Hot stone massage is an age-old healing therapy with history dating back to ancient Egyptians. The Native American culture has long used hot stones during “sweat lodge” ceremonies as a way to facilitate cleansing both the physical body and spirit. In Hawaii, hot molten lava rocks called pohaku are used. A type of hot stone massage is also used in the traditional Ayurveda, a natural alternative healing medicine practiced in India.
Introduced to North American massage therapists in the early 1990’s, hot stone massage is a form of massage therapy that follows the same principles of a regular Swedish massage but with the addition of heated stones, which are believed to better open the body’s energy pathways.
Hot stone massage is a form of “thermotherapy” in which heated smooth, flat stones usually made of basalt are positioned on key points (thought to be energy centers) of the body which helps to rebalance the body and mind. Many hot stone massage enthusiasts even claim they experience a sense of enlightenment, inner peace and renewed spirituality after a hot stone massage session.
Essential oils are used to allow the therapist to work with the muscles easier and the hot stones may be alternated with cold stones or room temperature stones to facilitate the massage treatment.
Benefits of Hot Stone Massage:
Promotes deep muscle and tissue relaxation
The average human skin temperature is 92 degrees so stone temperatures should never be higher than 120 degrees and most clients find that 105-110 degrees is hot enough. Hot tubs are usually around 104 degrees and most people find them to be right about at the threshold of nice and hot but not too hot.
Previously, other studies have found that thermal stimulation applied to the skin has yielded an increase in local skin temperature and blood flow volume. Decreased foot skin temperature is clinically observed in compromised peripheral circulation, which can be seen among individuals with certain health conditions such as arteriosclerosis or diabetes.
Let’s read more about how hot stone massage is being studied for therapeutic use.
Researchers enrolled twenty-five female students in which 14 participants received a hot-stone application on the umbilicus (abdomen), superior-umbilicus (above the abdomen), and inferior-umbilicus (navel) regions (hereafter referred to as the three-site stimulation group); and 11 participants received the hot-stone application on the umbilicus region only (hereafter referred to as the one-site stimulation group). Heated stones were applied for 9 min to participants in both groups. Four arbitrary frames (the lower leg, ankle, proximal foot, and distal foot regions) were created in order to observe and analyze the skin temperature of a lower limb using a thermograph.
In this study, we observed an increase in skin temperature on the lower limbs following both one- and three-site stimulation with hot-stone administration. In particular, a greater increase in the distal foot region’s skin temperature occurred in the three-site stimulation group. Also observed in this study, no adverse events were observed such as burns, associated with hot-stone therapy.
The skin-temperature increase of the lower limbs and feet observed in this study should be highlighted as a promising thermal-treatment option. When properly and safely performed, hot-stone therapy may be useful as a therapeutic modality. It may be also used to promote health and wellness.