What is Hot Stone Massage?
Hot Stone massage is a deeply soothing experience in which the massage therapist uses massage oil and smooth, heated stones to massage and place on key points on the body. The stone typically used is Basalt, a type of volcanic rock known to conduct and retain heat well. The warmth from the stones can penetrate deep into the tissue to soften muscle, reduce muscle tension and stiffness, and promote physical healing, mental relaxation as well as elicit a balanced and grounded feeling. You can also request essential oils such as Lavender, Eucalyptus, or Rosemary (my personal favorite) to be added to the oil to really bliss out on the experience.
Is Hot Stone Massage Right for Me?
Stone therapy has many known benefits. For example, it can be extremely beneficial for someone with fibromyalgia because the heat works deep without a lot of pressure. The same is true for those who may suffer from frozen shoulder or have had rotator cuff surgery. The heat helps tissues open up quickly and often effortlessly. Conversely, heat dilates blood vessels, so it can be detrimental for someone with uncontrolled high blood pressure. Another potential issue could be for those with diabetes -- decreased sensation in the extremities could leave one prone to burns. Always share any known medical issues with your Massage Therapist to make sure that this is the right modality for you. There may be cases where the therapist may say doctor’s permission is required for the massage to precede. Please read the benefits and contraindications below to see if Hot Stone Massage is right for you.
This is not a complete list. You must share any known medical issues with your Massage Therapist to discuss whether Hot Stone work is a healthy modality for you.
What to Expect:
Unlike other massage modalities such as Swedish where the therapist’s hands rarely break contact with the body, with a Hot Stone Massage the therapist will be moving often -- going back and forth to retrieve and place freshly warmed stones. Although the practitioner is away from the body, the heat from the existing stones will linger. You may also occasionally hear a bit of clicking of the stones as they touch.
Since each practitioner has their own style which can change the flow and feel of the work , and the session is usually customized for your specific needs, i.e. low back pain, stress relief, etc., no two stone massage sessions are exactly alike. Also, each stone set is unique -- the size, shape, texture and type of stones used all affect your experience. Practitioners that specialize in Hot Stone Massage often invest in extensive stone sets with many different specialized shapes and sizes. That being said, here is an example of a session.
Your session usually begins face down on the massage table, draped with a sheet and large towels. Stones will be placed over the towel on your sacrum and in the palms of your hands to release the tension from your muscles while warm oil is applied. Your back will be massaged by a combination of hot stones and the hands. When finished massaging your back, stones are placed and the process is repeated on the back of your legs. Throughout the session the therapist will check in regarding the temperature of the stones to make sure it is at a comfortable and soothing level. Always communicate if a stone is too warm on your skin.
You will then be asked you to turn over and lie on your back. More stones will be placed over the towel on key points, and small stones may be placed between your fingers and toes (which feels really good!) The stone massage is repeated on the legs, arms, shoulders and neck.
Why More $$$?
Hot stone massage typically costs more because of the extra work involved. Before each session the stones are carefully laid out in a roaster and care is taken to get the stone temperature stable at 120° – 130°F. After the session, the stones are taken out of the roaster and one by one cleaned, sterilized, and dried. During a typical session, over 50 stones are used, so the cleaning process takes a while. The process of adding new water and heating for the next client begins. This adds substantial time and labor to each session, hence the extra charge.