When the going gets tough, the tough needs a massage

By Katie Garner

It had been well over a month since my last massage, and I’m not going to lie – I could most definitely feel it. Desk bound and joints all at 90 degrees it was getting to the point where my upper back was in agony, my shoulder blades in particular rather uncomfy, with my neck also feeling like it needed a decent stretching. Add on my badminton commitments and you have one seriously achy club captain.

Outside Dove Spa

Outside Dove Spa

To tackle this, my other half and I decided to head down to Lakeside to investigate Dove Spa, currently being re-branded into the superhero sounding Luminis Spa. Situated near The Broadwalk restaurant stretch inside the Lakeside shopping complex, Dove Spa is rather unassuming from the outside, but as soon as you step inside, the zen vibe of relaxation promptly engulfs you professionally; the décor all white walls and beige undertones. After experiencing the near impossibility of getting an appointment at nearby Bannatyne Spa in Chafford Hundred, it was fantastic how promptly we could get booked in at Dove Spa, and for the couples treatment room. I literally booked us in on Thursday and we had our massages on the Sunday during the same week. We decided to go for an hour long treatment (let’s face it, anything less is a bitter disappointment), settling on the deep tissue massage, to really dig deep and unwind the tension knots that had burrowed into our bodies.  Costing approximately £56, it’s a pretty standard price for that style of treatment and time, but luckily we had a few vouchers stashed away which we used against our visit cost.

After being greeted at reception, you are shown through to a small lounge room, four cubic white armchairs placed in each corner alcove, a simple white coffee table in the centre covered in leaflets. A unique chandelier appeared to drip dangling bubbles, photo art wallpaper depicting a sofa of smiling and relaxed women. We were given a tumbler of water each whilst we filled out information forms detailing the usual bumpf and explaining any allergies or skin concerns and conditions. Once our forms were done and dusted, we were collected by our therapists to go through into the treatment room.

Usually, a couples treatment room is just one big room with two massage beds lying next to each other. Dove Spa though have a bit of a different set up, their couples treatment room being two separate rooms with a sliding partition door in the middle. This means that it could be used as two treatment rooms when the schedule is busier, or the doors could be left open like we had them. To be honest, I couldn’t really see Dan at all, so it wasn’t overly couply, but at least I knew he was there, and I could hear him and the therapist speaking. It also meant we could compare notes on the treatment in private afterwards. The treatment room / rooms were lovely and spacious with bags of room to move around in and even a wardrobe to stash your clothes and bags whilst you are being pampered. The temperature of the room was also ideal, so even when in your undies you didn’t feel overly cold or hot, and the abundance of towels meant you could cover up nicely.

Interestingly, once the massage began, the therapist actually started with the front of my body. Usually massages start by tackling the back of the body and then you roll over halfway through. Least this meant the best bit was last, as undoubtedly my back and shoulders was the area that needed the most work. The therapists used sweet almond or grapeseed oil, nothing too scented as we went for a more muscle focused option. Deep tissue massage isn’t meant to be strictly relaxing, as its purpose it to really drive niggles and nags from your muscles.

The peaceful waiting room

The peaceful waiting room

Despite having numerous deep tissue massages, both at this venue and others before, this one was by far the firmest. At points it was physically painful as the therapist pushed into my muscles, using both the palms of her hands and her elbows to establish a greater pressure on my tension spots. Deep tissue tends to use the arms to massage rather than the hands. However, at times I did have to grit my teeth. She did warn me beforehand that it would be firm, but where I had received this style of massage before and never had any problems; I thought I would be fine. This one was on a whole other level though, as I felt the muscles painfully pop under her sweeping arm movements. She really dug into my bad back patches across my shoulder blades, mercilessly kneading my problem area. Although it was more than sore, the depressing thing was that I knew my body needed it. My muscles were tight and wound up in knots and it needed this intense battering to loosen it up again, but geez it was tough. To be honest, I’m not entirely sure I would label the experience as relaxing, but beneficial. I don’t even know if I have noticed the rewards as much as usual either, as I spent more days afterwards feeling sore while my muscles adjusted.

Yes, it was more painful than usual, but it was still good on the whole. Some bits were lovely, such as the sections on my wrists, which as a badminton player, felt perfect, and at one point she picked up my arm and gave it a good tug which actually felt surprisingly good as well. I must confess I am in a mixed mind about this one. Having previously worked for a health and beauty company, I have had more than my fair share of massages (luckily for me) and I just didn’t get the same blissed out state since I was worried about various moves hurting and trying to be brave! I think next time I may leave Dan to the deep tissue and try something more soothing, like an aromatherapy, although I still need to sample an hour long hot stone massage.

As a spa, Dove Spa is incredibly handy. Although plenty of parlours and salons do massages, heading to a specific spa like venue is always a bit swisher, especially since we tend to go as a couple. Dove Spa was easy to book in despite wanting the more exclusive couples layout and the therapists were polite, chatty and friendly too, listening eagerly as you spoke about what you wanted to get from the massage. I will definitely be going back, but this experience has just made me a tad hesitant about booking another deep tissue massage. I know every massage is different, but cor blimey, I’ve never had one like that before!