’t replace the spa, but it is a nice option when forced to hold the fate of your pores in your hands.—Martina Sheehan
Jonathan van Herik
Hazards of the job: Itchy eyes, coughing, prematurely wrinkled skin, difficulty waking up in the morning
Shares his pain: Smokers, alcoholics, urbanites who breathe smog all day The TOC prescription: The saunalike, quasi–New Agey Oxygen Bath at Karyn’s Inner Beauty Center ($55, 30mins) is designed to detoxify cells by infusing them with ozone (a form of oxygen gas). The client sits in a personal ozone-filled “pod,” resembling an iron lung with his head sticking out. The pod is heated to 130 degrees for a few minutes to open pores, then turned down to 90 while the client relaxes for about 20 minutes. “I felt like I was melting the entire time, but in a good way,” van Herik says.
Problem solved? “This oxygen bath is really inspiring,” van Herik says. “[After the treatment] I was so optimistic about everything going on in my life...I didn’t smoke the rest of the day—I just didn’t want to. I’ve been meaning to get more exercise, and this makes me want to do it.”—Ruth Welte
- Based on the Indian healing system of Siddha Vaidya, Spa Soak’s Siddha Body Detoxification Oil Soak Massage ($150, 75mins) is said to use herbs and oils to remove toxins and promote tissue function. Slip into a pair of disposable undies, then lie back as skin is gently stimulated with a whisk brush (to increase circulation), rubbed with a heated sachet of Ayurvedic herbs and oils (yours to keep), and wrapped in plastic and blankets for 15 minutes. Emerge from your cocoon and enjoy a 45-minute massage.—Annie Tomlin
- The Liver Cleanse and Detox Treatment ($150, 75mins) at Ruby Room, said to cleanse the liver and eliminate waste, begins with a session with the in-house nutritionist, herbalist and acupuncturist, Krishna. Discuss your goals (more energy, less stress, willpower to kick bad habits), diet and lifestyle, and receive a prescription for a customized blend of Chinese herbs and bodywork (reiki energy healing, acupuncture and more) for an additional cost.—Chad Schlegel
- Strip down and relax, lassies: Sinead Salon & Spa’s Algae Body Wrap ($90, 60mins) smells faintly salty, but fresh as the Irish seaside and leaves skin feeling baby-soft. Limbs and back are brushed with the warm, protein-and-mineral–enriched emulsion, then wrapped beneath five (or was it seven? we lost count) layers of comfortable cocoonage. About ten minutes later you’re swabbed clean with warm, lavender-soaked towels and rubbed down with creamy moisturizer.—Lauren Viera
- Prep for the detoxifying Herbal Wrap ($60, 30mins) at Thousand Waves Spa by heating and opening pores in the hot tub, sauna or eucalyptus steam room. Come service time, you’ll be swathed in two sheets infused with peppermint, lavender and 12 other essential oils, then covered with space-age foil and wool blankets. Marinate for 20 minutes or so as you enjoy a cold compress and head massage.—Leah Pietrusiak
Treatments to go
Considering it contains dried seaweed, mushrooms and various sprouts, the Tonic Alchemy ($45 for a month’s supply at Ruby Room) tastes surprisingly good when blended with orange juice. “Prescribed” to detox the body and boost immunity, the powder made us feel alert, refreshed and wired—without the stomach pains or jitters of caffeine. It’s a healthy alternative to the morning cup of joe.—Chad Schlegel
Hazards of the job: Back pain, eye strain, headaches, knotted shoulders
Shares her pain: Anyone who sits at a desk in front of a computer all day
The TOC prescription: The Ashiatsu Massage at Urban Oasis ($110, 70mins) makes getting walked on a good thing. The client lies facedown on a massage table while the therapist uses her feet to knead oiled flesh, balancing herself on a wooden framework. Having the strong pressure of a deep-tissue massage applied across the larger width of a foot (rather than, say, a thumb) means that knots can be worked out with less discomfort.
