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 are 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:
Some massage therapists hold the stones in their hands and use them to massage. 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. The cold temperature helps to calm swollen blood vessels and soothe hot skin.
This type of hot stone 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.
Six Benefits of Hot Stone Massage
All massages generally fall under the alternative medicine umbrella. They’re becoming a popular complementary therapy for many conditions. Here are some advantages of getting a hot stone massage:
1. Helps relieve muscle tension and pain
Heat has long been used to ease muscle tension and pain. It helps increase blood flow to the affected area. It may also reduce muscle spasms and increase flexibility and range of motion. Cold therapy helps relieve inflammation. Depending on your symptoms, alternating hot and cold stones during your massage may be helpful.
2. Reduces stress and anxiety
Massage therapy can be effective for stress relief. A 2001 study showed that a ten-minute massage improved cardiovascular responses such as stroke volume. A 1997 study found that 15-minute, onsite chair massages in the workplace significantly reduced stress compared to a 15-minute break without massage.
A 2015 study trusted Source found that people who underwent abdominal colorectal surgery had less pain, tension, and anxiety after receiving post-operative massage.
3. Promotes sleep
A 2006 literature review found massage may be an alternative to sleeping pills in adults with insomnia. The research showed that back massage helped promote relaxation and sleep. A 2001 study showed that infants with sleep problems who were given a 15-minute massage by their parents went to sleep faster. They were also more alert, active, and positive upon awakening. Massage is thought to help you enjoy more restorative sleep, although it’s not completely understood why.
4. May help relieve symptoms of autoimmune diseases
Hot stone massage may relieve painful conditions such as fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia is a condition that causes widespread, chronic pain. According to a 2002 study, people with fibromyalgia who received a 30-minute massage slept longer, had fewer trigger points, and had decreased levels of substance P (a substance involved in transmitting pain signals) than people with the condition who received relaxation therapy. More research is needed, however, before massage becomes a standard fibromyalgia treatment.
A 2013 study trusted Source found that people with rheumatoid arthritis may benefit from a moderate-pressure massage, such as a hot stone massage. Participants in the study experienced less pain, greater grip strength, and a greater range of motion after one month of massage therapy.
5. May help decrease cancer symptoms
A large, three-year study published in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management examined how massage affected pain, fatigue, stress and anxiety, nausea, and depression in 1,290 people with cancer. The study showed massage, especially Swedish massage, improved cancer symptoms, even in those with substantial symptoms. Researchers believe the comforting use of human touch played a role.
6. May boost immunity
Massage may give your immune system a boost. According to a 2010 study trusted, a single session of Swedish massage therapy had a positive and acute impact on immunity. Blood samples taken before and after the massage showed a decrease in arginine-vasopressin, a hormone that helps regulate blood pressure and water retention.
Risks and Warnings of Hot Stone Massage
When performed by a professional expert, a hot stone massage can be safe. However, there are still some risk factors that you should be aware of. The possible list includes nerve injuries, blood clots, and bone fractures.
To prevent burns during the massage, it is necessary to have a layer between the skin and the stone, such as a sheet or a towel. Avoid using stones that are heated with an oven, hot plate, slow cooker, or microwave.
What Does Hot Stone Massage Treat?
Everyone knows that massages are an effective, natural cure for stress but this particular type of massage can also help treat and resolve other problematic conditions. It can relieve stress and anxiety, help manage depression, relieve tension and pain from sore muscles, and can help provide some relief for chronic illnesses or chronic pain.
This type of massage allows you to enter deeper into a state of relaxation as the therapist works to relieve muscle pain and tension. The heat within the rocks relaxes the muscles, making them more pliable. Once you are free of some of the tension that you walked in, your massage therapist can release the rest of it during your session.
What Is the Difference Between a Hot Stone Massage and a Regular Massage?
The main difference between a hot stone massage and a regular massage is that the focal point of a hot stone massage is the use of stones to apply pressure during the massage therapy session to promote relaxation. Regular massages do not use stones to massage the body but instead focus on pressure points and muscles. In a regular massage, the massage therapist uses pressure from their hands to massage different areas of the body.
Use of Cold Stones in a Massage
Cold stone massage is a valuable treatment to consider. While cold stone massage is most commonly used to treat sports injuries, there are many other positive benefits. This treatment is also used as a form of stress and anxiety relief, as the stones redirect the mind’s focus on the body. The cool temperatures used in the treatment also help to reduce swelling, bloating and inflammation while increasing circulation and boosting energy levels. Cold stones can also ease sinus and menstrual symptoms.
A word of caution: individuals who have certain heart ailments or cold sensitivities should avoid cold stone massage until they have discussed it with their physician first.