Health: Reap the benefits of essential oils and a serious massage rolled into one - and no whale music

Claire Hay's aromatherapy nassage treatment costs �45 for 90 minutes
Claire Hay's aromatherapy nassage treatment costs �45 for 90 minutes
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AROMATHERAPY massage gets a bit of a bad press. All that flouncing around with pretty smells, over-priced candles and whale music when what you want, surely, is to actually FEEL it working; someone to pummel away the tension from your tired, stressed shoulders and painful lower back.

Fortunately, therapist Claire Hay understands the need for pressure as well as knowing exactly which essential oils will make the most difference to each client’s individual physical and mental needs.

Which is why, even before I’ve kicked off my shoes to climb on to the massage table, we talk. The consultation includes questions about my job and my lifestyle, about any aches and pains I have (plenty) and, on a scale of one to ten, how stressed I am (try eight). As part of her signature 90-minute aroma-massage treatment, Claire then tailor-makes a blend of oils according to the answers I’ve given her.

Opening her case of bottles, she picks out a tiny container of basil for, she explains, stiffness and mental fatigue. Then there’s a drop or two of cypress, which has a warming woody scent and is good for my circulatory problems. And, since I am going home to bed afterwards, there’s some mandarin in there which, as well as smelling wonderful, is gentle, comforting and stress-relieving (if I was heading out, she might have chosen grapefruit instead, an uplifting, energising oil).

This is a back massage, and I can choose whether I want Claire to concentrate on my lower or upper back. The shoulders get the nod – knotted and painful after hours spent hunched over a keyboard at work. And so she gradually works her way up and down my spine and across my shoulders, easing out the tension as the oils work their magic. I’m less aware of the scent than of Claire’s hands and fingers encouraging my body to relax and let go.

Once she’s finished with my back, it’s time for a facial massage – this time using apricot kernel oil as a base and frankincense for cell renewal (she’s too polite to say it’s for older skin) – followed by a head massage.

She’s always gentle but firm, not too flouncy but never painful either. The hour and a half passes far too quickly, bringing my stress levels back down below five and my shoulders back where they should be. I smell pretty good too. I float out into the cold night an aromatherapy convert.

• Balanced Physiotherapy, 1 St Bernards Row, Edinburgh (0131-315 3105,