A massage therapist uses different techniques to relax the long, skeletal muscles of the body. There are many movements that the therapist can use, such as long strokes, circular motions, tapping, and kneading.
In this article we look at a type of massage called a hot stone massage. We see how hot stone massage therapy is carried out, and what the possible benefits and risks are.
What is hot stone massage therapy?
A hot stone massage involves flat basalt stones being immersed in hot water and then placed onto specific parts of the body.
During a hot stone massage, the techniques of a regular massage are applied. However, the therapist also works with hot stones that are placed on specific parts of the body.
The stones are smooth and flat and usually made of the volcanic rock type called basalt. These particular stones are chosen because they retain heat.
The stones used for a hot stone massage are placed in hot water to warm up before being applied. They are then placed onto specific areas of the body, such as:
- the back
- the stomach
- the face
- the hands
- the feet
Some massage therapists hold the stones in their hands and use them to massage with. This allows the therapist to get deeper into the muscles without more pressure, helping their client to relax yet further.
Occasionally, cold stones can be used on the face or after the hot stones have been applied. Cold temperature helps to calm swollen blood vessels and soothe hot skin.
This type of hot stone therapeutic treatment is thought to have originated in China almost 2,000 years ago. Since then, the technique of using stones for healing has been used in many different cultures, including the Americas, Africa, Egypt, and India.
In addition to deep relaxation, there are many benefits to having a hot stone massage. They include:
1. Pain relief
Hot stone massage has specifically been associated with symptom relief in people with a variety of conditions, such as fibromyalgia and other autoimmune disorders.
2. Stress relief
3. Increased joint flexibility
Muscle tension can make it difficult and more painful to move the joints. Massage helps to relax muscles, which makes it easier and more comfortable for someone to move.
People with certain joint disorders may benefit particularly from hot stone massage.
4. Decreased muscle spasms and tension
Muscles that are tense and in spasm can cause a lot of pain and interfere with daily life. Reducing the inflammation and tension in the skeletal muscles eases both muscle spasms and pain.
As previously said, massage and the use of hot stones can promote relaxation of the muscles and joints in the body to ease both pain and spasms.
5. Better sleep
Many people do not sleep well. Factors such as stress, insomnia, and busy schedules mean they get much less than the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep each night.
A review of some the literature on the effectiveness of massage shows that it is helpful in promoting relaxation and sleep in older people.
A hot stone massage may not be appropriate for everyone and any concerns should be raised with either the masseur or a healthcare professional.
Despite the many benefits associated with hot stone massage, it is not an appropriate therapy for everyone.
There are some people who should not have a massage, and more specifically, a hot stone massage.
For hot stone massage, some of the contraindications, or factors that mean a person should not have a particular treatment, are listed below.
Breaks in the skin
Anyone with injuries or breaks in the skin should avoid a hot stone massage until those injuries have healed.
Recent or severe bruising, cuts or scrapes, sunburn or varicose veins increase the risk for further tissue damage or injury. They also raise the chance of infection being introduced via bacteria from the massage oils or stones.
Infection or illness
Someone with a fever may spread their germs, and they will have difficulty regulating their body temperature, as well. This will leave them feeling more uncomfortable when hot stones are put on their skin.
Heart disease can cause swelling or other problems in the veins or arteries of the legs, both of which can be negatively affected by a massage.
A person should always tell the massage therapist about any health issues they have, so that they can be aware of potential risks.
Diabetes influences how well the nerves and blood vessels function in the fingers and feet. People with diabetes can lose feeling in their hands and feet, making them unable to feel if an injury, such as a burn, occurs.
When it comes to massage, they may not be able to tell if the massage therapist is using too much pressure, or if the hot stones are burning their skin.
Being under the influence of drugs or alcohol
Drugs and alcohol do not mix well with massage. Both impair the ability to give feedback if necessary, and also affect judgment, and a person's self-control over their impulses.
Furthermore, having a massage can leave someone feeling light-headed or wobbly. Drinking alcohol will compound and worsen these feeling.
Prenatal massage can be very relaxing and beneficial for many women, during their pregnancy. However, some practitioners feel uncomfortable with using hot stones on a pregnant woman.
Getting the most from a massage
Even though hot stone massage is safe and effective for relaxation, there are strategies that will make it a better experience.
A trained, licensed, and respected practitioner according to local and state policies is recommended for the safest treatment.
- People should be sure to go to a respected spa where the practitioners are trained and licensed, according to local and state policies. The spa should practice good hygiene and clean the stones, appropriately.
- It is important for people to talk to the massage therapist. Clients need to let them know if the pressure is too hard, or too soft, or if the stones are too hot.
- The massage therapist wants to give a great massage, and they depend on their clients letting them know if there is something they can do to make that better. Therapists will not be insulted if they are told something is uncomfortable.
- If in doubt, a person should ask their doctor about any medical conditions that may interfere with having a massage, particularly a hot stone massage.
To get the best out of a hot stone massage, it is important for people to be open with their massage therapist.
The massage therapist should be aware of any health conditions a client has that could affect how they perform the massage.