Information on Hot Stone Massage
Definition of Hot Stone Massage
Hot Stone Massage is a massage technique that uses heated stones to relax and massage sore muscles. The stones can be used for their heat alone, or as massage tools used in combination with essential oils used in aromatherapy. Basalt rocks are generally used because of their heat retention properties, and are usually heated to around 125-150 degrees using hot water. The smooth, rounded stones are then placed along various points on the body to open up energy channels and promote circulation.
History of Hot Stone Massage
One of the greatest testaments to the effectiveness of Hot Stone Massage is the fact that the technique arose among many different cultures which had little to no contact with one another. Ancient healers in India reportedly discovered its benefits over 5000 years ago, incorporating Hot Stone Massage Techniques into Ayurvedic medicine, which is still practiced today. Asian cultures used hot stones in Anma massage, dating back 4000 years, to strengthen energy flow within the organs. Native Americans used ritual Hot Stone Massage in sweat lodges to help purify both the body and the mind. Hawaiian islanders developed Lomi Lomi massage using lava rocks, which was practiced by Kahuna medicine men. Even the Bible mentions stones used in massage in conjunction with olive oil. These ancient traditions have all contributed to the Hot Stone Massage practices of today, and many are still practiced in their traditional forms.
How to Give a Hot Stone Massage: Tips and Hot Stone Massage Techniques
- The first thing that should always be done in preparation for a Hot Stone Massage is cleaning/disinfecting the rocks. If oils are used during the treatment, an oily film can accumulate, but this is easily removed by using a mixture of water, vinegar and baking soda. A brush or sponge should be all that is necessary to thoroughly clean the rocks using this solution.
- Heat the stones in 120-150 degree water for at least 30 minutes to ensure that they have had adequate time to absorb and retain the necessary amount of heat.
- It is also important to warm up the affected tissue before beginning the massage. Heat packs or hot showers are recommended, but gentle compressions with the heel of the hand can also be an effective warm-up method.
- Be sure to test the temperature of the stones before applying them to the client. Remember that the stones may feel hotter to the client because they are being placed on more sensitive areas than just the hands. Try holding the stones against the inside of your wrist or forearm to get a better idea of how they will feel to the client.
- When working with the limbs, be sure to work from the outside in, forcing blood to, instead of away from, the heart.
- If you decide to use stones on the face or scalp, make sure they are considerably cooler than the stones that you have used on the body, since these areas contain many more nerve endings and are much more sensitive to intense heat.
- Suggest that the client drink plenty of water, not only because the Hot Stone Massage process can cause loss of fluids through perspiration, but also because toxins are being released in the process and must be flushed from the system.
- Communication is the key to the overall Hot Stone Massage experience. Be sure to encourage an open dialogue with the patient in order to minimize discomfort resulting from heat application. Pain is counterproductive since it actually causes the muscle to contract instead of lengthen.
Is Hot Stone Massage Safe?
Hot Stone Massage is an incredibly relaxing experience that most people can safely enjoy, but there are a few groups for whom it is not recommended. Pregnant women should only be treated by those who are trained specifically in Hot Stone pregnancy massage, since normal Hot Stone Massage techniques can induce labor, or cause the baby to turn. Those with high blood pressure or diabetes shouldn’t receive hot stone massages, since the process may complicate these conditions. Areas affected by skin conditions or varicose veins shouldn’t be massaged, since heat from the stones may aggravate the problem. Finally, if the client is taking pain medications, they may not be aware that the stones are too hot, because these medications can block the pain sensation, resulting in burning of the skin.
Benefits of Hot Stone Massage
As any massage therapist knows, relaxed muscles are easier to work with, allowing access to deeper muscle groups and improving the massage experience. The heat provided by the rocks provides a profound relaxation effect that benefits both the client and the massage therapist. In addition, the heat causes blood vessels to expand, increasing circulation and releasing accumulated toxins that have become trapped in body tissues. People who have received Hot Stone Massages have reported considerable improvements in symptoms of neck pain, back pain, TMJ, PMS, stress, depression insomnia, arthritis and even relief from Multiple Sclerosis and the pain of Fibromyalgia.