Hot stone massage is the practice of heating smooth stones and placing them on various areas of the body during a massage. They can either be left on tense spots or used by hand to aid in heating and relaxing sore muscles, and it feels nothing short of amazing.
The earliest use of hot stones to improve health and relaxation took place over 5000 years ago in India in the tradition of Ayurveda. This involved the placement of stones on the body to relax tense muscles and relieve related pain.
Around 3,000 years later, the Chinese used shaped stones called Bian while burning the herb mugwort to treat disease. They also placed stones on the abdomen to improve digestion.
Later, natives of the Sandwich Islands – what we now know as Hawaii – discovered that wrapping heated lava rocks in leaves and applying them to the body brought pain relief. The leaves were administered by shamans (healers) calls Kahunas.
Heated stones then found their way to the Native American sweat lodges. Though the stones weren’t applied to the body, the natives recognized that the heat produced by the stones eased tense muscles and brought whole-body relaxation.
Modern-day use of hot stone massage is varied to suit many different needs. Usually the stones are heated in hot water and replaced as they cool, but they may also be chilled and alternated with the heated ones, which increases circulation to the targeted muscle. If the therapist uses the stone itself to massage, it may be coated in oil or used over a sheet to facilitate a smooth glide across the skin.
There isn’t a lot of research confirming all of the potential perks of hot stone massage therapy, but what’s out there is promising. For example, a small 2019 study found that patients on maintenance hemodialysis (aka patients being treated for kidney failure) experienced improved sleep quality after regular hot stone massage sessions. Another small study from 2013 found that pressure therapy like hot stone massage could help relieve pain for people with rheumatoid arthritis. Massage therapy in general is also associated with lots of benefits for body and mind, including reduced stress and anxiety, reduced back pain, and increased relaxation.
The heat from the stones helps your most tense muscles relax, because a massage therapist can manipulate deep tissue more effectively. Overly tense muscles can be difficult to release with typical massage techniques. The heated stones may provide the extra relaxation you need for the massage to be the most beneficial in releasing tension and easing sore muscles.
While all massage types can relieve pain caused by tense muscles, injuries, or stiff joints, heated stone massages can provide greater relief. The hot stones allow the massage therapist to penetrate deeper, so even your most tense, pain-causing muscles can be relaxed. You find the relief to be greater than after a Swedish or deep-tissue massage that does not incorporate heat.
As the heated stones rest on trigger points in your body, they penetrate into body tissues. This causes your blood vessels to open up, resulting in improved circulation. Poor circulation can cause fatigue, which tenses muscles and causes a buildup of fluid and lactic acid in the muscles. When you improve your circulation, more oxygen is delivered to the muscles, which eases aches and pains.
Hot stone massages can provide release of mental stress and tension, in addition to your physical muscles. This massage treatment can also combat some symptoms of anxiety disorders and depression.
We offer Hot Stone Massage at O’Keefe Matz Functional Health Clinic in Saint Paul. MN. If you are interested in learning more or scheduling a session, please get in touch. (651) 292-8072