Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Enjoying a Swedish massage at the Ritz-Carlton Georgetown, Washington, DC

The spa: Housed in the depths of this landmark hotel, the four-room spa is an oasis of serenity next to a busy gym, which, as befits the world’s powerhouse of politics, is open 24 hours a day.

Spa Spy’s symptoms: Ah, those hardy perennials: shoulder tightness, muscle tension and lower back pain that Spa Spy suspects is back-to-work stress.

The prescription: After a consultation with Yannick, my therapist, the signature therapeutic massage (50 minutes, £76) is recommended – a common-or-garden Swedish-technique massage designed to ease chronic pain, fluid retention and muscular fatigue that is pepped up some deep-tissue action and a range of specialist therapeutic techniques.

The procedure: Easing the pain involved some serious pummelling of the shoulder area and tugging of arms from the masseuse interspersed with yelps from Spy; the myofascial release involved some rather unpleasant manipulation of connective tissue. Yannick used her knuckles and elbows to get into the deep tissue and mobilise long tightened muscles, all the while, we discussed the finer details of Washington politics. The neck was lengthened and, finally, the knots untied, the worries wrung out.

The verdict: Executed with highly skilled hands. Spa Spy strolled to a rendezvous in front of the White House feeling lighter, thanks to a change in posture, and definitely taller.

The medical opinion: “Lower back pain is very common, affecting approximately 80 per cent of the population at some point,” writes Dr Max Pemberton. “It is usually the result of poor posture leading to strain on the muscles and ligaments of the back. However, a review of the research on spinal manipulation – massage included – showed that it is no more or less effective than standard medical interventions for back pain, such as encouraging gentle exercise and managing pain with painkillers and anti-inflammatory medication.”

The feelgood factor: Unlike other newly built, cookie-cutter Ritz-Carltons, this one has a boutique feel. Housed inside a former incinerator, with a 130ft chimney that rises above the hotel, it’s more trendy loft conversion than marble palace. But you are well situated for fashionable restaurants and shops, and for a stroll to the White House.

Details: Doubles at the Ritz-Carlton Georgetown (0800 234 000, www.ritzcarlton.com), from £279 a night. Virgin Atlantic (08448 747 747, virginatlantic.com) is offering return flights this month from £379 return.


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