Spa days typically consist of massages and face masks — but now, some “wellness spas” are offering more on the menu. How about an energizing injection of vitamin B, rather than a rub down?
Launched by a group of board-certified physicians in 2012, Reviv Wellness, a self-described wellness spa offers a B12 Pure Energy Booster for $29. It’s meant to replenish the body of this essential nutrient, yielding improvements in everything from energy to metabolism.
“I think of it as a combination of an Eastern philosophy of balance, compounded with Western medicine and Eastern medicine,” says Reviv CEO Dr. Johnny Parvani, who has a background in emergency medicine. “When your body is adequately balanced you function optimally, when you’re off-balance, you don’t. You’re not as productive.”
Skeeved out by the thought of getting a shot at the spa? Dr. David Zich, assistant professor of emergency medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, warns that any feel-good effects from these injections could be due to the placebo effect. “When there is no proven benefit of doing it, it seems strange that people would subject themselves to any chance of harm,” Zich says.
Should you spice up your next spa day with a shot…or just say no to non-essential injections?
What’s a Vitamin B-12 Injection, Exactly?
If you’re feeling totally wiped out, getting a quick hit of energy from a simple pinprick might sound tempting. “[Vitamin B] is an essential vitamin that’s used by the body for red blood cell production, and is also involved in various neural processes, sleep, mood and metabolism,” Parvani says. “People deficient in B12 frequently present with fatigue, lack of productivity and that can be related to underlying conditions.” Vitamin B is naturally found in foods, and taking vitamin B supplements in pill-form is generally regarded as safe.
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Parvani says some clients are referred to Reviv by their primary care physicians (though the spa doesn’t accept insurance), while others hear about the benefits through word of mouth. “We have 60 to 70 percent repeat clientele rate, which speaks to how well these treatments work,” he says. People come in as often as every two to three days for the injections.
Each client who visits Reviv undergoes a screening exam to check their vitals and make sure they don’t suffer from heart failure, or kidney dysfunction, which could cause complications. Certified medical professionals administer the injections. While Parvani acknowledges that people can get plenty of vitamin B from food, or vitamins, he claims the feel-good benefits will be slower to take hold.
The Risks of Over-the-Counter Injections
Sure, you know the vaccines you’re getting in a doctor’s office are perfectly safe, but is the same true for “spa” shots? Experts agree that the risks of vitamin B12 are minimal. It’s a water-soluble vitamin — so if you receive too much, you’ll simply pee it out.
However, Zich argues that most of the perceived benefits people are reporting from B12 injections might just be a placebo effect. “Some are going to have a reaction to it that is not allergic, but will give you symptoms,” Zich says, which could include anxiety, mild diarrhea, a temporary rash with itching or a sensation of swelling. Plus, if it turns out you’re allergic to vitamin B (or anything else in one of these injections), you could suffer anaphylaxis, and even face a risk of death.
Those who suffer from B12 vitamin deficiencies (such as people who’ve undergone gastric bypass surgery, or those who suffer from anorexia or alcoholism) would be better off getting injections in a traditional medical setting, Zich notes.
Plus, most people in the U.S. are not vitamin B deficient, according to the National Institutes of Health — perhaps rendering the shots an unnecessary expense, unless prescribed for medical reasons.
Overall, Zich advocates lifestyle tweaks, rather than shots, if you’re feeling drained. “People know they need energy — they’re tired all the time. So they’re looking to outside sources — spas, the energy drink industry — to save them from a tired, worn out existence,” Zich says. “As physicians, we keep trying to stress: Please do the basics: back off your schedule, get seven to eight hours of sleep.” Or perhaps, load up on some energizing vitamin B-rich foods, instead.