Hot Stone Massage

Hot Stone Massage

What Is A Hot Stone Massage?

Hot stone massages are almost always associated with a relaxing trip to the spa, offered as the perfect compliment to a day of pampering and general well-being.

However, hot stone massage is actually a much older, much more specialized treatment that can go beyond providing comfort to helping alleviate certain health issues. Hot stone massage works by having the client lay comfortably on the stomach, after which a series of warm, smooth, flat stones are placed along key points of the body.

In most cases, the stones are allowed to rest on the body, so that the transfer of heat does most of the work. However, some hot stone massage therapists will hold the stones and actively massage the body with them.

History of Hot Stone Massage

The use of warm stones as a means of therapy dates back thousands of years. Native American groups, particularly those in the Southwestern U.S. region, were believed to warm specific types of rocks in the fire and use them as a way to treat bodily ills. This holistic type of healing is integral to the way hot stone massage is used even today, and many of the spiritual practices of the early Native groups make their way onto the modern massage table.

The version of the massage that we see so much of today actually stems from the same area, in Arizona, where the techniques of using hot stones were revived as more and more people showed an interest in alternative massage variations. Specifically, the LaStone treatment is credited and trademarked to Arizona resident and massage therapist Mary Nelson.

How Hot Stone Massage Works

The stones used in this type of massage are typically made of basalt, because it is well-known for retaining heat. Stones from rivers are best, since years of erosion by the water causes them to become naturally smooth and almost soft to the touch. The massage therapist generally has a collection of different-sized stones, each of which may be used to stimulate different parts of the body (specifically, the back, palms, feet, and/or belly).

The massage stones are dipped in water and then heated by an electronic or thermo-regulated machine, which checks for maximum temperatures to avoid burning the skin. The stones are then used to work the muscles of the body much the same way a massage therapist uses his or her hands.

The stones may be worked into the muscles over a layer of oil that has already been primed into the body, or they may be placed directly onto the skin (or on a towel or sheet), and allowed to heat the body for a deeper penetration and more substantial massage once the warmth has loosened everything up.

Benefits of Hot Stone Massage

Hot stone massage works well on muscles that are sore or aching because the heat allows them to relax enough to be manipulated by the massage therapist. Additional benefits include:

Improving circulation

Calming the nervous system

Allowing for a less painful deep massage

Stimulating energy centers for balance and clarity

Relieving pain associated with arthritis

Improving mental clarity

These benefits are almost always helped along by traditional massage techniques as well as the prescription or approval of a medical professional.

Variations of Hot Stone Massage

Because hot stone massage as we know it has only been around for a few years, many massage therapists have “adopted” it as a technique, and oftentimes with their own variation on it. For example, some therapists will alternate the heat of the basalt stones with cooler marble stones, helping to reduce inflammation.

Others might use a combination of traditional massage (with massage oils) and hot stone therapy. Depending on your beliefs as well as those of your massage therapist, the stones may be placed along energy centers, or chakra centers, in the body, or they may be applied where you demonstrate the greatest muscle pain and tightness.

Precautions and Certifications

Although there is no national body that recognizes or certifies the practice of hot stone massage, therapists can go through courses specializing in the field. The longer a practitioner has been in the field, the better the chances that your massage will be effective. Always check for good sanitation and traditional massage certifications before you choose a practitioner.

Although it can be very beneficial as an accompaniment to other healing techniques, hot stone massage isn’t for everyone. You should always check with your doctor before signing up for this type of treatment.

Specifically, those who are just recovering from surgery or cancer treatment, those prone to blood clots, and pregnant women should be wary of the practice without consent from a medical specialist.