Many massage clinics like Hand and Stone Massage offer hot stone massage, a popular type of massage that relaxes the mind and body. But what is it really? Here’s what you should know before getting your first.
Just as its name implies, a hot stone massage uses heated stones on the body during a therapeutic massage. The stones used are usually smooth basalt river rocks since these retain heat well and these can be placed against the skin without causing injuries (e.g., small tears on the skin). These are also several inches long but not too long as to cover nearly half of your spine; several stones are needed to cover the length of your spine.
Once heated to the right temperature, the heated stones are placed and rubbed on specific points of the body including the spine. The localized heat and light weight of the heated stones warm and relax the muscles wherever these are placed. The therapist can then apply firmer strokes and/or deeper pressure on the warmer muscles – and the warmer the muscles, the lesser the discomfort experienced.
The smooth basalt rocks are first heated inside a commercial-grade stone heater until these are heated to a precise temperature range. Depending on the salon, the heated stones can have temperatures between 100°F and 130°F – neither too hot as to cause burns nor too cool as to have little effect.
The therapist should still be able to handle the stones without getting burned, a sign that these won’t cause burns on your body, too. But if you have extra-sensitive skin that can’t handle heat as well as normal skin, you should inform the therapist about it. You can still undergo a hot stone massage but with the stones at a cooler temperature.
Massage itself has several benefits including promoting blood circulation, easing the symptoms of back pain, and removing the buildup of toxins in the body. The addition of hot stones further relaxes the muscles so a deeper tissue massage using lighter pressure can be performed.
Most clients undergo hot stone massage as an adjunct treatment for the symptoms of depression, insomnia, and anxiety, as well as the buildup of everyday stress. We have to say that these are understandable reasons considering that the mind and body are, indeed, as relaxed as can be after a professional hot stone massage at a Hand and Stone Massage clinic!
Unlike shiatsu and Thai massage where your body will be manipulated into different positions, you will just lie on the massage table while your therapist does the work – all of it! Your only active participation during the session is to lie face down and then on your back, perhaps with the assistance of your therapist. You just have to enjoy the massage, maybe even take a relaxing nap and wake up more refreshed than ever.
Always tell your therapist if the stones feel too hot or too uncomfortable against your skin. Each person’s heat tolerance varies and the best judge of your own tolerance is yourself, so don’t dismiss it. Be sure to tell your therapist, too, if the pressure applied on your muscles causes discomfort or mild pain – he or she should adjust the pressure immediately.
Your therapist uses human anatomy in the placement of the heated stones. For example, the spine and shoulders have a buildup of tense muscles so the heated stones are usually placed along their length.
The stones are also placed in the palms of your hands, as well as on your abdomen, legs, and feet. Smaller stones will likely also be placed between your fingers and toes, often the most overlooked parts of the body during a massage. Even your forehead will receive loving care with a heated stone!
In some cases, your therapist may also use the principles of acupuncture and acupressure in determining the best placement of the heated stones. Basically, the stones are placed on the energy points, or chi, of the body with the goal of achieving the right balance of energy.
In a hot stone massage, Swedish massage therapy techniques are used. The techniques include long strokes, rolling and kneading, which are applied in a predetermined sequence from the shoulders to the feet.
Don’t worry about the burns as your therapist will first place a sheet or a towel on your body before placing the stones on top. You can then decide whether the stones are too hot or not after a few minutes; it will take that long for the heat of the stones to penetrate the fabric.
When your muscles have warmed up, your therapist removes the sheet or towel. Then, your therapist applies massage oil to your body using gliding strokes and then follows it with gliding movements with the stones. Your therapist will give a full body massage using a combination of Swedish massage techniques and the warm stones.
Each session can last between 60 and 90 minutes. Afterwards, you should be relaxed and reenergized that you’re ready to take on the world again.