Benefits Of Hot Stone Massage Therapy

Hot Stone Massage Therapy

A couples hot stone massage session

Sometimes it takes more than the traditional massage to melt away deep-seated stress and to help ease muscular and nervous system pains and aches.

That’s where the healing abilities of a hot stone massage come into play. Taking advantage of the gradual release that comes from a traditional, gentle massage and pairing it with gentle pressure on key relaxation points on your body, a hot stone massage benefits both the body and the mind, and can help relieve both physical and neurological symptoms of stress and sickness in the body.

What to Expect From A Hot Stone Massage

A hot stone massage takes water-warmed stones and uses them to help accentuate a traditional massage. In order to better translate the heat from the water to your body, most hot stone massages use basalt, a type of volcanic rock that has a porous surface that allows the heat to radiate evenly across the body. These stones are heated between 130 and 145°F are placed on top of a sheet or towel on various parts of the body, such as:

  • The stomach
  • The chest
  • The face
  • The palms
  • The spinal column
  • The feet and toes

Hot Stone Foot Massage

A foot massage with hot stones

Depending on where you hold the most tension, your trained massage specialist will center these stones in such a way as to provide continual relaxation and healing throughout your session. These stones may be left as they are, or may be used by the massage therapist for Swedish hot stone massage techniques, which include tapping, kneading, circular strokes, long strokes, and vibrations, among other movements. This can help stimulate blood flow and loosen up any knots along your body.

Your massage therapist may use cold stones during a hot stone massage as well, to provide a balance between the extreme temperatures and to soothe the skin and reduce inflammation.

Hot Stone Massage Benefits

Any type of massage can be beneficial for your body, though they shouldn’t be treated as alternatives to traditional medical care. However, they can help with symptom management, and as a holistic healing approach for chronic pain. A hot stone massage can help offset and reduce many symptoms, including…

1. Reduced Pain and Tension in the Muscles

As anyone who has taken a hot bath after an intense workout can tell you, heat helps to soothe muscular aches and pains and allows your body to relax as a whole. Heat also increases the blood flow to target areas of the body, helping speed up recovery and reduce your overall discomfort. In many cases, a hot stone massage will reduce muscular spasming, and can help restore flexibility to tense, brittle joints and ligaments. Cold stones, on the other hand, reduce inflammation and can help reduce sensitivity in the area. In some cases, your massage therapist will alternate between the two temperatures to help stimulate certain areas of the body to promote further healing.

2. Lower Heart Rate, Stress, and Anxiety

Studies show that massages can help lower heart rate and anxiety levels, and may help reduce significant levels of stress in the body, and can even reduce the risk for stroke according to a survey done in 2001 by The American Journal of Chinese Medicine (link). Regular massages can also help lower overall stress by allow you to center yourself and become more aware of your body and its needs, as the general atmosphere provided by a massage offers many sensory cues that tell your body to release the stress it’s been holding onto and instead slip into a more flexible, curative state. Studies have also shown that general massages can promote healing and reduce post-surgery pain, such as this 2015 study that linked abdominal surgery recovery and postoperative massages together.

3. Reduced Insomnia

Multiple studies conducted between 2001 and 2006 show that a 15-minute massage targeting the lower back area can help reduce insomnia and encourage a good night’s sleep. Not only does the overall relaxing effect of a massage promote a restful environment, but many of the beneficial effects of routine messages (such as lowered heart rate and anxiety) can also all lead to improved sleep health. In many cases, regular massages can also help improve alertness when waking up, and ensure that you sleep deeper and more soundly than you would otherwise, though scientists are still unsure why that is.

4. Reduce Chronic Inflammation and Symptoms From Autoimmune Diseases

In some trials, patients who suffered from chronic fibromyalgia flare-ups saw less pain and fewer trigger points after a 30-minute hot stone massage. They were also able to sleep better, and their body produced less of substance P (the chemical that signals pain in the body). While massages may not help fibromyalgia symptoms in everyone, as treatments for the disease, which causes wide-spread, chronic pain, are still being researched.

The added flexibility and relaxation provided by hot stone massages may also help treat the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, and has been shown to improve things like grip strength and range of motion in patients after just one month of regular treatments.
Hot stone massages can also benefit things like chronic menstrual pains, as well as other inflammation-based illnesses, as the hot stones can help quiet spasming muscles and penetrate deep into the body to help you truly relax.

5. Reduced Symptoms of Cancer

Hot stone massages can help reduce anxiety, depression, fatigue, stress, nausea, and overall pain in cancer patients, as one study discovered. In many cases of serious cancer symptoms, the general relaxing and soothing qualities of hot stone or Swedish massage combined with the restorative qualities of human touch were found to significantly reduce the severity of the symptoms, and provide the patients with some relief from their pain.

6. Improved Immunity

Hot stone massage can help improve your blood circulation and boost your body’s immunity response as a result of just one session. It can also help to reduce water retention, and the overall impact of a more relaxed state of mind can help protect your body against pathogens that you might otherwise leave yourself open to.

Who Can It Help?

As mentioned above, anyone who finds themselves suffering from tension and anxiety can benefit from a hot stone massage, as well as anyone who finds themselves perpetually stressed. Treating yourself to a hot stone massage at least once a month can greatly benefit your overall health, in both your body and your mind.

Hot stone massages can also benefit people who suffer from chronic or inflammatory illnesses who find their pain takes a central role in their lives. Weekly massages can help reduce this inflammation and lower the intensity of muscular spasming, allowing them to get the rest they have been missing out on due to their symptoms. Massages can also be helpful for anyone undergoing cancer treatment, as well as anyone recovering from surgery.

Risks To Keep in Mind

Hot stone massages are nothing to be afraid of when in the hands of a trained massage therapist. However, there are some conditions that make a hot stone massage dangerous.

You should avoid getting a hot stone massage if you have a fracture or serious osteoporosis, burns or open wounds on your skin, a bleeding disorder, take blood thinners, or have a history of heavy clotting, have had surgery within 6 weeks of the massage, have a low platelet count, or have diabetes, as these can all affect your ability to regulate your temperature and can leave you at risk for injuries.

The biggest risk for hot stone massages is the chance of burns. There should always be some kind of material between the stones and your bare skin, such as a sheet or towel, and the stones should never be heated by a hot plate, oven, microwave, or slow cooker, as these stones have a higher risk of uneven heating and put you at a higher risk of burns.

If you are pregnant, or there is a chance you could be pregnant, always talk to your doctor before undergoing any massage. If you are pregnant and have been approved for a massage by your doctor, make sure you only get a massage by a prenatal-certified massage therapist.

Hot Stone Massage Tutorial

If you’ve never had a hot stone massage before, here is a good YouTube video giving a demonstration and tutorial:

Conclusion

Hot stone massages can help lower your stress, reduce your overall anxiety, relax your strained muscles, and can even reduce the symptoms of inflammatory diseases. They can also allow you to become more aware of your body, and get in tune with your body’s needs and emotions, so you can better respond to the stressors of your day-to-day life.

While a hot stone massage may not be for everyone, taking the time to allow your body to relax and embrace the healing potentials of heat and human contact will help bring health and vitality back to your body and can help improve your overall mood and wellness. To experience the rejuvenating effects of a hot stone massage, or any of the other massages offered by a trained massage therapist, make yourself an appointment today and get ready to feel a real difference in your body and your emotions.

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