Health spas in France: practical info

  • © Atout France / Phovoir

    © Atout France / Phovoir

Health spas in France: practical info

Hydrotherapy, thalassotherapy and balneotherapy

The major difference between hydrotherapy, thalassotherapy and balneotherapy is the use of three different types of water. Thalassotherapy uses seawater, spa treatments use spring water and balneotherapy uses fresh water.The seawater and spring water provide benefits to the body (iodine, trace elements, minerals, etc.). These elements favor the welfare and have therapeutic properties that can prevent some specific illnesses. Balneotherapy has beneficial effects on the entire body, it regulates blood flow in particular.

Health spas: a tradition and a French know-how

Hydrotherapy, inspired by Ancient Rome, has been revived in France in the early days of the nineteenth century. It has the primary purpose of preventing or curing some diseases such as rheumatism or obesity. The spas are located near sources, often at the foot of volcanoes or mountains.

France has a wide experience in thalassotherapy with centers located throughout the coast and known worldwide. Balneotherapy was invented more recently in order to develop fitness.

The rigor of care, equipment at the forefront of technology and competent staff guarantee to patients a real improvement of their physical condition. Doctors, dieticians, physiotherapists, beauticians and hydrotherapists are regularly trained on the latest techniques and offer a specialized follow up.

Sanitation facilities and water quality are regularly inspected by state organization (Thalasso France).

Focus on spa

The word spa comes from the Latin "sanitus per aqua", which means "health through water".
A spa is a place of well-being, where visitors can relax both body and mind using water-based treatments, as well as beauty treatments. The atmosphere of a spa (its ambience, scent, colours and hospitality) is of great importance.

Spas are located everywhere in France. There are "day spas" with no accommodation on site as well as spa resorts, where lodging (generally a hotel ) is integrated into the spa and where you can stay for several days.

Treatments – detailed informations

To be effective, it is recommended that a water-treatment lasts at least six days to rebuild the body and to really feel the fitness benefits. However, a short stay is possible for an initiation to water-treatments.

A course of thalasso usually includes four to five treatments per day. Treatments are often concentrated on a half day. Each treatment of hard water lasts about twenty minutes. However, some specific treatments (massage, shiatsu) may last longer.

As explained, water-treatments use many different kinds of hydrotherapic cares (affusion shower, submarine jets, hydromassaging, etc.) but there are also dry cares practiced out of water (massage, relaxation, shiatsu, mud applications, etc.).


The difference between modelage and massage: the modelage is a care that touches the skin almost superficially while massage aims the deep skin (epidermis) and must be practiced by physiotherapists.

Relaxation massage: in addition to breathing exercises, this treatment provides maximum relaxation for the body.

Affusion massage: practiced with two or four hands, this massage has appeasing and relaxing effects, reinforced by a thin spray of hot water. This treatment takes away all the body's tension and improves the quality of sleep.

Lymphatic drainage: this massage works on the lymphatic system. Slow, gentle and fair pressure actively removes infiltrates, and is particularly effective in the case of edema and cellulitis.

Reflexology: this massage of reflexology areas of the feet helps to rebalance energies. This technique has therapeutic vertues on some ailments such as migraine or back pain.


Rehabilitation in a pool: some exercises in a pool allow muscles, tendons and joints to regain flexibility and mobility and prevent physical dysfunctions. The body then regains its supple and painless movements.

Pressure therapy: the legs benefit from alternative pressure and relaxations to improve venous return and make the legs feel lighter.

Endermology: this treatment combines the principle of "pinch-roll" massage with an aspiration technique. Particularly effective in the treatment of cellulite, it is also used for the treatment of the skin and of scars.