The practice of stone therapy or stone massage was present in many cultures around the world. The type of stone therapy that is now most prevalent in Western massage treatments is most likely derived from China. There are historical accounts confirming that the Chinese used heated stones more than 2,000 years ago as a means of improving the function of internal organs.
Similarly, there are records of stones used in folklore and religious ceremonies, with the intention to heal ailments in regions as diverse as the Americas, Africa, Europe, Egypt and India. As well as practices resembling modern stone massage, which involved laying stones at specific points on the body, there were other applications of stone, including the wearing of stones as ornaments which ensured health and protection.
Spanish folk healers called curanderas used heated stones to relieve period pain and cold stones to slow bleeding after child birth. There are also examples in certain cultures in which women attempted to gain strength through stones by clutching them during labor.
Stone massage was present in Ancient Greece and Rome. Stone massage treatments were used in conjunction with Roman baths where the benefits of stone massage were combined with hot immersion baths and the cooling effects of marble stone and cold pools.
The arrival of stone massage therapy in the modern West began in 1993 when heated stone techniques became popular. Since then it has become widespread around the globe once more. The full-body, hot-stone massage is frequently combined with other modern massage techniques such as Swedish massage and deep tissue massage.
Benefits of Hot & Cold Stone Therapy
Most stone massage therapy has many benefits. In the past few years, it has grown rapidly in popularity. Both hot and cold stone techniques have their own benefits.
The benefits of hot stone massage
Hot stone massage is not only a relaxing massage method, but it also has many healing properties. The use of hot stones allows a therapist to give a deep, penetrating massage without putting excessive stress on his or her own body. Additionally, the stones will heat the skin, open the pores, and prepare one’s skin to better absorb massage oils. They, therefore, increase the benefits any given oil will provide. The use of massage stones is also a great way to increase circulation in and around the area being massaged. Increased blood flow will help clear out toxins and assist in healing an injured or strained area.
The benefits of cold stone massage
Cold stones are excellent because they promote circulation and act as a powerful decongestant for the body. By promoting circulation, a cold stone treatment can ease inflamed tissues, decrease muscle spasms, and can reduce swelling or fluid build-up (for example, as manifested in dark circles under the eyes). Unlike with the use of ice, cold stone treatments will not severely desensitize the skin. The overall effect of a treatment is the reduction of tension with a simultaneous feeling of invigoration.
Using both techniques in one routine can be very beneficial to your partner assuming that you give them stone massage therapy. Switching between cold and hot applications causes blood vessels to alternately dilate and constrict, leading to increased movement of fluids within the body, increased removal of toxins and increased healing. However, this type of treatment is not recommended for people with circulatory problems because they may be too sensitive to the sudden, increased circulation.
Choosing stone for massage therapy
Many different types of stones can be used for stone massage but there are a few that are generally favoured across the massage industry. You may a stone set where all the stones are shaped to be specific sizes and shapes. Having a set like this can make it easier to add precision and develop a routine. However, naturally shaped stones may be preferred by some people because it creates a more natural look and feel.
Hot stone massage: Basalt stones
Basalt is the ideal material for hot stone massage. The composition of this volcanic rock (high silica and iron content) makes it hold heat longer than most stones. Using a different type of stone may mean that you have to switch stones in and out of the warmer quite often or they will become too cool for treatment.
Some people think that basalt stones should be a deep black colour. The colour does not necessarily determine how well the stones can hold heat. Most basalt stones are grey when dry, but they normally turn black when using with oil. Trace elements influence the colour of a stone, but as long as the stone has high silica and iron content, it will retain heat well. There may be some other variation in the colour of our stones, but they are all excellent at retaining heat.
Cold stone massage: Marble stones
Marble stones are considered the best option for cold stone therapy. The reason that basalt is good for hot stone therapy is that you can massage a person’s body for a long time before they cool. Basalt is also acceptable for cold stone therapy but not as good as marble. Marble stones have proven to be the best at retaining coolness. They do not heat up rapidly during a massage and can draw heat from the body.
5 Benefits of Hot & Cold Stone
1. It’s an enhanced massage
Practitioners are trained in holistic massage and they use the water heated basalt stones to relax the muscles further and enhance the effect of their sessions. The stones become one with the practitioner’s hands to give the most relaxing massage possible. Sometimes, a combination of hot and cold stones are used to further enhance the experience.
2. It eases muscle tension more effectively
Patricia Mayrhofer, the President of Nature Stones Inc. says, “the heat and energy from the stones penetrate deep into the muscles to achieve a soothing and therapeutic experience. When used with specific techniques, the stones allow the therapist to release tight muscle restrictions more efficiently and with less discomfort to the client.”
3. It benefits your health overall
A Hot Stone Massage won’t only reduce muscle tension and promote deep relaxation, it will also alleviate pain, improve circulation and help rid the body of toxins. Moreover, it reduces stress and increases calmness and some enthusiasts even claim to experience a sense of clarification, inner peace and renewed spirituality after a hot stone session.
4. It’s historic and international
Hot Stone Massage is an age-old treatment that stretches back to the ancient Egyptians. The Native American culture too has long used hot stones during “sweat lodge” ceremonies (sound lovely, don’t they?) as a way to facilitate cleansing both the body and spirit. In Hawaii, hot molten lava rocks (called pohaku) are used and Hot Stone Massage is also used in the traditional Ayurveda, a natural alternative healing medicine practiced in India.
Legend has it that Hot Stone Massage was resurrected by massage therapist Mary Nelson-Hannigan of Tuscon, Arizona, who experimented with the hot stones from her sauna by placing them on her niece’s back. She eventually refined the technique and it was later dubbed LaStone Therapy.
5. It’s comforting
You’re wrapped up in towels, you can feel the heat from the stones, the weight of the stones on your body – it’s extremely physically and emotionally deep. It’s also the most ‘even’ of treatments; time is spent on all parts of your body, equally.