A hot stone massage is a massage performed with smooth, flat, warmed up stones. The stones are used to massage the muscles and to be placed on certain points on the body like the hands, back, face etc. The heat makes it possible to get deeper into the areas massaged and together with the use of cold stones to reach a high stage of relaxation. The benefits of this technique are easy relaxation of the muscles due to the use of heat, it helps to get rid of stress, it helps to release toxins from the tissues and it also helps to reduce pain and improves circulation and with improved circulation comes improved overall health. Hot stone massage is said to be particularly helpful with arthritis, anxiety, stress, back pain, muscle tension, depression, insomnia and circulation problems due to the very relaxing impact is has on the body.
Hot stone massage is very similar in its philosophy as regular massage but goes just a little bit beyond it and enters a deeper form of relaxation, health and wellbeing. It affects the chemical, physical and spiritual side of mind, body and spirit.
From the Stone Age to the New Age
Humans have used stones for day to day purposes and sacred rituals for centuries and centuries. In the Stone Age (began ±2.5 million years ago) people first found out they could use stones as tools, the ancient Egyptians used stones to build pyramids (± 2000-4000 BC), large stones were used in pagan rituals in Stonehenge (±3000 BC) etc. The use of hot and cold stones for massage may have its roots 5000 years ago in India where it was used together with the ancient healing of Ayurveda. In Asian cultures, hot stones have been used for nearly 4000 years and are believed to help with digestion and stimulation of the internal organs by placing them on the abdomen. The Native Americans used hot stones during rituals in sweat lodges and they were said to restore balance and to detoxify the body. The stones were rubbed against the parts of the bodies where there was pain or discomfort. In Hawaii, hot and cold stones are used for years in traditional Lomi Lomi massage and in South America they were used in past healing traditions to alleviate menstrual pain to assist with giving birth. The conclusion is that hot stones have been used and recognised for their healing ability by different cultures all over the world for centuries. In the early 1990’s a lady called Mary Nelson first developed a therapy treatment with hot stones that she incorporated into her massage routine and called it LaStone therapy. This brought hot stone massage to the western world and since then it has been immensely popular.
Tools and Techniques
Before use, the stones must be warmed up. This happens in a special stone warmer that is filled with water where the stones get heated up until they are about 50-53 degrees Celsius. In the meantime the therapist should use a Swedish massage to warm up the muscles and when the stones are warm enough continue the massage with the stones. The therapist uses oil and places the stones on specific spots, like the hands, in between toes, the abdomen or on muscles of the body whilst massaging a different muscle/body part to improve energy flow. When the stones cool down they must be replaced with new warm stones. The stones are usually made of basalt, a black volcanic lava stone that retains heat very well and have been smoothed by natural forces like a river or the sea.
There are many different shapes and sizes for the stones and it depends on the therapist which ones they use but in general the large stones are used on the large muscles and the small stones on small muscles. The stones can also be used cold; this can be done when there is muscular injury and inflammation. The cold stones used are usually marble and they cause the blood vessels to constrict, to stimulate the nervous system and to drag waste products away from the area. The alternating feeling of cold and heat is deeply relaxing and scientifically and medically proven to be beneficial to the body.
Contraindications to Hot Stone Massage
There are some conditions that contraindicate a hot stone massage; these are similar to the contraindications for Swedish massage but also include conditions that make deep pressure undesirable. Some contraindications are: cancer, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, diabetes, depressed immune system like HIV/AIDS, heart problems, high blood pressure, pregnancy, nerve trauma, inflamed skin condition, neuropathy, peripheral vascular disorders, use of blood thinning medication or when in menopause (it may trigger hot flashes).
Hot stone massage is widely available in Perth, just look on the Natural Therapy pages or Google and it can be found. There are also many courses to be found, in Australia and overseas, where you can learn about hot stone massage and where you can order necessary equipment. Just keep in mind it is recommended that you follow a course that teaches the LaStone Therapy because there are many good and less good varieties of the technique available.