Hot Stone Massage

Hot Stone Massage

Massage using hot stones has been around for thousands of years, but has only become popular in the modern spa in the last few years.

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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 these needs.

The stones are first sanitized; then heated and applied to an area where they have a relaxing effect on muscles.  The massage 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 encountered. 

The smooth, firm, long and gliding strokes of Swedish 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.


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Hot Stone Massage - Copyright 2013 by Donovan Baldwin
Page Updated 2:26 PM Saturday 3/23/2013