Snake massage trend is not for the faint-hearted
Written by Roneel Narayan on June 15, 2022
These ssssssneaky massage therapists don’t have hands.
People in desperate need of pain relief are willing to let carnivorous reptiles slither all over their bodies — and faces — at a small spa in Cairo.
As soothing music pumps through the sound system, masseurs rub oil on clients’ backs — before introducing a combination of pythons or around 28 different types of non-venomous snakes in the adrenaline-fueled 30-minute session.
Masseuse and spa owner Safwat Sedki said snake massages help reduce muscle and joint pain while improving blood circulation and releasing endorphins.
“The use of snakes is a type of massage, and it has two aims, physical and emotional,” Sedki told Reuters in the video footage captured above. “The physical aim is to improve blood circulation and mental stimulation and the emotional aim is that it releases endorphins that help with the ‘happy hormone’ that helps people regain confidence and strengthen the immune system.”
After first gaining popularity across Asia, particularly in Indonesia and the Philippines, these supposedly soothing snake-skin sessions expanded into other countries including Brazil, Russia, Israel and the US.
Sedki admitted it was not an easy sell for his Egyptian clientele in the beginning: “When we first introduced the session, a lot of people were afraid, they said, ‘Snakes, how can you use snakes?!’ — but once we started explaining to people the benefits of this massage … the idea was accepted by a lot of people, especially those who have a phobia or fear of snakes.”
Customer Diaa Zein, who stumbled upon the slithering spa service while scrolling his social media, said he experienced a “sense of relief and rejuvenation” as soon as the critters were placed on his back.
“I was nervous at first [and] scared of snakes being on my body,” he said. ” But the fear, anxiety and tension were reduced and the session gave a sense of relaxation as the snakes went over my back and having them there boosted my self-confidence.”
The spa owner and customers say the massage gave them a boost of self-confidence as well as a feeling of total relaxation due to the unusual sensation of snakes on the skin.
Sedki said he started by offering the sessions for free to curious patrons — but he now charges around 100 Egyptian Pounds ($6.37) for a 20 or 30-minute session.
However, snake massage should not be used as a substitute for traditional medical care or doctor visits, Sedki warned.
Animal activists offer a different advisory: A rep for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) told The Post this “may seem like a whacky story, but people should know that snakes are sensitive living beings who experience fear and stress.”
Sure, “they may not display fright and discomfort in the obvious ways that warm-blooded species do — they don’t whine, yelp, or flinch in the way a dog or a mouse might — but constant handling does cause them stress and leave them prone to illness and injury,” said Jason Baker, senior vice president of PETA Asia. “Snakes should be exploring the deserts, forests, and rivers that their senses are so keenly attuned to; being used for massages would be highly distressing to them. Our advice to the spa is to ditch cheap, abusive stunts.”