Most massage techniques make
heavy use of the hands and arms of the massage
therapist. However, occasionally, other "tools" such as
sticks will be used for certain specialized applications.
Recently, at least to most of us, a new tool has been added to the
toolkit - hot stones.
"Recently" is a bit unrealistic since the technique has actually been
practiced for thousands of years. It is only in the past few years,
however, has it come into the modern spa where it is attracting the
attention, and praise, of clients by the score.
Hot stone massage makes use of smooth,
heated stones that are applied to various parts of the client's body,
usually starting with the back.
The rocks are quite often of basalt, a
black volcanic rock. This particular rock is often preferred
because it absorbs and retains heat well, making re-heating less
frequent. But to be of use they have to conduct heat well,
too, since the heat must go into the client. Basalt effectively meets
The stones are first sanitized; then heated
and applied to an area where they have a relaxing effect on muscles.
therapist tests them first, often simply by holding one in
order to ensure the proper temperature - between 120F-150F (49C-65C).
Just for comparison, water boils at 220F/100C.
A variety of massage techniques can go along
with the application of the stones, but Swedish
massage is among the most common techniques
The smooth, firm, long and gliding strokes
massage complement well the relaxing effect of the hot rocks
on the body. Stones can be applied along the line of the
spine, but more commonly along the muscles beside it. The lower back (erector spinae),
the middle back (latissimus
dorsi) and the upper back (trapezius)
are typical spots where hot stones seem to be effective as well.
The stones are generally relatively small in
size, and the pressure applied by them is comfortable but doesn't seem
to have any particular therapeutic effect itself. The major
work seems to be done simply by the heat. There are, as might
be expected, some in the field who would like to ascribe mystical
effects or magical powers to stones of different types or ascribe
application to certain points as having special effects.
>Hot stone massage sessions are frequently
much more expensive than a basic massage session. This is in
part because of the added preparation required. The largest
part of the difference is simply the demand which exists for it.
It is currently a very popular technique and, as such, will
normally demand a higher price. Whether the results are worth
the added cost will have to be an individual determination but if you
want to try this particular practice, it is usually pretty easy to find
a massage therapist who uses this technique.
One variation involves using the stones in
the therapist's hand to transfer the heat to various areas and add
pressure. The warmth is pleasant, but the added pressure is
not usually necessary. Any professional masseuse or masseur
can apply more pressure than is desired without artificial aids.
Another variation using hot stones alternates the use of
the hot basalt stones with cool marble ones. This reportedly
creates a delightful experience for the recipient. Whether
this should be called massage is beside the point, since the basic
purpose of the experience of hot stone massage is to create a pleasant,
relaxing effect for the client.