Angela Rippon heads to a Portuguese spa for physio and fine food

That’s what I call a gym and tonic! After a painful shoulder op, ANGELA RIPPON heads to a Portuguese spa for physio and fine food

  • Angela enjoyed a four-day programme at the Palacio Estoril Wellness Centre on Portugal’s Atlantic coast 
  • The retreat caters to all manner of needs: fitness, weight loss and rehabilitation after injury or surgery
  • Doctors prescribed treatments and exercise classes designed to give her shoulder a workout  
  • While in Portugal, she also explored Sintra – an area full of pastel-coloured palaces and hillside villages 

There is something truly satisfying about hearing the ‘pop’ of a locked joint as it yields to the hands of a skilful osteopath. It’s a sound which confirms that, after months of immobility, something is moving at last.

In my case, the ‘joint’ is my new prosthetic right shoulder — a miracle of modern surgery that replaced my 75-year-old arthritis-ridden joint with a polyurethane and tungsten construction that has released me from three years of limited movement and constant pain. Bliss.

The downside is that shoulders are complicated joints, needing lots of physiotherapy and patience if you are to regain full articulation and strength.

Rest and recuperation: The Palacio Estoril Wellness Centre at the Palacio Hotel caters to all manner of needs from improving fitness and weight loss to rehabilitation after injury or surgery 

But eight months on, after loads of the first (physiotherapy), I’m running out of the second (patience).

Trouble is, my lovely new shoulder works just fine until I pick up something heavy or try to raise anything above my head. And then it stubbornly refuses to move. That put an end to playing tennis. The big muscles that control and support the shoulder are weak and locked solid.

So I have taken myself off to the highly recommended Palacio Estoril Wellness Centre. This is long before lockdown but I think we may all need some wellness once the pandemic is over. And this retreat caters to all manner of needs: fitness, weight loss, rehabilitation after injury or surgery.

It’s just half an hour to the west of Lisbon, on Portugal’s Atlantic coast, which means I get to spend five days in the clinic and the sun. What’s not to like?

From my room I have a panoramic view of the mile-long beach that makes this a summer destination for thousands.

But first it’s off to the clinic, which is attached to the hotel, and the Banyan Tree Spa. There I am given a full medical assessment from four specialist doctors, each of whom sees me for an hour.

Based on their findings about my health and fitness, they produce a four-day programme of treatments and exercise classes to give me and my shoulder the workout of my life.

I have four hour-long sessions daily between 10am and 6pm. It’s a combination of Reformer Pilates with technician Carla Bangueses to stretch and rotate my shoulder, and Pilates classes with former Portuguese ballerina Sonia Abrantes — plus osteopathy with Dr Isabel Tomaz.

It’s not the twisting and cracking I’ve experienced in the UK, but firm pressure and stretching that gently ‘pops’ the joints and releases tension in my entire body.

There are different forms of physiotherapy, in and out of the thermal pools, including a technique called Watsu, a sort of gentle underwater shiatsu — a description that frankly doesn’t come close to describing the restorative effect.

You just have to lie back, let the water and therapist take the weight of your body and enjoy an almost sensual holistic experience.

Angela says that the Pena Palace in Sintra, pictured, is an eccentric building that looks as though it was designed for a Disney fantasy


A three-night B&B wellness programme at Palacio Estoril Golf & Spa Hotel is from £780pp including fights. 

Book with Health And Fitness Travel (, 0203 397 8891) and quote HFT100 to receive £100 off your first booking.

Halfway through my week, I can feel that the treatments are helping to loosen up my shoulder. So I take advantage of a morning off to explore this south-western part of the country. Less than an hour’s drive from Estoril, through steep wooded countryside, is Sintra, an area full of pastel-coloured palaces and villas, and villages perched on the side of hills, approached along twisting roads.

Pena Palace is certainly worth a visit — an eccentric building that looks as though it was designed for a Disney fantasy, moulded into the rocks of one of the highest peaks in the district. Starting life as a 16th- century monastery, it grew into the 20th-century summer palace of the last king and queen of Portugal.

Two English millionaires, Gerard de Visme and Francis Cook, are responsible for the nearby Palace of Monserrate. The elegant 19th-century palace and 33-hectare botanical garden is now a World Heritage Site.

Back at the clinic, I treat myself to a massage in the Banyan Tree Spa. It puts me in the hands of an expert Thai masseur who targets knotted and solid muscles.

By the time I leave, every instructor can see a marked improvement in the way my shoulder moves. I am relaxed and energised. Hopefully, I will be back playing tennis again once life becomes more normal.

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