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Hot Stone Massage Explained

Just as a piping-hot mint chocolate mocha can make a bitter cold, stressed-out day seem more enjoyable and bearable to your taste buds and tummy, a hot stone massage is your go-to full body relaxation treat to soothe, warm and relax you. The power of this type of specialty massage relies on running basalt stones heated to between 125 and 135 degrees along the length of your body to transfer heat deeply into your muscles for the ultimate relaxation experience.

“A good hot stone massage really will put you in a deep state of relaxation,” explains Glenda Poletti, massage therapist and owner of the Elements Issaquah and Elements North Seattle studios.

Roots in Healing, Relaxation

Dating back more than 2,000 years, heated stones were originally used in Chinese cultures for the purpose of improving internal organ functionality. Later, the use of stones for healing purposes moved into other areas of the world – North America, South American, Africa, Europe, Egypt and India – bringing with it traditions for diagnosing and treating diseases, as well as use in ceremonial sweat lodges.

Instead of manipulating the muscle and connective tissue using a vertical technique like in a traditional massage, hot stone massage releases muscle and body tension in a horizontal approach that results in an increase in the body’s blood flow. Increasing blood flow is always a good thing, says Poletti, because blood flow brings oxygen and fresh nutrients to the muscle tissue. Whether you have tight muscles or are under extra stress, hot stone massage can be a warm and relaxing way to relieve muscle tension and mental fatigue.

A Rewarding Experience

If the onset of colder weather leaves you feeling down, blue and stressed to the max, a hot stone massage can help you let go of all your tension as the heated stones warm your heart, body and soul. It’s a great time of year to spice up your massage experience by trying something new your body will enjoy.

Hot stone massage offers all of the benefits of a traditional massage –- reduced stress, an elevated mood and a strengthened immune system. But it can also enhance your experience by adding deeper warmth and relaxation to your session. Hot stone massage is a good choice if you’ve just gotten over a head cold or you need to escape the crazy holiday season and want to rejuvenate your mind and body. This massage technique also can be great for loosening up stiff, cold muscles or relieving chronic aches and pains that never seem to really go away.

“When the weather starts to cool off, especially here in Seattle where we have the bone-chilling damp cold, a nice hot stone massage is a great way to stay warm,” says Poletti. “Most people do it as a treat for a birthday or special occasion.”

Cautions and Concerns

There are some instances in which you should use caution when including the power of the hot stones into your therapy session. According to the American Massage Therapy Association, it isn’t advised to use hot stone massage if you have the following conditions:

  • Diabetes
  • Cancer
  • Autoimmune dysfunctions
  • Epilepsy
  • Neuropathy
  • Skin conditions Such as sunburn, rashes, etc.
  • Recent surgeries or accidents
  • Pregnancy

Poletti also advises that you speak up if the stones used during your massage seem too hot to the touch or if you are uncomfortable with the oil used with the stones during the massage experience.

“A hot stone massage is a very oily experience,” explains Poletti. “To keep the stones moving, flowing and flipping frequently, we use a lot of oil. The stones will feel hot on first contact to your skin like a flush of heat. But, if it feels like it’s too much, you really should speak up to your therapist.”

The goal of any massage, and especially one with hot stones, is to deeply relax and rejuvenate your mind and body. Let the stress, colder temperatures and lengthy to-do lists of the season melt away as you take time for yourself and let everything else in the outside world escape from your conscious. And don’t just keep the power of a hot stone massage to yourself. Share the wonderful experience by gifting one to a special family member or friend who deserves a little extra love and attention this year.

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