While there are a myriad of different massage techniques, one of the most popular – for good reason – is hot stone massage.
In a hot stone massage, both warm and hot stones are positioned in formation on the body, as well as being used as a massage tool. It's the contrast of hot and cold temperatures that force the muscles to dilate and contract, creating a pumping action for moving fresh fluids through muscles tissue and spaces in the joints. The specific placement of stones have been associated with organ detoxification, and increased circulation.
The stones, typically river rocks or other smooth-surfaced stones made of basalt for their heat-retaining properties, are heated and kept warm before application. In some cases, cold stones can be used to stroke the body after the application of hot stones in order to reduce swelling and pain, or to stimulate lymphatic drainage.
From physical to mental, there are many health benefits associated with hot stone massage, including:
Muscle relaxation – the heat from the stones helps tight, stiff muscles to relax, which allows the massage therapist to manipulate the deep muscle tissue more effectively.
Pain Relief – a hot stone massage may provide greater relief of pain caused by tense muscles, stiff joints, or injuries because, as mentioned above, the heat from the stones allows the therapist's actions to penetrate deeper. It's important to note, however, that pain and discomfort during the massage can cause more harm than good, so please advise your masseuse if their pressure or technique is too much for you.
Improve Circulation – typically, heated stones are rested on trigger points on your body before beginning the massage. As the heat from the stones penetrates into your deeper tissues, it causes blood vessels to open, resulting in improved circulation. Poor circulation has been associated with fatigue, which can create tension in the muscles, and a build-up of lactic acid.
Mental benefits – the relaxation afforded by a hot stone massage may help ease mental stress and tension, as well as help combat some symptoms of anxiety disorders and depression. Though massage therapy is not a substitute for traditional medicine or care, it can be an integral, indulgent part of your treatment.
Better Sleep – as it can be hard to get good quality sleep when your mind and body are over fatigued, the relaxation provided through hot stone therapy may make it easier for you to fall into the deeper sleep your body needs to recover from daily stresses.
As with any treatment, it is recommended you check with your doctor or health care practitioner before your first treatment. Individuals with certain conditions, including pregnant women and those with high blood pressure, are advised to avoid this type of therapy.