Problem solved? “My back is good—I haven’t had any shooting pains,” says Phillips, who adds that the massage made her feel like her muscles and joints were correctly aligned for the first time in a while. “It makes me walk the way I’m supposed to walk because I want to keep that feeling.”—Ruth Welte
- Helio’s Elimination ($105, 75mins) treatment resolves repetitive strain injuries and other cubicle-induced aches and pains. Point to trouble spots on a medical poster so the therapist can identify the trigger points causing your problem(s), then lie back as he kneads them away.—Jennifer Kester
- Unlimited use of Paradise Sauna’s steam rooms and hot-and-cold dipping pools for $18 is a deal on its own, but the Full-Body Scrub ($30, plus sauna fee, 30mins) is the best money spent here. A therapist covers you in warm water, scours you with loofahs for an exfoliating treatment that alternately tickles and scratches (but never hurts), then rinses you clean and dead-skin–free.—Christopher Piatt
- Although borderline painful for much of its 60 minutes, the Tooth Grinder’s Massage ($70) at purepeace may help relax jaw muscles enough to stop nighttime grinding—especially if you practice your take-home exercises. Lie face-up while a therapist uses focused, strong pressure on tight, painful muscles primarily in the face and jaw.—Ruth Welte
- It sounds more scientific than soothing, but the Cranio Sacral Massage ($90, 50mins) at the Tiffani Kim Institute works to resolve TMJ, whiplash, migraines and other ailments in a surprisingly comfortable manner. A therapist lightly touches your tailbone, spinal cord and skull, relieving tension while lulling you into a dreamlike state. We felt cradled like a baby.—Jason Heidemann
Treatments to go
The plastic Pressure Positive Palmassager ($10 at exhale spa) is an unexpectedly effective achy-muscle remedy. Grip it in your palm (or even better, get someone else to do it for you) and rub over shoulders, neck, arms or legs—it’s no full-body massage, but it definitely helps with the 4pm knots.—Valerie Nahmad
Hazards of the job: Foot and leg pain; cracked, dry heels; and calluses
Shares his pain: Basketball players, dancers, nurses, hairdressers, anyone who stands all day
The TOC prescription: The minty Foot Awakeningtreatment at Eshe Day Spa ($57, 90mins) specializes in soothing sore feet and reducing aches and tissue swelling. Feet are soaked in warm water infused with peppermint essential oils; exfoliated with a homemade peppermint-sugar foot scrub; and buffed free of cracking heels and calluses. Next, nails and cuticles are trimmed and a hydrating, cooling mask is applied for five minutes. A final pressure-point massage with moisturizing mint body butter seals the deal.
Problem solved? “My feet have never felt more alive,” Vorro says. “They feel fresh and revitalized.”—Ruth Welte
- Reflexology ($55, 30mins) is the house specialty at NOW Massage, where owner Nourhy Chiriboga doubles as proprietor and sole therapist. Feet are cleaned, wrapped in warm towels, then massaged at points corresponding to various body organs. Expect a focused, deep massage that can, at moments, be slightly uncomfortable. Surrender and breathe deeply—your body will thank you afterward.—Ruth Lopez
- You’d be hard-pressed to fit a Chicago Bear into the short, slim robes they hand out at Spa Space, but the West Loop spa’s Sports Massage ($95, 60mins) is worth the risk of exposure. Geared to runners, golfers and tennis players, these rubdowns soothe sore biceps, pecs, quads and other muscles that come from swinging clubs and rackets—and take your mind off the game for a moment or two.—David Tamarkin
- Think of Body Enlightening ($150, 60mins) at exhale as a lazy (rich) man’s stretching session. Lie fully clothed on a cushy floor mat while a therapist pulls, pushes and kneads you into a loose pile of mush. It’s yoga without the effort.—Valerie Nahmad
Treatments to go
The Gaiam Reflexology Gift Set ($20 at www.gaiam.com) comes with a 30-minute, easy-to-use instructional DVD, a CD of relaxing music, a wooden foot roller and a pair of cute—but unnecessary and oddly textured—socks with a map of pressure points printed on the soles. Our advice: Skip the socks and buy the DVD for $10.—Ruth Lopez
26, PREGNANT WOMAN
Hazards of the job: Back pain, calf pain, headaches
Shares her pain: Sorry, only pregnant women know this particular kind of suffering.
The TOC prescription: Mommies lie on their sides during the Mother-to-be Massage at Spacio Spa ($95, 60mins) to prevent squeezing the little guy (or gal) or inhibiting circulation. Snuggle onto a heated massage table and get comfy with a pillow under your head, two pillows between your legs and a body pillow in front. A therapist uses Spacio’s house-blended massage oil to lightly work over the shoulders, arms, hips and legs, focusing on trouble spots such as the lower back and calves. Moms flip over for the same treatment on the other side, then lie briefly on their backs for a neck and shoulder massage.
