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A massage is the apex of luxury. What could be more extravagant than soaking in the warm oils of a Swedish treatment and sinking into the bliss of an herbal mud bath after a good hour of deep tissue kneading? Moreover, the spa experience is about wellness and the synergistic mystery of relaxation and their effects on the beleaguered body. The proven medical benefits of massage include the easing of cancer symptoms, shoulder pain, agitation in people with Alzheimer's disease, aggression in adolescents, and spinal cord injury- to name a few. The following spas are experts in unbridling the body/mind from its daily perturbations with a few choice therapeutic treats.

Kabuki Springs can help you attain corporeal nirvana with its package combos of aromatherapy, acupuncture, and traditional massage. Whether you want to work out some kinks in your neck with Zen-inducing therapy or travel the Springs' oasis-like wet and dry sauna and traditional communal bathhouse, you'll have a lot of choices at your fingertips. Superlative treatments include Japanese style Shiatsu, an ancient massage practice designed to release pain through thumbs, fingers, feet, and other pressure points in the body ($55 for 50 minutes). Add acupuncture to the package for an extra $35 for an essential immune booster. The Abhyanga massage ($115 for 80 minutes) highlights another eastern wellness practice, Ayurveda, which works on the entire immune system. Warm oils are tailored to one's individual dosha (an organizing quality that determines a person's behavior and physique) in this rhythmic rubdown, followed by a soak in a traditional furo tub, a Japanese bath with a small basin and stool.

Those in search of injury repair and an increased range of motion or athletic performance need look no further- PSOAS Massage & Bodywork is uniquely designed to cater to individual treatment options that combine deep tissue massage, trigger point release massage, and more. Marathon runners and people who experience difficulty sleeping love this place. The spa gets its name from the little-known PSOAS muscle in the abdomen, which attaches the upper and lower bodies together and plays a role in many muscle conditions, like lower back pain. The point of the treatments is to relieve muscles of adhesions that limit motion or cause pain. PSOAS's popular craniosacral massage also realigns the body to improve vitality and well-being, while their orthopedic massage increases blood flow to injured tissues in the body. Treatments range from $45-$110.

Most spas combine an array of bodywork practices, and at Therapeia, an unpretentious Pacific Heights studio, the obvious wedding of massage to yoga is celebrated. Therapeia's Mediterranean style digs are cozy and full of repose, swarming with the redolence of aromatherapy oils and the hushed gurgle of a fountain somewhere in the distance. With a focus on healing and pain relief, Therapeia's superb selections include the prenatal recharge massage and the cranial-sacral massage (both $78 for 60 minutes); the latter frees blocked cranial sacral movement with gentle manipulation to ease chronic fatigue or headaches. The Hot Stone Nirvana treatment ($145 for 90 minutes) is Therapeia's all-around winner. A combination of hands and smooth hot stones slackens tense muscles and creates a uniquely mollifying sensation.

Aside from imbuing one with a relaxed state of mental awareness and an increased ability to monitor stress signals, perhaps the primary reason massage is looked upon as the ultimate in pampering is the absence of therapeutic touch in many forms of healing. Stress-related illnesses make up 80 to 90 percent of the ailments in our society, and a caring touch has been clinically proven to allay symptoms. Quite possibly, the need to soak in a Swedish treatment or simple foot rub is triggered by this unconscious recognition of luxury as necessity, of something commonly considered an improvidence of the wealthy but which is now a time-honored way of achieving total well-being.