What is wood therapy and how does it work?

Published 11th Jan 2024 by Kezia Parkins

If you are a beauty therapist or someone with any interest in massage and body contouring, you would have likely come across wood therapy videos on social media – #woodtherapy currently has 382 million views on TikTok.

The energetic massage technique may look painful, even brutal, but when done correctly it can be incredibly relaxing and effective, with numerous health and beauty benefits.

Often called Brazilian wood therapy for its popularity in South America, the noninvasive treatment involves using various wooden tools and suction cups to break down stubborn fat, reduce cellulite, boost circulation and improve lymphatic drainage. The therapy is also said to be skin smoothing and to have wellness benefits.

Wood therapy is believed to help break down and soften stubborn or compact pockets of fat which then makes it much easier for the body to use these as an energy source.

“I actually believe the practice of wood therapy originated in Asia for health management before South Americans, who are very into body sculpting, started using it for aesthetic reasons,” explains Becky Speicher, founder and chief executive of body contouring clinic Lasi Body Therapy in Kingston, London.

Speicher, who is a mother of four, began using the technique on herself after noticing her body changing, with childbirth and hormones leaving her feeling really bloated and sluggish.

“Wood therapy became something I enjoyed more than going to the gym and I can do it in front of the TV,” she says. “I saw the effects were very similar, better even. I could target stubborn areas like my stomach to really break down the fat.”

Preparing the body

Jasmina Connelly, creator of wood therapy training school Roseline Academy, explains that she starts her treatments by dry body brushing her clients and performing some hand work to warm up the skin. She likes to combine wood therapy with manual lymphatic drainage (MLD). “Then I always activate the lymph nodes, because anything I break down will drain and detoxify from there,” she explains.

Meanwhile, Speicher likes to start treatment by putting her clients on a vibration plate for a few minutes, especially if they’ve driven to the appointment. “The lymphatic system works with movement,” she says. “You can’t just sit still and expect it to flow.”

Wood therapy tools

The best tools to break down fat and cellulite are the rollers. With their corrugated or cubed disks that move independently, these are great for essentially pummelling fat and any fibrotic tissue, working similarly to devices like LPG Endermologie or Endospheres’s compressive microvibration.

The beauty therapist can use these tools (which come in a number of weights) either with or without oil, applying pressure and motion to the areas of concern.

“I start with the lighter tools to soften and warm up the muscle and get blood flowing and then I will use a more robust tool to get a bit deeper,” says Connelly. “For example, the cube roller is quite heavy so I often avoid the inside legs but it’s perfect for the back of the legs where we all have thicker skin and more adipose tissue… Everyone is different and has different tolerance levels so it’s important to adjust to every client.”

The repetitive press and release on the skin also helps to stimulate both the lymphatic and circulatory systems, boosting blood flow to the surface of the skin for tightening action.

“As I bring the blood flow to the surface, I can move any stagnant lymph fluid, release water retention and at the same time I can oxygenate the collagen and elastin fibres and release toxins,” says Connelly.

As the therapy goes deep enough to work the muscles too, it is great for athletes because it can break down and release the build-up of lactic acid while helping to stretch and tone. “You are fighting against gravity while you are sculpting the muscles. As you get older, the quads and glutes drop down so with wood therapy we aim to lift them,” adds Connelly.

She says you can see the results of the lifting after one session, hence why wood therapy on the glutes is sometimes referred to as a non-surgical Brazilian booty lift, but she recommends a course of treatments to get the best results. While the treatment can look aggressive, Speicher says many clients find it relaxing and fall asleep as if in a deep tissue massage.

Redness is caused by increased blood flow which has an energising effect post treatment. After using the rollers to break down the fat and compacted tissue, other tools are used to then direct fat and fluid to the lymph nodes.

These can be a kind of wooden paddle, gua sha or a wooden cup. Both cupping and gua sha are used for lymphatic drainage. Cupping works by lifting up the skin, creating a vacuum and allowing the underlying tissue room to function and drain while also helping lift and position fat cells in more desirable areas. Gua sha gently pushes stagnant fluid to the lymph nodes so that it can drain, giving a sculpted and contoured appearance.

For this reason, wood therapy combined with MLD has become popular with clients recovering from surgery. “My main focus is clients recovering from invasive aesthetic surgery or new mothers as it is incredibly effective for these groups,” says Speicher.

Wood therapy combinations

Being non-invasive, there are many treatments wood therapy can be combined with to boost its sculpting and detoxifying power – mainly lymphatic drainage, but Connelly also loves to combine it with a Brazilian coffee scrub for ultimate cellulite busting power.

“I always like to start with wood therapy but then I can combine it with any other treatment,” adds Speicher.

“I go on to use radiofrequency, ultrasound cavitation or Emsculpt electromagnetic therapy, which is particularly effective when combined with wood therapy. This has become really popular with clients because you can see immediate results and it is a great quick fix for holidays.”

Ultimately it’s important to assess each client’s skin and discover their needs to come up with the best combination treatment for them.

Business booster

As well as the results it can achieve for clients, one of the main reasons Connelly loves wood therapy is how easy it is to start offering – with the right training, of course. “That’s one of my USPs,” she says.

“Some devices can cost around £50,000, which is a lot for a clinic or salon to turn over, and machines can break down and end up costing you more.

Speicher adds, “There are many clients now that only want holistic treatments. Wood therapy is a great option for clients intimidated by devices.”

All massage can be strenuous on the therapist, and wood therapy is no different, but the tools can take a significant amount of the strain by reducing the need to use your hands and thumbs so much, helping to avoid problems such as carpal tunnel syndrome.

Therefore, wood therapy could be a great option for therapists worried about the longevity of their career seeing as the professional lifespan of a therapist can all too often be shortened by injury.

With wood therapy, you can still get deep into the tissue and achieve good results by using the tools optimally along with your body weight. “Wood therapy is still very energetic but I have learned how to conserve my energy,” says Connelly.

Have you achieved great results with wood therapy or by combining it with devices? Let us know in the comments...

Kezia Parkins

Kezia Parkins

Published 11th Jan 2024

Kezia Parkins is the deputy editor of Professional Beauty. She has a background in medical journalism and is also as trained nail tech. As such, she is particularly passionate about all thing nails, as well as the science behind beauty products and treatments. Contact her at [email protected]

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