“I breathe better at the beach”… For years I have heard this common statement from many of my pulmonary rehab patients and sincerely I didn’t have a reason for it. Was it the respite that they desperately needed away from life’s hustle and bustle or was it the warm salty ocean air breeze? Or could it be both? To say I was intrigued when a salt spa opened up a few years ago in our area was an understatement. I have always been interested in holistic medicine but as life would have it, had never done much research to find out more. I have had several of my patients try out our local salt spa and have come back with positive reviews, but it really took one patient insisting that I write a blog on it to get my gears turning and make me take a closer look.
What is Salt Therapy?
Salt therapy, also known as Halotherapy, has been around for hundreds of years. Originally discovered in Poland in the mid 1800’s. People noticed that salt miners and people who worked in the salt mines seemed to be healthier than most people in the region. Fast forward about a 100 years, a German by the name of Karl Hermann Spannahel noticed that his patients’ health was improving after spending time in salt caves hoping to avoid bombing that was going on during World War II. Fast forward even further, to 1964 when the first salt spa was opened in Poland. Salt is naturally anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-fungal and has been used for thousands of years to preserve our food supply. Research has shown that when you breathe in the salt deep into your airway it helps to draws in moisture which gives it the ability to thin excess mucous and the salt also helps to reduce airway inflammation. The salt particles generated by the salt therapy machine are supposed to help to lower blood pressure and relieve stress.
In 2006 the New England Journal of Medicine published a study that long term inhalation of hypertonic (high content salt saline) can help people with diseases such as cystic fibrosis and chronic bronchitis. There have been several other studies regarding Halotherapy but most of the evidence supporting its use has come from those that have tried it and received positive results. Many physicians though still seem skeptic that this therapy could be beneficial to the lung community yet there is no scientific evidence saying that it isn’t. Although the therapy has its skeptics, there is no known negative side effects to halotherapy, which gives a reassurance to many of my patients that have tried it that “it can’t hurt to try it.” The exception to this may be for some asthmatics that could possibly experience airway irritation from inhaling the micron size salt particles. I would recommend that if you are a severe asthmatic that you ask your physician prior to trying salt therapy. Physicians generally agree though that salt therapy does have additional benefits like healing skin conditions like acne and psoriasis.
The benefits that were listed on the informational brochure were as follows:
1. Halotherapy or Salt Therapy helps reduce stress and headaches, increase energy and promotes a better sleep pattern
2. Participants with skin conditions (psoriasis, rashes, eczema, and acne etc.) may choose an individual session for the privacy and freedom to expose skin at their level of comfort and need.
3. Clients with respiratory issues breathe deeply to obtain relief from Asthma, COPD, Smoker’s Cough, Allergies, Cystic Fibrosis, Sinus and Ear Infections, Coughs, Colds, Sleeping and Snoring problems.
4. Salt affects our cell activity, energy and blood sugar levels. It helps to produce a calming and detoxifying effect that supports you immune, nervous and lymphatic systems.
5. Salt is a disinfectant, antimicrobial and antibacterial. Pink Himalayan salt contains up to 84 elements already found in the body.
6. When inhaled, micron sized particles help reduce inflammation in the airway and nasal passages clearing sinuses.
7. Salt will help kill bacteria on contact and absorb excess mucus.
What does a salt therapy room look like?
Many of my patients refer to the salt spa affectionately as the salt cave. I was able to get a firsthand look and experience this “cave” when Escape Massage in Richmond, VA allowed me to come to the salt spa with a few of my patients and check it out. (By the way the folks over at Escape Massage were extremely gracious in answering all of our questions and showing us around. They have 2 locations in the Richmond, VA area and all of their details will be listed at the end of this blog. I will also link Escape Massage's website for more details and location info.) The salt therapy room was like nothing I had ever seen. When you walk in you are asked to either wear shoe covers or socks to keep the salt room free from dirt. The reason for this also is that there is about a half ton of pharmaceutical grade Himalayan salt covering the floor. As I walked in, I noticed that the room was dimly lit and all 4 of the walls were coated in salt as well as the ceiling. There were 4 black “zero gravity” reclining chairs located in the room for each person to relax and recline as we were receiving our salt therapy. As I walked across the salt floor it felt similar to walking on the beach except it was dry salt. There were also salt lamps affixed to the walls for increased therapeutic purposes.
