What Is a Hot Stone Massage?
Hot stone massages are a type of massage therapy that works by placing heated flat stones on specific parts of your body in order to relax it and ease tension within your muscles and other soft tissue. Many people are attracted to the idea of receiving hot stone massages because of the amplified hot stone massage benefits.
What are Flat Stones?
Flat stones are a type of hot stone used as a means of heat during hot stone massages. Flat stones are usually derived from some kind of volcanic rock the most common one being basalt. Which is also universally accepted as the most effective when it comes to storing and delivering heat.
The stones are typically heated around 130 degrees Fahrenheit or 54 degrees Celsius but they can be heated slightly less or more based on method or preference. Although cold stones are not as effective. Therapists may also use typical massage techniques to manipulate you while they hold hot stones.
Hot stones are typically placed on:
- The stomach
- The chest
- The back
- The hands
- The feet
- The face
- Along the spinal cord
9 Benefits of Hot Stone Massage
1. Stress Reduction
Stress reduction is one of the greatest benefits of a hot stone massage. Traditional massages are well known to deliver that relaxation factor and it is no different with hot stone massages. In fact it is likely to be more effective at bringing you the relaxation and stress relief you need.
This is because it has all the benefits of a regular massage but amplified. This means more blood flow, even less muscle tension, and a greater healing effect.
This and the additional effects such as toxin removal helps lead to massive stress being removed from the body and along with it the mind, putting one in a better mental and physical state.
2. Reduces Muscle Tension
Heat has been long used to reduce muscle tension (See Hot Or Cold For Muscle Recovery?). Hot stone massages are good at doing this because heat makes things expand so the hot stones placed on top of those tight tensed-up muscles make those muscles expand and untighten giving you a deeper massage leaving you feeling loose and relaxed.
3. Improves Oxygen And Blood Flow
Hot stone massage can also greatly improve oxygen and blood flow. Much like the way hot stones expand your muscles to relax them they also expand your blood vessels acting as a vasodilator.
This increase in vasodilation leads your body to deliver blood along with the oxygen and nutrients contained within that blood in a greater quantity and faster rate throughout your body.
4. Treats Pain
Mainly due to the improved blood flow a therapeutic hot stone massage can help when it comes to treating pain in your tissues especially in soft and deep tissue. Whether it is sore muscles or symptoms of arthritis these deep massages seem to be greatly beneficial in relieving the pain especially when it comes to a back massage.
This is because when blood flow is improved it helps increase the rate at which valuable healing nutrients reach the affected area. This of course requires those valuable nutrients to be present in your diet (See 7 Best Vitamins And Minerals For Muscle Growth And Recovery).
Another factor that can lead to relieving your pain is the previously talked about the fact that hot stone massages relieve muscle tension. Muscle tension can and very commonly does accompany itself with or can lead to muscle pain so by solving the problem of tight muscles you can relieve your pain or avoid it altogether before it takes effect.
5. Improves Immune System
Massages improve your immune system by vastly lowering the level of cortisol in your body. Also known as the stress hormone cortisol prevents the production of inflammatory mediators leading to fewer receptors being produced in immune cells.
Therefore you are doing your autoimmune system a great service by relieving your excess stress and lowering the high level of cortisol in your body.
Another interesting aspect of these massages is that they can slightly improve the immune system in another way as it has been observed that another hormone vasopressin is decreased after a therapy session.
Vasopressin is a hormone that functions to increase your blood pressure and water retention. Both of these things but infinitely more so the increase of your blood pressure can be a detriment to your health and immune system.
6. Improves Mood
Earlier we talked about how hot stone massages can significantly decrease a hormone known as cortisol or the stress hormone. The drop in cortisol levels along with the stress reduction that comes along with it is a big reason why a hot stone massage may lead to an improved mood.
But what really puts the icing on the cake here is the brain’s release of numerous mood-improving feel-good chemicals that are a result of your massage.
Chemicals such as dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins being released into the brain combined with the reduction of stress and more specifically cortisol makes for one feel-good positive experience when you choose a hot stone massage.
7. Increased Flexibility
Again going back to the idea that heat makes things expand hot stones on your muscles can increase your flexibility and range of motion by stretching them out. Stretching increases your flexibility and hot stones can be used for stretching. It is as simple as that.
8. Removes Bodies Toxins And Waste
The improvement of circulation and blood flow that comes from a hot stone massage also delivers the additional benefit of better-removing waste and unwanted toxins from your body.
Heat makes your blood vessels expand leading to more oxygen and nutrients going in and likewise leads to more waste being carried out at a greater rate.
9. Improves Quality Of Sleep
It is not fully understood why but massages are shown to greatly aid in sleeping especially in those with insomnia and fibromyalgia. The relaxation factor definitely has a hand here in my opinion as it is much easier to go to sleep when you feel relaxed as opposed to stressed.
Another factor that can play a role in the improvement of sleep is the pain relief from a hot stone massage. When one is in pain it can feel almost impossible to get comfortable and I have had muscle pain so bad it completely prevents sleep.
History of Hot Stone Massage TherapyMassage is one of the oldest forms of therapy to grace mankind and the practice of using hot stones to massage or relieve the body of stress is what some may call an ancient one. It has been dated back as far as 5,000 years ago when the Hindus located in India realized they can relieve muscle pain by using specific placements of stones on the body. This idea was expanded upon 2,000 years ago in China when they started to use stones while burning mugwort for health-related benefits such as improving digestion in the stomach. Just a few hundred years ago the natives of Hawaii used hot lava rocks placed across all parts of the body in order to improve circulation. From there the idea of hot stone treatments or massages really took over. From starting to be offered in big spas to small private clinics the trend did not take long to reach the world and take over.
Hot Stone Massage VS Swedish MassageThe Swedish massage is probably the most famous and commonly known style of massage. So much so that when someone goes to a massage therapist this is almost certainly the kind of massage they will receive. The Swedish massage consists of specific techniques like twisting, drumming, rubbing and long smooth strokes to relax muscles and ease muscle tension. Hot stone massages on the other hand incorporate heated stones to achieve these same benefits. What most people may not realize is that hot stone massage and Swedish massage do not need to completely differ from one another and Swedish massage techniques may benefit from a hot stone being used as well.
Should You Get A Hot Stone Massage?
With so many great benefits a decision on whether you should get a hot stone massage or not should be an easy one to make and it is.
A single session of Swedish massage will do a lot for you but by adding stones during your massage to help loosen your muscles further you will get the true full massage experience as the massuess begins to work with hot stones and massage your body.
Even if you are having doubts because maybe you do not like heat so much as someone who hates the heat I encourage you to still give it a try. You can even tell your therapist not to make the stones as hot as usual and work your way up as you will want the ideal level of heat to experience full benefits.
The one and only reason you should not try a hot stone massage is if you have any medical conditions that you feel may put you at risk and if this is the case ask your doctor first as they may say otherwise and let you experience the new level of relaxation and many benefits that come with taking a hot stone massage.