Hot Stone Massage: When You Are Stuck Between a Rock and a Relaxing Place

hot stone massage
Hot stone massage
has fast become a popular trend in spas worldwide. This luxurious massage combines traditional techniques with a unique form of heat therapy. Read on to find the answers to the top five questions regarding the history, benefits and techniques of hot stone massage.

What is a Hot Stone Massage?

Hot stone massage is a massage technique that uses special stones to transfer beneficial heat to muscles. The massage therapist uses heated stones as extensions of their hands to help work out knots in problem areas. The stones may also be placed on certain areas of the body, in palms of the hands, even in between toes to warm the muscles in those areas and increase circulation.

Hot stone massage commonly uses smooth polished stones heated in a basin of water, but other variations use special seashells and lava stones. Regardless of the type of material used, the goal of the massage is the same: to apply therapeutic heat to heal and relax.

Where did the Hot Stone Massage originate?

While hot stone massage has just recently become popular in modern spas, the technique has its roots in many different cultures dating back hundreds of years. Many Native American cultures have used hot stone massage as part of detoxification in sweat lodges. Heated stones are passed around in the lodge for participants to place on areas of discomfort.

Hot stone massage has also been used in Hawaiian culture for centuries. In ancient times, Pohaku, or lava stones, were heated and wrapped in leaves and placed directly on painful areas. The heat released the oils from the leaves which were meant to aid in pain relief. Today, the lava stones are used with traditional Lomi Lomi massage to help increase circulation and provide relief for various ailments.

The Philippines are the main provider of tiger-stripe clam shells that are used in lava shell massages. The smooth clam shells are used in a similar fashion to the hot stone massage. However, instead of heating the shells in water, essential oils, minerals, and algae are added inside the shell to create a chemical reaction that causes the shells to heat up.

What should I expect during a Hot Stone Massage?

I was skeptical the first time I scheduled a hot stone massage. Would the stones be too hot? Would the stones relieve my difficult knots? Would it be relaxing? My massage therapist was quick to reassure me that I would enjoy this treatment; five minutes into the hot stone massage I was sold.

The term “hot” in hot stone massage is not quite accurate and may lead one to believe that this is a painful procedure. This treatment should really be called “warm” stone massage, as the stones should never be too hot to touch or burning. If they feel too hot or you become uncomfortable, tell your massage therapist immediately so they can adjust the temperature. I find that as the stones are used along my back they cool quite quickly.

The therapist can use the stones in a couple different ways: by placing the stone in their palm for a shallow Swedish-style massage, or holding the stones in their fingers using them as tools to reach deeper muscles. Because the stones take a lot of the direct pressure off of the massage therapist’s fingers, this allows them to work longer on my stubborn knots: a win-win situation for both the therapist and my back.

The massage therapist may also place the heated stones on areas of tension for a few minutes to allow the heat to fully reach the muscles. In my experience, this is the most relaxing part of a hot stone massage. It's like having a handheld back massage, only better. You can actually feel the knots and stress slowly melt away under the weight and heat of the stones.

What are the benefits of a Hot Stone Massage?

Hot stone massage is not only incredibly relaxing, but it can be very beneficial health-wise as well. Widely used for pain-relief: the heat from the stones combined with traditional massage techniques is very effective at releasing muscle knots and discomfort.

Hot stone massage can also help to relieve inflammation from chronic joint ailments. I noticed an immediate improvement in the range of motion in my shoulder (that has chronic pain from an injury) following a recent hot stone massage. In addition, this massage technique can also increase circulation and help to remove toxins from the muscles.

How should I prepare for a Hot Stone Massage and are there any precautions?

Hot stone massage doesn’t require you to prepare any differently than you would a standard massage treatment. A warm shower may help to loosen muscle tension before your massage, and as with any spa treatment, you should always check with your healthcare provider before receiving a hot stone massage.

Hot stone massage is not a treatment that you should try at home. It requires advanced training by licensed massage therapists to learn how to regulate the temperature of the stones, how to safely handle the stones, and special techniques when using them as part of the massage. Trying this at home could result in severe injury, so be sure to leave hot stone massage to professional hands.

Hot stone massage can alleviate muscle tension, relax your body and relieve stress. While slightly more expensive than other massage therapies, this treatment is worth every penny. Who knew a rock could be so relaxing?