Do you suffer from aches and pains, depression, insomnia, or poor circulation? Perhaps conventional Western medicine hasn’t relieved your symptoms, and you’d like to try an alternative approach. This guide will introduce you to hot stone massage and its numerous benefits.
What is hot stone massage?
During a hot stone massage, a therapist places smooth, hot stones on the legs, spine, palms, and between the toes. The stones are heated to a temperature between 120 and 130 degrees Fahrenheit. They are warm to the touch but not unbearably hot. A therapist may leave the stones to sit on the skin or use them as massage aids.
Treatments that make use of heated stones are referred to as “geothermotherapy.” “Geo” means “of the earth,” “thermo” refers to temperature, and “therapy” denotes a healing practice. A therapist will use around 50 stones of varying sizes during a typical session. Larger and smaller stones are used on large and small body parts respectively.
How does stone massage work?
The stones are heated using a specially-designed heater that resembles a slow cooker. The therapist carefully places the stones on a towel at the bottom of the heater, then covers them with cold water. When the heater’s thermometer indicates that the stones have reached the right temperature, they are ready for use.
The stones are usually made of basalt, a volcanic rock that contains high levels of iron. Basalt stones retain their heat for approximately 5-20 minutes depending on their size. Your therapist will place a thin sheet or towel on your skin before applying the stones. This is to protect your skin from damage and preserves your modesty.
A typical hot stone massage appointment last around 90 minutes. Your first session is likely to last slightly longer. This is because the therapist will ask you some questions about your health and treatment goals.
The heat from the stones quickly relieves muscle tension and promotes a sense of general wellbeing. In the video below, you can learn more about the origins of basalt rocks used in hot stone massage. You can also see what a massage session is like.
According to Fremont College, therapists typically give hot stone massages following a Swedish massage. This comprises five different types of long, firm strokes in the direction of the heart. Even without the application of hot stones, massage has lots of health benefits. Research shows that a single session improves immune function.
Why hot and cold stones may be used together
The stones can also be used alongside cool or chilled stones, a treatment known as “fire and ice massage.” Cool stones soothe inflammation and reduce swelling. This is an example of “thermotherapy,” a term referring to a treatment that involves both hot and cold elements.
Marble is the most common stone used in cooling treatments. It is slow to heat up and is effective in firming and toning the skin. Marine stones, which originate from volcanic islands, are another popular choice. They are smooth green stones that are believed to have a detoxifying effect on the body.
Both hot and cold stones are always cleaned between treatments. Using dirty stones can present a hygiene risk. Some therapists also believe that cleaning is necessary to prevent the transference of negative energy between two people.
According to these practitioners, stones must be “recharged” once a month to cleanse their energy. This can be done by immersing them in the ocean, cleansing them with crystals, or leaving them outside under the moonlight for a few hours.
Where did hot stone massage come from?
According to massage therapist Lori Hunt, hot stone massage may have its origins in Indian Ayurvedic medicine around 5,000 years ago. Chinese and Japanese practitioners have also been using heated stones for thousands of years. Hot stone massage is also a common treatment in the Native American community.
In Russia, therapists deliver hot stone therapy to clients lying in a bath. The therapist instructs the client to lie on top of the stones so that they stimulate the body’s marma pressure points. These points – of which there are 107 in total – are believed to correspond with the path of vital energy around the human body.
Hot stone massage gained in popularity in the early 1990s when massage therapist Mary Nelson devised the “LaStone Technique.” LaStone therapy uses both hold and cold stones to stimulate the circulation and speed up the body’s detoxification process. LaStone therapists use cold marble stones alongside basalt.
How does hot stone massage compare with other massage treatments?
Most other forms of massage consist of direct application of the therapist’s hands to the client’s body. For example, in deep tissue massage, the therapist will use very firm strokes to alleviate tension. In Thai massage, a therapist applies pressure to specific points on the body and manipulates the client’s posture.
Hot stone massage shares some similarities with shiatsu, a type of Japanese massage. Shiatsu therapists base their work on the principles of acupuncture, using their hands to apply pressure to the client’s chakras. Some hot stone massage therapists like to place the stones on the body’s energy centres.
What are the benefits of hot stone massage?
Hot stone massage relaxes deep muscle tissue. This makes it an excellent remedy for chronic muscle tension, osteoarthritis, and back pain. Because it improves blood flow to affected areas and promotes healthy circulation, hot stone massage aids flexibility. It may help elderly and injured people preserve or maintain their mobility.
People with insomnia and depression often report an improvement following treatment. Dr. Tiffany Field explains that massage triggers the release of serotonin in the body, which helps regulate the sleep cycle. Serotonin is also a natural painkiller, which explains why massage can reduce chronic pain.
Hot stone massage improves a client’s mood because it stimulates the lymphatic system and circulation. This regulates activity in the nervous system, in turn triggering feelings of tranquillity. Spending time in a relaxing environment is also beneficial to the client’s mental health. The healing touch of a massage therapist is soothing.
This treatment is also a good choice for people who want the benefits of a massage but dislike the sensation of firm pressure. Once the hot stones relax the muscles, the therapist can give a deep tissue massage without causing the client unnecessary discomfort.
Is hot stone massage suitable for people who overheat easily?
A suitably-qualified therapist will appreciate the fact that some people are especially sensitive to heat and cold. They will always begin the first session by placing small stones of various temperatures on the forearm or hand before placing larger stones on the body. A stone massage should never hurt or cause skin damage.
If you have poor circulation or describe yourself as a person who tends to feel the cold, you are likely to enjoy hot stone treatments. On the other hand, if you have a larger body or get overheated easily, your therapist may suggest using cold stones instead.
Hot stone massage isn’t suitable for everyone. If you have diabetes, epilepsy, high blood pressure or any other medical condition, ask your doctor whether this treatment is right for you.
Finally, hot stone massage also benefits the therapist. Using stones as massage tools makes it easier for the therapist to give a deep massage without putting their hands and arms under strain. The therapist will also be able to offer the client a holistic treatment if they do chakra and energy work along with a massage.
How can you get started with hot stone massage?
Most people visit spas or holistic treatment centers for hot stone treatments. Depending on geographical area and the level of therapist expertise, you can expect to pay around $75-$125 per hour.
Book a hot stone massage near you
You can also purchase packs of basalt rocks. This Set of 4 Large Massage Stones features four stones that have been specially chosen for their ability to retain heat and move smoothly over skin. However, you are likely to need more than four stones during a massage session. Be prepared to buy two or three sets.
Finally, if you have a higher budget, consider the ZENSTONE Professional Hot Stone Therapy Kit. The stones, which are supplied, heat up quickly with no need for water. However, the casing is color using natural dyes so it may not closely resemble the photo.
In conclusion, hot stone massage is a safe, gentle treatment with the power to relieve many common conditions. Remember that hot stones can scald your skin, so follow all instruction manuals carefully if using your own equipment at home.