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The History of the Hot Stone

Massage Mag Jun 26, 2012

Recently, there has been a growing interest in using stones as a part of massage therapy. Although some massage therapists and clients may consider this to be simply fashionable, the use of stones and gemstones for healing purposes dates back thousands of years.

Both verbal and written history confirm the Chinese used heated stones more than 2,000 years ago as a means of improving the function of internal organs. Stones were also used for healing work in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, Egypt and India. These traditions included laying stones in patterns on the body, carrying or wearing stones for health and protection, using stones for the diagnosis and treatment of disease, and for ceremonial uses, such as sweat lodges and medicine wheels.

The healing practices of curanderas (literal translation: “healers” in Spanish) and other female caregivers often included dealing with disease as well as pregnancy and childbirth. These folk healers used heated stones to diminish the discomfort of menstruation, plus the application of cold stones to slow bleeding after labor. Some sources also cite instances of cultures in which women believed that simply holding stones during labor added to their strength and endurance.

Ancient Greek and Roman cultures have a long recorded 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 effects of hot immersion baths with the cooling effects of marble stone and cold pools. 

The use of heated stones in massage was reborn with the introduction of LaStone Therapy, created by Mary Nelson, in 1993. Stone massage has blossomed since then into a multimillion-dollar industry. Stone massage, done correctly, is one of the most relaxing forms of massage a person can receive and because of its popularity, has once again traveled quickly around the globe. 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. Because of their incredible energy, stones are used in reiki, polarity therapy and cranial sacral work. 

There are many therapists who use their own variation of stone massage, from just placing stones on the body to a deep-tissue massage.

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