My wife and I maintain a minor hobby of participating in couples massages, which we enjoy about once a month. Since we tend to move around a lot for professional reasons, our experiences with spas differ depending upon the location. Currently we reside in Seoul, South Korea, and one of our recent jaunts brought us to a place with doctor fish. At first, I figured they were ornamental, a small lagoon in the main waiting area to set a relaxing tone. However, I watched with interest as a few people stuck their feet in the water, whereupon the fish immediately attacked. Since the group giggled, rather than screamed in agony, my curiosity was piqued. What were these things and what were they doing? More importantly, how could I get in on this?
What Are Doctor Fish?
The official name for doctor fish is the Garra rufa. Originating from the Middle East (specifically Turkey and Syria), these toothless, minnow-sized fish nibble between your toes and feed off dead skin. They have been used in some countries for years as a treatment to skin ailments such as psoriasis, eczema, and athlete’s foot. Spas around the world employ the use of doctor fish to exfoliate the feet, with their popularity rising in Asian countries. The United States, however, has not yet fallen in love with these fish. For this reason, they may be harder to find in your locale.
My Personal Experience
Never hearing of doctor fish before, I immediately had to try them out. Although a bit apprehensive, I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to experience something so different. My wife and I paid a small fee and the spa allowed us to place our feet in the pool for ten minutes. The estimated fifty or so doctor fish swarmed our toes like piranhas attacking their prey. Instead of pain, the sensation was a combination of tickling and mild electric current. Their endless appetite was apparent since they didn’t stop eating until we lifted our feet from the water. Surprisingly, my feet did feel smoother afterwards and I would definitely recommend doctor fish for the unique experience.
Doctor Fish Controversies
As I previously mentioned, the use of doctor fish in the United States has not yet caught on. Many states have banned the use of these fish due to sanitary concerns and it is not recommended to soak feet with open cuts or sores. If you do find a spa that carries doctor fish, make sure they are properly licensed and follow all state health codes and regulations. And remember, don’t be afraid–they are there to help!
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