When you think of paraffin wax treatments you probably envision sitting in a manicure or pedicure chair. Immersing fingertips, hands, and feet into a paraffin bath is not only relaxing but leaves the skin utterly soft. Though this may feel like pampering, there are therapeutic benefits to paraffin that have been noted for hundreds of years- even doctors in the 1950's recognized the advantages. Due to its therapeutic qualities, paraffin treatments are extending beyond the manicurist's chair and onto the massage table.
Certainly, the warmth of the melted paraffin wax is calming, but it's more than soothing to the mind: the warm wax helps increase blood flow and aid in muscle relaxation. Additionally, the heat eases tendon and ligament pain. Doctors in the 1950's recognized paraffin wax's ability to reduce joint pain, and it was often used for arthritis relief. Today, massage therapists use paraffin treatments to help alleviate pain due to arthritis, osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, as well as chronic muscle tension.
Since paraffin melts at a relatively low temperature, approximately 125 degrees, applying the wax directly to the skin is generally safe (notify massage therapist of any skin sensitivities, neuropathy, or diabetes). While the wax may cover the entire body, it's most often applied to the extremities either through brushing on or immersion. A massage therapist may use paraffin to warm and soften tissue prior to manipulation to allow deeper tissue massage in shorter time. Or, they may apply paraffin to an area already massaged to help increase blood flow and cellular/nutrient transport after muscle manipulation.
As the treatment eases muscle, tendon, and ligament adhesions, clients often experience improved range of joint mobility. Additionally, clients also find relief for bursitis and tendonitis discomfort. Because of such results, recent studies are addressing the benefits of paraffin treatments for sclerosis (a painful hardening of the skin and/or connective tissue). In one study, patients received a daily paraffin bath on the affected area (in this case- hands). At the conclusion of thirty days, the patients who received paraffin treatments displayed a significant improvement in range of motion and skin elasticity. A decrease in pain and perceived stiffness was also recorded.
These results make paraffin treatments a highly beneficial addition to sports, scar tissue, and deep tissue massage. Of course, smooth, soft, and moisturized skin is a bonus side effect.