Hot stone massage is a tool to release tension, not just warm up in the winter.
“Hot stone massage is only a good option when you want to relax and warm up in the winter.”
This is something I hear all too often, and it breaks my heart every time. Heat can be one of the most useful tools for those who prefer deep tissue work, and hot stones are a fabulous means of application.
When stress and injury cause tension in the body, muscles tighten up and blood flow is restricted. This decreases the body’s ability to bring in oxygen, send nutrient-rich blood to your muscles and flush out metabolic waste such as lactic acid. Prolonged time in this state will cause muscles to recognize this tightened condition as their norm, sometimes even pulling the skeletal frame out of alignment.
You can see how quickly the downward cycle can begin, much like knocking down the first in a row of dominoes. Massage encourages circulation and muscle relaxation, allowing the body to return to its natural position and facilitate optimal movement. In short, massage makes your body feel good.
However, once out of alignment for an extended period, the body may become stubborn and require more encouragement to correct itself. This is where heat can be a very useful tool. Think of trying to scoop ice cream from the container just as it’s been taken out of the freezer. If you use a spoon straight from the drawer it’s a real job, but a heated spoon works wonders.
In massage, this practice allows us to work more efficiently into deeper lying musculature where the problematic area (the original domino) often lies. Heat-packs have a useful effect, but what sets hot stones apart is the ability to use them as an actual tool for massaging the tightened musculature, just like the heated spoon.
Now, that being said, not all hot stone massage is created equal. Techniques vary from simple stone placement during the session to movement and massage with the stones. Likewise, temperature can vary and pressure can range from light to more intense and deeper work. Cold stones can even be used on their own or in conjunction with heated stones to further the circulatory effect, with added benefits of easing pain and inflammation. This combination is one of the best ways to address chronically stubborn and tightened areas, and clients always leave with a sense of deep relaxation that massage on its own doesn’t always achieve.
Because of the variety of tools available and conditions they treat it is important to talk with your massage therapist and let them know what you are hoping to achieve during your appointment. Any massage, with or without stones, can and should be personalized to meet the specific needs of the client at each visit.
So, let me reintroduce to you stone massage. The blood circulating, muscle relaxing, stress fighting, deep tissue assisting and completely customizable super massage booster you’ve been waiting for. Let us know what questions you have, and I hope that you will try it out soon!
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