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What is a Hot Stone Massage?

Hot stone massage is a variation on classic massage therapy. Heated smooth, flat stones are placed on key points on the body. The massage therapist also holds the stones and use them to massage certain areas of the body. The use of hot stones for healing dates back to ancient times, as it has been developed and incorporated with massages over time by massage therapists and spas using heated, smooth rocks.

Benefits of Hot Stone Massage

A common question people have is whether to get hot stone massage vs Swedish massage or a regular massage. Some people find the warmth of the hot stones to be comforting and get this type of massage for relaxation.

Hot stone massage is suited to people who tend to feel chilly or who have cold feet. It's also suited for people who have muscle tension but prefer a lighter massage. The heat relaxes muscles, allowing the therapist to work the muscles without using deep pressure.

People also get hot stone massage for a variety of health conditions:

  • Back pain and aches
  • Poor circulation
  • Arthritis
  • Osteoarthritis 
  • Stress, anxiety and tension
  • Insomnia
  • Depression

Description of the Stones

The hot stones are usually made of basalt, a type of rock that is rich in iron, so they retain heat. River rocks are normally used because they are smooth - they are smoothed over time by the river current.

The stones are immersed in water and heated in an electric heater until they are within a certain temperature range. The placement of the stones is usually at specific points on the back and in the palms of the hand but may vary depending on the client's condition. The warmth of the hot stones improves circulation and calms the nervous system. Some massage therapists place stones on points that are thought to be energy centers of the body to re-balance the body and mind. The heat of the stones warm and relax the muscles, which allows the therapist to apply deeper pressure, if desired.

How Do the Stones Feel?

The hot stones are never rough. They are always flat and smooth. The hot stones used on the back are about the size of a large egg, only flat. The stones are heated in an electrical heater that either provides a temperature reading or has an adjustable thermostat control. The massage therapist always holds the stones first before touching them to your body, which ensures that the temperature will not be too hot. Everyone, however, has their own comfort range. Be sure to speak up if the stones are too hot for you. Cool marble stones are occasionally used during a treatment, particularly if there is inflammation.

What Can I Expect During my Hot Stone Massage?

Every message therapist have their own technique and my incorporate other techniques with the hot stone massage based on the level of tension, knots, pain or other factors you may specify on our consultation form. However, generally the massage therapist often begins by applying oil to the body, which allows the hot stones to glide smoothly along the muscles. You are lying face down, and the massage therapist often then uses the hot stones to massage the back.

After the hot stones have relaxed the muscles, the massage therapist may put down the stones and use his or her hands to directly massage the skin.The hot stones may then be placed back on to the body and left for a short period of time.

You are then asked to turn over onto your back. The massage therapist may place small hot stones between your toes or in the palm of your hand and repeats the sequence.

Not Recommended if...

  • People with infectious skin disease, rash, neuropathy, or open wounds
  • Immediately after surgery
  • Immediately after chemotherapy or radiation, unless recommended by your doctor
  • People prone to blood clots. There is a risk of blood clots being dislodged. If you have heart disease, diabetes, or circulatory conditions, check with your doctor before having a massage. 
  • Pregnant women should check with their doctor first if they are considering getting a massage during pregnancy. A full body hot stone massage or placement of hot stones over the abdomen is not recommended during pregnancy, however a massage therapist trained in prenatal massage may be able to do a spot treatment for certain areas of muscle tension. In pregnancy, the core body temperature should not be raised during treatment. Women with high risk pregnancy should avoid hot stone massage. 
  • People with rheumatoid arthritis should avoid hot stone massage, because the heat of the stones may trigger a flare-up. 

Massage should not be done directly over bruises, inflamed skin, unhealed wounds, tumors, abdominal hernia, or areas of recent fractures.

If you are considering getting a massage, talk with your doctor first. Keep in mind that alternative medicine should not be used as a substitute for standard care in the treatment of any health condition.

Additional Tips

  • Don't eat a heavy meal before the massage
  • If it's your first time at the clinic or spa, arrive at least 10 minutes early to complete the necessary forms. Otherwise, arrive 5 minutes early so you can have a few minutes to rest and relax before starting the massage.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.