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  • Karen Stoner, LMT

4 things about Hot Stone Massage

4 things about Hot Stone Massage

1. Basalt stones are used to do the massage

Short Answer: Traditionally, Basalt (lava) stones are heated in hot water and then both placed on the body and also used in the massage therapist’s hands to do the massage.

More details: Basalt stones are high in iron so they retain heat very well, making them very effective for hot stone massage. Today, many different types of stones are used including salt stones, gemstones, and even electronic heating plastic stones are used depending on the therapist and type of stone treatment. During the massage, the stones are held in the therapist's hands and used to execute the massage strokes, just like a regular massage but with the added benefits of heat and the solid pressure.

4 things about Hot Stone Massage

2. Can give you a deeper massage without added pressure.

Short answer: Since our skin and muscles are porous, heat-based treatments can penetrate deeper into the muscles without having to “press hard”. The density and heat of the stones therefore allow for the massage to get into the deeper layers of muscles more effectively.

More details: There is always a common question of the difference of "Deep Tissue" vs. "Deep Pressure" massage. Not everyone is comfortable with or can tolerate heavy deep pressure during a massage, even though they may benefit from deeper muscles and tissue layers being massaged. The heat from the stones allows for the massage to be felt in much deeper layers without having to use the heavy deep pressure, elbows, or digging massage strokes that are usually used to get to the deeper tissues. This lets a deep massage possible without it being painful and harsh.

4 things about Hot Stone Massage

3. Can help conditions such as inflammation, chronic pain, and arthritis

Short answer: Heat treatments can increase blood flow, bringing good nutrients other things into an area, which can help ultimately take away the stuff causing swelling and inflammation. Heat can also help ease stiff joints and help increase mobility which helps decrease pain. .

More details: The heat from the stones can have an amazing effect on even the harshest chronic problems. I feel the need to share a story from my own experience. Shortly after I first studied Hot Stone Massage, I was doing what I called "Hot Stone Spot Treatments" - or just hot stones used on one body part or area - just to introduce it to my clients and for me to practice using the stones. I had a client come in who was an elderly man with very severe rheumatoid arthritis in his hands. It was so bad, his hands were basically claws that were so stiff, and clamped shut, they could barely move at all and it was very painful for him. I used the stones on his hands and fingers as part of his massage. Later that day, our office got a phone call from the client's wife. She was crying happy tears because when they got home, her husband was able to pick up a coffee cup and drink out of it. This doesn't seem like a big deal, but his hands had been so tight and curled up, this had been an impossible feat before today. He had also formerly been a professional musician, so losing the use of his hands had been especially devastating to him. He said picking up the coffee cup cheered him up so much, he asked to go try to play his piano again for the first time in years. I was so touched and amazed that I made sure to always work on his hands with the stones every time he was in the office, and the results brought him a little peace and happiness. I've also seen great results from people who use the hot stones on knee replacements, and other chronic issues. Usually ice is recommended for inflammation-based issues, but heat can also be very effective in decreasing inflammation and easing pain.

4 things about Hot Stone Massage

4. They have multiple ancient origins

Short answer: Multiple ancient cultures including in China, Japan, Egypt, India, South America, Polynesia, and more have evidence of using heated stones for ritual and medicinal purposes.

More details: The Hot Stones that we use today are most similar to a technique that originated in India as part of the Ayurveda massage technique. Similarly, in Chinese Medicine, the Bian Stone was recorded as a mystical rock that was used in what we know today as part of acupressure to bring healing when placed on different parts of the body. Ancient texts in what is today Hawaii records priests using lava-heated rocks wrapped in leaves placed on the body, and hot stones, while not used always on the body, were used throughout Ancient Greece and Europe to heat the waters of baths used for relaxing and healing. Many cultures integrated not only heated stones, but also gemstones and other minerals into treatments for various ailments and conditions. Like many massage modalities, Hot Stones have changed and adapted over time, but their origins, although scattered all over the world, all have very similar uses and purposes.

4 things about Hot Stone Massage

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