Hot stone massage is a form of ‘thermo’ (heat) therapy which combines the massage movements of a regular Swedish massage with the addition of heated stones. This therapy is thought to have originated in China almost 2000 years ago but the technique of using stones for healing has been used in many different cultures, including the Americas, Africa, Egypt and India.
The ‘hot’ stones themselves are smooth and flat, made of the volcanic rock type, basalt, for its ability to retain heat; prior to treatment the stones are placed in hot water to warm up before being applied.
Whilst traditionally positioned on specific areas of the client’s body, some massage therapists, like myself, use the hot stones to massage with, providing even greater deep tissue manipulation, without excessive pressure thus helping the client to relax even further. This type of treatment is also believed to open the body’s energetic pathways and there are many hot stone enthusiasts who claim to have experienced a sense of enlightenment, inner peace and even renewed spirituality after a hot stone session.
The heat from the stones helps to expand blood vessels and deliver more oxygen to the muscles, thus reducing the build-up of lactic acid and tension. Additionally, the treatment can help to reduce inflammation in the skeletal muscles easing both muscle spasms and pain. Hot stone massage has specifically been associated with symptom relief (lessening of pain and improved range of motion) in people with a variety of conditions, such as fibromyalgia and other autoimmune disorders and it is helpful in promoting relaxation and sleep, particularly in older people.
Despite the many benefits associated with hot stone massage, it is not an appropriate therapy for everyone. Those suffering from a fever, cold or flu will not only spread their germs but will have difficulty regulating their body temperature which will make them uncomfortable during a session. In addition those suffering from heart disease which may cause swelling or other problems in the veins or arteries of the legs, can be negatively affected by a massage whilst people with diabetes may not be able to tell if the massage therapist is using too much pressure or if the hot stones are burning their skin.
To get the best out of this or any other massage treatment, it’s important for people to be open with their massage therapist, making them aware of any health conditions that could affect how the treatment is performed. If you have any doubts about the suitability of this treatment for you please speak to your doctor.