Most of us have enjoyed a massage, whether from a loved one or a professional. Maybe you’ve explored traditional massage therapy and are interested in trying out a new technique — one that can help your body and mind feel soothed and nourished on an even deeper level. If so, look into hot stone massage therapy. This massage technique is profoundly therapeutic and increases blood flow and circulation while replenishing your muscles and joints.
In this guide, you’ll learn about what hot stone massages are and the benefits of hot stone massage are, from stress relief to recovery from injuries and pain management. We’ll also explore a few ways to upgrade your massage experience and take it to the next level.
What Is Hot Stone Massage Therapy?
The use of hot stones for therapeutic purposes has a long history dating back thousands of years, and it appears in various cultures worldwide. In Ayurvedic medicine, practitioners alternated between hot and cold stones for massage purposes. There are reports of both the Chinese and Japanese people using stones to aid in digestion and keep internal organs healthy. In North America, Native Americans carry on their tradition of using hot stones to this very day.
So what is a hot stone massage? A hot stone massage involves placing warmed basalt stones (a type of volcanic rock) at key points on the body, such as your feet or along your spine. These flat, smooth stones are warmed up in a hot water bath so the temperature can be controlled. It's usually between 110-130 degrees Fahrenheit. Chilled stones are sometimes used as well, and cooled in an ice bucket or refrigerator.
When your massage therapist places hot stones on your body, your body will react. The heat from hot stones works to dilate blood vessels and increase blood flow to certain parts of your body. The heated stones can also stimulate your lymphatic system and encourage muscle relaxation. When you combine the kneading action of a typical massage with the warming properties of hot stones, it can loosen tight muscles and allow you to slip into a state of deep relaxation.
If you've ever felt a knot in one of your muscles, chances are it's a trigger point. Trigger points usually form as a result of an injury or overuse. Alternating with chilled stones is helpful for trigger point work and for reducing inflammation.
Massage stones can easily be incorporated into other types of massage therapy. Both Swedish massage and deep tissue massage become more restorative with the addition of hot stones.
What Are the Benefits of a Hot Stone Massage?
Hot stone massage therapy is beneficial for several health conditions. Here are five ways you or someone you love can find relief.
1. Managing Chronic Pain
If you suffer from back, neck, or shoulder pain, you might want to book yourself a massage therapy appointment. Numerous studies show that massage can provide pain relief for these areas and lessen chronic pain caused by autoimmune diseases such as fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, or rheumatoid arthritis. Using hot stones can loosen up tense muscles, helping you look forward to reduced joint pain, stiffness, and improved mobility.
2. Maternity and Postnatal Care
Pregnant women can benefit from the healing effects of massage therapy before and after delivery. Receiving a massage before birth can minimize stress and anxiety as well as decrease labor pains, whether you have a cesarean or natural childbirth. While some practitioners may avoid using hot stones on pregnant women, they might be just the ticket during postnatal care. Further studies demonstrate a marked improvement in postnatal sleep quality, making the transition to taking care of more people that much easier.
3. Heart Health
Worried about high blood pressure? Massage therapy can work wonders on bringing down both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Researchers discovered that as few as 10 minutes of massage had positive effects in regulating the cardiac autonomic nervous system and had a positive impact on heart rate.
4. Stress and Anxiety
Stress and anxiety seem to run amok in our society, and it can wreak havoc on your health if it remains unchecked. The relaxing nature of a hot stone massage can stave off the adverse effects of both and help improve mood and general well-being. Ideally, you’re working to manage stress and anxiety in other supportive ways, with massage therapy being one more helpful tool in your wellness plan.
5. Physical Training and Injury Recovery
Whether you're looking to prevent an injury or bounce back from one, massage therapy may be vital. Even if you're not an athlete, a hot stone massage can alleviate muscle spasms, reduce muscle tension and soreness, and help muscles heal faster after a workout. Studies show how massage and physical therapy help you make a full recovery and maintain your active lifestyle if you've injured yourself. Remember, you'll get the most benefit from this type of massage by making regular appointments and sticking to them.
While massage therapy is safe, it isn’t the best fit for everyone. Be sure and speak to your doctor before getting a hot stone massage if you have any open wounds or varicose veins, suffer from diabetes, have had recent surgery, or have skin conditions or epilepsy.
Ways You Can Enhance Your Hot Stone Massage Experience
A hot stone massage is a treat unto itself, and it might be hard to imagine how you could enjoy it even more. Believe it or not, you can incorporate a few easy things into your next massage therapy appointment to elevate your experience.
Talk to your licensed massage therapist about incorporating essential oils into your hot stone massage. Adding essential oils to your massage session can promote feelings of relaxation, soothe sore muscles and joints, or simply add a pleasant aroma during the massage.
Lavender and ylang ylang essentials oils can help bring on a sense of peacefulness and deep relaxation during your massage. You can also use essential oils if you're a runner or lead an active lifestyle. If you count on your massage to help you in your training or as part of a recovery plan for an injury, both cypress and lemongrass essential oils could be of assistance. Each oil works well to reduce muscle cramps and increase blood flow.
Even though essential oils are natural, it’s important to be mindful when you work with them.
Make sure your essential oils are diluted in a carrier oil and do a patch test for any allergic reactions or irritation before using them during a massage.
If you'd like to take care of your energetic body along with your physical body, consider using a gemstone infused body oil during your massage. Take some time to explore the healing properties of crystals to help you make a decision. Try getting started with rose quartz or amethyst. Rose quartz is especially nurturing and encourages you to take care of yourself. Amethyst works to alleviate stress and anxiety, making either one a natural addition to hot stone massage therapy.
Explore the Benefits of Hot Stone Therapy to See If It’s Right for You
A hot stone massage can be the perfect opportunity to escape from the stressors of everyday life. These moments of pause are a gift, a chance to nourish ourselves inside and out. And you can easily enhance your experience with nurturing oils and aromatherapy. If you're hoping to manage a chronic health condition, increase your athletic performance, or ease your tense muscles, a hot stone massage may be the ideal type of massage therapy for you.