Problem solved? “I did feel better, though it’s definitely a temporary solution,” Bingham says. “I can see how [massages] would be addictive...I hadn’t realized how crummy I felt.” Another perk? “Now, I don’t think people are on crack when they spend money on a massage.”—Ruth Welte
- No one deserves pampering more than a pregnant woman. Nails look flawless for five days following the Signature Manicure ($25, 30mins) at Egea (“ee-YEE-ah”) Spa. Ask for Agnessa, who meticulously files nails, sloughs away dry skin with a honey-mint sugar scrub, wraps hands in a warm, lavender-scented towel and finishes with a thick, creamy lotion before painstakingly applying polish.—Laura Baginski
- Vintage oil lamps and exposed brick set the scene for the Calming Pedicure ($55, 60mins) at Soothe Your Senses Day Spa, a cozy N’Awlins–based Uptown enclave. Feet are exfoliated and massaged with the spa’s line of all-natural scrubs, salts and oils, then dipped in a paraffin bath. After a couple coats of your favorite polish, relax by the roaring fire while the paint dries.—Heather Shouse
treatments to goWe love the psychosomatic relaxation induced by these lavender-packed Calming Bath Salts ($24 at Soothe Your Senses Day Spa), but the DIY girl in us can’t help but think of cutting the cost by making it ourselves—and saving the money to pay someone to wash the postbath lavender bits from the tub.—Heather Shouse
21, bIKE MESSENGER
Hazards of the job: Cracked and callused hands; uncomfortably dry, chapped face; red, irritated skin around chin and mouth
Shares her pain: Mail carriers, FedEx workers, delivery people of all stripes, anyone who has to wait more than ten minutes for a bus in February
The TOC prescription: The main moisturizing event during the Hot Toddy Facial at Urban Spa Chic ($95, 75mins) is a facial paraffin dip. Skin is prepped with cleaning, exfoliation and extraction; coated with an oil-based serum and a cream mask; and wrapped up like a mummy in protective gauze. Next, warm, moisture-locking paraffin (melted wax) is brushed on from forehead to chin. Relax for 15 minutes and emerge hydrated and smooth. Wind-exposed hands are also nourished with a creamy antioxidant moisturizer and heated mittens.
Problem solved? “Oh my God. My face is so soft.
It’s amazing,” Nordhem says. “It’s, like, radiating.” Her battle-scarred hands, especially her cuticles, were also made supple by their time in the mittens.—Ruth Welte
- Structural Therapy ($110, 50mins) at Kiva rivals bikini waxing in the intimacy department—you’ll be naked, facedown on a table and spread eagle in ten minutes. A therapist moves his hands lightly up and down your back to assess the situation (oddly, it feels excellent, not violating), provides a quick explanation of what’s going wrong (possibilities include sleeping incorrectly and slouching) and then launches into a 35-minute corrective massage.—Cecilia Wong
- The Buff ($30, 40mins) at halo [for men] is essentially a standard men’s manicure: Hands are dunked in soapy water; cuticles are oiled and trimmed; and rough nails are filed. But halo gets points for a perversely fun (and moisturizing) paraffin bath, free beer and ESPN on several TVs (there’s even one above the toilet).—Joel Reese
- If you’re claustrophobic or shy, Southern Comfort ($110, 60mins) at Honey Child Salon and Spa may not be the treatment for you. But if you can get past wearing a skimpy thong while a stranger slathers you from head to toe with exfoliating scrub and moisturizing lotion, you’ll be rewarded with a warm salt body wrap and tension-reducing temple massage.—Judy Sutton Taylor
treatments to goThe heady floral scent of Jurlique’s Herbal Recovery Gel ($124 at Kaya Day Spa) isn’t for everyone, but the results are worth the momentary nose shock. Organic rose, licorice, daisy and green-tea extracts deliver gentle hydration, while antioxidants fight signs of aging. Surprisingly, you can see results after just one overnight application—we woke up to a fresh, glowing complexion and nary a dry, red patch in sight.—Annie Tomlin