March has arrived with biting winds as the promise of spring seems to be blown from reach. Most of us are ready to get outside and start summer activities; yet, many of us find our muscles and joints aching and our bodies longing for warmth.
One of the best ways to take the chill off and promote health and rejuvenation is to get a massage that includes the use of hot stones – an ancient and time-proven therapy that reaches deep into the muscles, tissues and joints.
Stone massage, when done correctly, is one of the most relaxing forms of massage a person can receive. Over the years, the full-body, hot-stone massage has evolved to include deep tissue-specific work, hot-stone facials, hot-stone pedicures and manicures and hot-stone meridian therapy.
History of Hot Stone Therapy
The use of stones and gemstones for healing purposes dates back thousands of years. History tells us that the use of heated stones for health, protection and ceremonies goes back more than 2,500 years. Our ancient relatives throughout the world – North America, South America, Asia, Africa, Europe, Egypt and India – used heated stones to diagnose and treat disease, as well as protection from evil sources and more.
The healing practices of curanderas – female Native healers and practitioners of folk healing – used heated stones to diminish the discomfort of menstruation and cold stones to slow bleeding after childbirth. Some cultures believe that simply holding stones during labor added to their strength and endurance.
Ancient Greek and Roman cultures have a long history of many forms of massage and bodywork. The Roman Empire, which dates from 27 B.C. to 476 A.D., is noted for its creation of the Roman baths. This ancient tradition is still with us today in the form of modern hydrotherapy practices. The Romans also used stones in saunas and combined the health benefits of hot baths with cooling marble stone and cold pools.
The Native American culture uses hot stones during sweat lodge ceremonies to detoxify and cleanse both the physical body and spirit. In Hawaii, hot molten lava rocks called pohaku are used for the same purpose.
Traditional Chinese Medicine encourages the use of heated stones laid in specific places on the body to promote health and improve the function of internal organs.
Hot stone massage can also be used following orthopedic surgery to help relieve muscle restrictions.
Re-Emergence of Hot Stone Therapy
The use of heated stones in massage was reborn in 1993 via LaStone Therapy, created by Mary Nelson. Since that time, stone massage has blossomed into an accepted therapy, especially when combined with massage.
How it Works
Hot stone massage therapy literally melts away tension, eases muscle stiffness and increases circulation and metabolism. The stones used in hot stone massage are usually basalt stones, which are smooth and natural stones polished over time by lying in rivers and streams. The stones are heated up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
After applying massage oil or lotion on the skin and in most cases a thin barrier between the stones in the massage area, the therapist gently glides the stones over the areas using specific motion and direction to enhance the therapeutic benefits.
The premise behind hot stone massage therapy is that the direct heat of the stones relaxes muscles, allowing the therapist access to their deeper muscle layers. The hot stones expand blood vessels, which encourages blood flow throughout the body. The stones also have a sedative effect that can relieve chronic pain, reduce stress and promote deep relaxation.
Massage therapists who are specially trained in the stone therapy are able to significantly enhance the benefits of a full body and help create lasting results including relief from pain associated with fibromyalgia, arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome and other chronic conditions; decreased muscle pain, tension and spasms; and less chronic stress and tension.
Many therapists have their own variation of stone massage, from just placing stones on the body to enhance circulation and relieve stress to being part of a deeper physical and spiritual experience. Massage Envy’s specially trained therapists adhere to strict protocols to ensure a pain-free, heart-, body- and muscle-warming experience with lasting health benefits.
While a hot stone massage is generally considered safe for most people when performed by a trained therapist or practitioner, it is not right for everyone. It is recommended to check with your doctor prior to having a hot stone therapy session if you have any heart, vascular or autoimmune condition or are undergoing treatment for cancer or other chronic illness. FBN
By Mark Love
Mark Love is the co-owner of Massage Envy Spa Flagstaff, located at 1235 S. Plaza Way in the University Plaza Shopping Center next to Safeway. For more information on the benefits of massage and to schedule an appointment with a massage therapist, visit MassageEnvy.com or call 928-526-ENVY (3689).