This is one of the most popular images you’ll find when you look up “hot stone therapy” or even just “massage”. This client looks really happy in her current situation, doesn’t she? Hot stones nicely lined up on along her back, possibly even in the right spots to meet up with those chakras that run the length of our spines. She magically has a beautiful tropical flower tucked neatly behind her ear that won’t move a bit throughout an entire massage session. Her arms are tucked under her head, contracting her upper traps - that we massage therapist work so hard to lengthen. The whole picture is warm and welcoming and looks like just what you want, right? (please excuse my sarcasm)
While I clearly find many things wrong with this picture (like, “where is that nice, big, heavy lumbosacral stone to center and weight the lower back??”), I want to focus on the stones on this model’s back. If those are genuinely hot stones placed on her spine for this serene photo shoot, she would NOT be smiling so genuinely. Why not, you ask?
Hot stone therapy is exactly what it sounds like, and it does involve HOT stones. Stones heated to the proper temperature for therapeutic purposes would very easily burn a client if placed directly on the skin and left there for any period of time. With hot stone therapy, there are two methods used with our heated stones: “Resting Stones” and “Working Stones”.
Resting Stones are those which are placed strategically upon key areas of the body to melt muscle and warm your inner being to a depth that only a hot bath for a couple hours could accomplish (and unless you’re really lucky, there’s no one in your bath tub refilling the hot water and additionally offering massage techniques). But applying these stones at this temperature directly to your skin and leaving them there for any length of time can lead to very serious burns…and lawsuits for us. In fact, in order to maintain my “Hot Stone Liability Insurance” I had to take oath that I would never, ever, under any circumstances do what is taking place in this picture. Our simple solution: we use a thin towel to cover your back (or other appropriate area), place the stones with intention, and wrap them to maintain that soothing warmth, while we work on other areas of the body to allow that heat to soak in.
Working Stones are those which we use to actually massage with. We will warm the muscle tissue with manual massage to get the blood flowing, then use hot stones to perform massage techniques that is unlike any other form of massage – the heat moving in circular, long, and even specific strokes adds that “je ne sais quoi” that makes hot stone massage oh so popular, especially in those cold winter months. The thing to note here is that these stones are in constant motion. You will feel that heat, but for milliseconds in each spot as the stones pass on to the next eager spot, never in one place long enough to cause damage or pain.
All of our therapists here at Meadowbrook Massage Therapy have been thoroughly trained in the art of hot stone massage treatments. So, as pleased as the young lady in the above picture may look about her experience, we will never deliver that same treatment. And we hope that you will leave smiling much bigger and more genuinely than she is.