ISPA Foundation Announces 2009 Recipient of Ruth Stricker Spa & Wellness Award

September 24, 2009

LEXINGTON, Ky. – The International SPA Association Foundation is pleased to announce Cynthia Karlson, M.A., C.M.T., as the 2009 recipient of the Ruth Stricker Spa and Wellness Award. Karlson will be awarded $2,500 and will be acknowledged at the 19th annual ISPA Conference & Expo, held Oct. 5-8 in Austin, Tx.

“The ISPA Foundation is proud to award Cynthia Karlson with the Ruth Stricker Spa and Wellness Award, and we look forward to sharing her research findings with the spa community,” said ISPA President Lynne McNees. “Her research will benefit the spa industry by providing further insight into the healing powers of massage.”

Karlson is currently a graduate student at the University of Kansas pursuing a Doctorate of Philosophy degree in Clinical Health Psychology. She also works as a graduate research assistant at the University of Kansas Medical Center. She has been a certified massage therapist since 2000. “I feel extremely honored to receive this support for my research,” Karlson said. “I am passionate about the benefits of massage and relaxation and hope that the results of my study will lead to a better understanding of the mechanisms of massage. With a better understanding of how massage works comes the potential for greater dissemination of its benefits.”

Karlson’s research will focus on the use of massage and guided imagery to reduce musculoskeletal pain. She will test 112 undergraduate women, each randomly assigned to four experimental groups including: no treatment, guided imagery only, massage only or guided imagery plus massage. The groups will be tested to determine if their assigned treatment has an effect on their experience of pain. Also, heart-rate, respiration and blood pressure will be recorded throughout the study. There have been many studies on the effects of massage, but Karlson will attempt to bridge the gap from “what” massage does to “how” massage does it. She hopes that when the “how” is understood, healthcare professionals will be able to offer massage as a complementary treatment with more confidence and promote massage as part of a holistic health and wellness plan.

The results of Karlson’s research will help the spa industry understand which variables related to massage promote the greatest healing experience. The variables can then be used to help customize spa experiences for consumers.

The Ruth Stricker Spa & Wellness Award, named in honor of the founder of The Marsh, a Center for Balance and Fitness in Minneapolis, Minn., offers financial assistance for the purpose of stimulating research and exploration into the various ways that spa can meet current healthcare needs, promote wellness, and enhance quality of life. The award will support a project that demonstrates a unique or unrecognized benefit of spa in promoting wellness. For more information on the Ruth Stricker Spa & Wellness Award visit

About the ISPA Foundation

Created in 1999 to serve the educational and research needs of the spa industry through endowments, curriculum development and scholarships, the ISPA Foundation is the nonprofit 501(c)3 arm of ISPA. The ISPA Foundation’s mission is to improve and enhance the value of the spa experience while supporting its vision of sustainable health and well-being through the advancement of spa culture. For more information on the ISPA Foundation and opportunities for involvement, please visit

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