Each one of us in the room was given a blanket. They keep the room 68-70 degrees but sometimes with the swirling salt air and lying still you may want to use the blanket to cover the body. I also used it to cover my dark colored pants because inevitably when therapy is complete you may have a light dusting of salt on your clothes. Each salt therapy session lasts 45 minutes and I have to say I was very relaxed during our session. There is an option at our particular location to play relaxing soothing music or they will allow you to bring in your phone and listen to you own music via earphones/earbuds. During the session you could hear the salt machine (for lack of technical term) introducing the salt into the room through a 5 inch (approx.) opening in the wall. I could also see the salt swirling around in the room in a fine mist as I sat there taking mental notes of my experience. The salt machine would cycle on and off several times throughout our treatment session. After a while I could definitely taste a slight saltiness on my lips and feel a tingling down in my throat. One minor side effect that my patients/friends noticed as well as myself, was a slight runny nose. Nothing severe but noticeable. You are welcome to bring a few tissues with you into the room and having experienced it, that is probably one thing that I would “do over” and bring with me. One or two of my patients at the time did experience some coughing and/or throat clearing while in the salt therapy room. I was told that this was a natural reaction to the salt therapy and was conducive to helping people who struggle with excess mucous production, mobilize that
After the salt therapy was complete, we were asked to carefully stand up and make our way out of the salt spa. There were tissues for our use and a place to put used shoe covers if we had utilized them. I was so happy that I had brought several pulmonary patients with me to the salt spa because I was anxious to get their opinion of the therapy. Not having a lung condition myself, I wanted to get their opinion on how they felt during, right after, and a day after our salt therapy experience. I asked each person to check their oxygen saturations before and after the therapy and there were no real drastic improvements immediately following the therapy, however, I had one patient whose oxygen level was markedly improved in the following days. I wanted to make sure you heard how they felt about our halotherapy experience so I have directly quoted them below.
Ms. Y- “The main benefit I noticed while in the salt spa, was the opening of my sinus passages. I can still tell the difference today. (24hours later) As far as my lungs, I felt much like I feel when I’m at the beach. The salt air always makes me breathe so deeply! The spa gave me a similar experience. Once again, it could be more about my sinuses than my lungs, but the benefit is felt.”
Mr. D- “I had expected that the effects would be immediate and measurable directly after the treatment, but I found that I didn’t notice a change in my oxygen saturation. However, the next morning subjectively I felt my oxygen was better but unfortunately my pulse oximeter had failed so I could not measure it objectively. Approximately 24 hours after the salt therapy treatment, I arrived at pulmonary rehab and my oxygen saturation was 97%! The previous 3 visits were 93, 95, and 94%. I felt that this was an impressive improvement. I wonder how long the treatment effects will last. I am seriously considering returning to the see if I have similar results.”
Mr. B- “I have been going to Escape Massage for 6 months averaging 24 sessions per month. Before starting the therapy, I was averaging 89% to 91% O2 levels when checking into Pulmonary Rehab, my rehab coordinator would have to wait for a few minutes until my level was above 90%. Now I check in with 92% to 93% and maintain that level throughout the exercise period. My friends have also noticed a change in my voice, with less wheezing and the ability to say complete sentences without stopping to catch my breath. This past week I was able to get through a head and chest cold without the normal antibiotics and prednisone routine by daily salt room visits and Zicam. The salt kept my sinuses and chest clear of phlegm and congestion, I used a lot of tissues but my head stayed clear of blockage and pressure. I feel great and get a better night sleep.”
I definitely was pleased with my patients’/friends’ results after using the salt spa. I was thrilled to hear that “Mr. D” had already scheduled a return visit to the salt spa at the time I was writing this blog. I recommend this therapy to anyone who struggles with mucus in their lungs or sinuses. I will also say that you may want to try a handful of visits before ruling out whether or not it is helping your lung condition. Some further feedback that I have been given is that it is a “co-therapy” along with all the other medications and prescriptions that your physician has given you to manage your lung condition. Salt therapy is not intended to replace your current medication regimen, but compliment your efforts for good pulmonary health.
My friends at Escape Massage in Richmond are offering an AWESOME deal for my blog readers in the Richmond area! They are offering an initial 5 session package for 50% off. The owner is passionate about helping the lung community and wants anyone who is interested to be able to have the opportunity to experience the salt spa and its benefits. Mention “BreatheLiveFit Blog” when you call to receive 50% off your 5 session package. This promotion is for a limited time so please call soon to book your first session. Give it a try and send me an email on your thoughts.
Mechanicsville Location (Rutland Commons)
9225 Atlee Rd #5103 Mechanicsville, VA 23116
Phone (804) 730-6777
Midlothian Location (Westchester Commons)
15500 WC Commons Way Midlothian, VA 23113
Phone (804) 794-0445
To find your local salt spa check out the Salt Therapy Association. At the top right corner of their website you can search for a location near you!
Remember: We are in this TOGETHER!
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