Tourists would usually plan an itinerary to go sight-seeing, shop, capture pictures and videos and to relax. Personally, I go travelling to break the routine of the daily grind and to rejuvenate. My other favourite parts of taking a vacation include immersing in another culture, sampling local food, meeting new people and experiencing another way of living, even for a little while.
However, people’s motivations for traveling may not be merely restricted to those mentioned above. A growing trend nowadays is referred to as medical tourism. According to news.medical.net, “Medical tourism can be defined as the process of traveling outside the country of residence for the purpose of receiving medical care.”  Due to the increase in healthcare costs, even in first-world countries such as the United States and the UK, travellers seeking medical treatments or enhancements to other countries are growing in numbers, primarily driven by lower costs and availability of the treatments.
There is a rise of several medical spas in the world. An extremely popular country where people from all over the world are flocking to receive alternative healthcare and enhancement treatments is in Thailand, where medical tourism is booming by 16% yearly.  It is fast becoming the centre of medical travel in Asia. Famously known as “The Land of Smiles”, Thailand also offers affordable accommodations and various services that would delight any vacationer.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) started promoting medical tourism in 2004, launching a comprehensive website which enumerated all the treatments available for potential patrons to decide on getting a procedure or not. It is an innovative concept because the website highlights the services/procedure offered. Also you may explore the website, giving you a wide array of options in A) Provider (Hospital, Clinic, Spa, Others); B) Destination (City in Thailand) and C) Category (Aesthetic Treatment, Health/Medical or Spa). For a complete list, kindly refer to TAT’s website at https://thailandmedtourism.tourismthailand.org. 
A regular spa will have rejuvenation services such as facials and massages facilitated by trained aestheticians. A medical spa is similar to this, only it offers a wider range of packages to meet the demand for non-invasive, nonsurgical beauty treatments in a luxurious spa setting.
Take S Medical Spa, for example. Located in Ratchadapisek Road in Bangkok, it ranked as the topmost medical spa in Asia.  It has won Spa of the Year for 2007, 2009 and 2010 and several other notable accolades under its belt. S Medical Spa provides extensive services that include laser technology, detoxification and cosmetic treatments performed by professionals and medical practitioners for one’s mind, body and appearance. They don’t come cheap, though. A detoxification treatment called C-white aiming to boost beauty and the immune system costs 3,800 Thai Baht (approximately $148 SGD), among other comprehensive treatments that the client can choose from.
As it promises world-class treatments with state-of-the art equipment and devices, S Medical Spa is open from 10 am to 10 pm daily for vacationers and locals alike. Simply view the video of S Medi Spa in https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sh5sAbaLeso to gain a visual of the facility and the kinds of holistic therapies available there. 
Indulging in the spa is more than recreation. It can actually be advantageous to your health. A major reason for people to relax in a spa is due to stress, be it personal or work-related. Stress can affect our minds and bodies in several ways such as increase in heart rate, indigestion, muscle tension, acne, and other “fight-and-flight” responses caused by the hormone cortisol. 
Massages are a preferred spa treatment for many because they can sleep during the treatment, and basically leave it to the other person to care for them. Foot massages and reflexology seem to be an indulgence of choice, especially for the tourist who spent the whole day walking around and sight-seeing. Reflexology is an ancient healing practice that alleviate reflex points on the foot, corresponding to different organs of the body. It prevents aches and injuries, improve blood circulation and promote better sleep among other benefits. 
It has been said that physical contact is necessary for our well-being, no matter if the touch came from a stranger. A study in Japan was conducted involving frequent spa users that resulted to improved physical and mental health, which included better quality sleep and less tendency to take sick days from work. 
Much as most of the treatments offered in spas are for mere aesthetics or a change in skin texture, there are spa services that can reap positive payoffs to your health. A massage that include lymphatic draining aims to return fluid circulating throughout the body. This is especially helpful in areas affected by surgery. Mudpacks and mineral water baths seem to be favourable in providing relief from inflammation and other skin problems like psoriasis. 
Given all this positive points, will going to a medi spa reap any real medical benefits? It can help rejuvenate skin, reduce stress and put you in relaxation. However, there is no direct link that these benefits can actually lead to healing. Arguably, it would still depend on one’s condition. If it is your skin that needs to heal, then perhaps continuous treatments in a medical spa may help that along. For life-threatening illnesses that require operations, organ transplants or even to acquire medicine for the common cold, a medical spa will not be your best bet. Always consult your doctor if you have any serious medical issues for the proper and adequate remedy and cure.
When you need a quick getaway or to simply get pampered, local and international medi spas are there to be enjoyed. It may even do you some good to indulge in some spa time every once in a while.
- What is Medical Tourism? https://www.news-medical.net/health/What-is-Medical-Tourism.aspx
- The Rise of Medical Tourism in Bangkok https://www.bbc.com/travel/story/20120828-the-rise-of-medical-tourism-in-bangkok.
- Tourism Authority of Thailand https://thailandmedtourism.tourismthailand.org/
- Asia’s Top 10 Medi-Spas, https://www.luxury-insider.com/features/2010/asia-top-10-medi-spas
- S Medical Spa in Bangkok https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sh5sAbaLeso
- Treatments to Destress, https://goodspaguide.co.uk/features/treatments-to-de-stress
- Top 10 Health Benefits of Foot Massage and Reflexology, https://www.top10homeremedies.com/news-facts/top-10-health-benefits-foot-massage-reflexology.html
- Spas: The Risks and Benefits, https://www.webmd.com/beauty/features/spas-the-risks-and-benefits#1
- Spa Treatments: What Works, https://www.webmd.com/beauty/features/spas-the-risks-and-benefits#4
Written by Catherine Domingo Ong
Catherine is a writer whose guilty pleasure is lounging in a peaceful location with a good book (or several) and a latte at hand.