Hot Stone Massage

Mary Nelson, an Arizona massage therapist, was the first to introduce a hot stone massage technique that welcomed the world to hot stone massage therapy. A form of alternative medicine, this therapy technique combines traditional massage with heat to produce some extraordinary results.

How Does Hot Stone Massage Therapy Work?
River rocks, naturally flat and smooth stones, are generally used but any type of rock made of basalt will retain heat. These are the types of hot stones for massage normally used. The stones are immersed in water and heated until they're within a specific temperature range. Then the stones are placed on key points of the body, or the massage therapist might hold the stones and use them during the therapeutic massage.

Subjected to the steady heat and pressure of the hot stones, your muscles relax and the massage therapist can apply deeper pressure if desired. This is also known as a deep tissue massage, which helps your body release toxins stored in your muscles. The same warmth and pressure also helps improve your circulation and calms the nervous system, both of which are essential to good health.

When you get a hot stone massage, the therapy begins with the application of oils to your body. These oils have benefits of their own, and help the hot stones to glide smoothly along the muscles of your body. After the oil is placed on your body, you will be lying face down so that the massage therapist can use the hot stones on your back. Your arms and legs will usually have lighter stones placed on them, while the heavier stones are placed on your back and torso.

Once the hot stones have done their work, penetrating and relaxing your muscles and putting you at total ease, the massage therapist may set them aside to massage your skin with his or her hands or with the stones themselves, stopping to work areas that are unusually tight or tense. Sometimes the stones are then placed back on your body and allowed to rest for a short period of time. The therapy process will last between 60 and 90 minutes.

Benefits of Hot Stone Massage Therapy
Hot stone massage is a relaxing experience that many people indulge in simply because it feels so nice. The warmth and gentle pressure of the hot stones are often considered to be comforting and a beneficial tool to relieve stress and anxiety.

Some of the most commonly accepted benefits of hot stone therapy include:

  • Relieves pain
  • Improves circulation
  • Relieves muscle strain and tension
  • Eases osteoarthritis and arthritis pain
  • Reduces stress, anxiety and tension
  • Treats insomnia and helps alleviate depression

Deep tissue massage is also done more easily when using hot stone therapy because your muscles relax better. This makes hot stone massage perfect for people who prefer a lighter massage but could really use the benefits, including the release of toxins, that deep tissue massage offers. Because your muscles are so relaxed, the therapist can easily work them without applying deep pressure.

Precautions and Risks
Massage - including hot stone massage - is not for everyone. There are certain illnesses and life events that cause a risk for both you and the therapist. In particular, massage is not recommended, and will usually be refused, if you:

  • Have an infectious skin disease, rash or open wounds
  • Have recently undergone surgery
  • Have recently undergone chemotherapy or radiation treatments, unless specifically recommended by your doctor
  • Are prone to blood clots
  • Are pregnant

The reasons behind these precautions are pretty simple: massage is a therapy technique that is proven to release toxins stored in your muscles back into your system where they can be flushed away. Pregnant women and people who have recently undergone medical treatment are much more likely to have serious complications during this process.

If you are prone to blood clots, you should never have a massage without consulting your doctor first. There is a serious risk of blood clots being dislodged, and can cause heart attack or stroke.

In addition, keep in mind that massage should never be done directly over bruises, inflamed skin, unhealed wounds, tumors, a hernia or areas of recent fractures.

Don't eat a heavy meal before a massage. It will keep your body too full and busy to completely relax. If it's your first time at the clinic or spa, try to arrive early so that you can complete any necessary forms.

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