Health spas and convalescent centers in Jurmala offering non-traditional services have become a cottage industry for the traditional summer recreation area on the Gulf of Riga.
In addition to classical treatment procedures like massages or spas, Jurmala resorts are now using unique methods such as rider therapy and mud baths to help them improve upon the some 55,000 visitors per year.
"Rider therapy, or reittherapy, is physical rehabilitation on horseback for people with movement disorders," explained Olga Berzina, president of the Latvian Rider Therapy Association. "The horse's movements replaces the patient's, and in such way people with movement and balance disorders are treated."
This unique horseback therapy has been around Latvia for only eight years. According to Berzina, one session lasts 20 minutes, and each patient undergoes the procedure 10 times. Generally there are 70 - 90 patients per month.
Jurmala spas' mud baths are come with the highest recommendations. The town boasts a 150-year-old spa tradition and nearly 40 hotels and convalescent centers.
A few, such as Jaunkemeri, offer something different - such as mud baths - to attract new clients. These baths "affect the body's physical state, nervous system and skin simultaneously," according to Dr. Mihail Malkiel, director of the health resort-spa centre Jaunkemeri, which also offers curative mineral water for its patients.
Other than cutting-edge services such as laser therapy, Jurmala rehabilitation centers offer more traditional services such as weight reduction, swimming and body building.
But industry leaders know they must improve with the changing times.
"A recent hotel reconstruction project has enhanced the quality and beauty of Vaivari tourism and relaxation center," said Dzintra Juriane, advertising coordinator of the Vaivari National Rehabilitation Center.
We need "to achieve top European standards," said Juriane, adding that Vaivari offers the full range of hydro-therapy services: spa, pool, sauna, "pearl" baths and underwater massage.
Jaunkemeri is unique in that its convalescent program combines climate (seaside air), water and mud - all of which are rich in minerals.
"Peat can be very useful for the human body," explained Malkiel. "It is a biologically active substance that helps to cure allergies and muscle and skin diseases, as well as to strengthen the nervous system and improve metabolism."