Hot stone massage: There are few things in life that I enjoy more than a relaxing massage on the weekend.
I get to lie back in a peaceful room and allow my massage therapist to ease out all the stress and tension my body has accumulated during the week.
And yes, relaxation is a big part of why I get regular massages. It’s a way to give myself a pat on the back (pardon the pun) for successfully enduring all the demands of my 9 to 5 plus juggling the extracurriculars. A way to pamper myself, relax and just do me.
However, the truth is that massages, if administered by a qualified massage therapist, have many benefits above and beyond just being relaxing and a welcome escape from the rigours of life.
In fact, as we know from the first article in this series, the massage can be remedial in nature. Massage therapy is and has always been a scientific and evidenced-based therapeutic modality.
This is especially true when you are opting for specialised massage therapies like the hot stone massage.
In the second installment of our ongoing series discussing different types of modern massage therapies, here’s all you need to know about the hot stone massage in 2019:
If you missed the first installment of this series, you can find out about the difference between the remedial massage and the deep tissue massage here.
What is hot stone therapy?
Hot stone massage therapy involves regular massage techniques (such as mechanical action and reflex action), in addition to the placement of volcanic basalt rocks on specific areas of the body.
Often believed to have originated a few thousand years ago in ancient China, this massage technique involves using heated stones to help permeate deeper into the muscles without having to apply too much pressure (on the part of the therapist). The stones are heated in hot water and then placed on certain key areas of the body including the heart, the stomach, the back, the feet, among other areas.
Hot stone massages are used to treat certain specific ailments or discomforting conditions like insomnia, muscle tension, stress, anxiety and joint stiffness. In some cases, it has even been known to help slow down autoimmune conditions.
Hot stone massage: The technique
The stones are ideally heated to anywhere between 53 to 63 degrees Celsius before being placed on the target area. It has been observed through several studies that the human mind and body associates the warmth of the hot stones with safety, contact, and intimacy.
The stones provide heat throughout the body during the massage, thus causing a relaxing, almost sedating neurological effect. Physically, this effect relaxes the body even further, allowing the therapist to effectively massage, relieve and release most, if not all, stress, pain, and areas of discomfort that you experience.
Hot stone massage vs deep tissue massage
A Deep Tissue massage is very often considered the most intense, releasing, relieving massage that you could opt for. However, it could cause a reasonable amount of pain and discomfort since it involves the therapist using a lot of pressure. This is to reach some very deep points of muscle stress, fatigue and soreness in your body. It can even leave the subject a bit sore for a little while afterwards. One can feel the positive effects of this massage once its soreness wears off.
A deep tissue massage is often considered to be an intense, releasing, relieving firm massage suitable for chronic muscle tension . However, deep tissue massages aren’t for everyone and involve the therapist using a lot of pressure. Why? Because a deep tissue massage is focussed on reaching the deepest layers of muscle, fascia, and tissue with a view to providing relief to very deep points of muscle stress, fatigue and soreness in your body. Accordingly, a deep tissue massage can often leave you a bit sore for a day or so afterward. However, you can really feel the positive effects of this massage once its soreness wears off.
On the other hand, the hot stones used in a hot stone massage act to apply heat to the body, thereby relaxing the muscles and relevant muscular system fibres to a point where the therapist can ease the target muscles without applying the intense pressure associated with a deep tissue massage.
The use of cold stones
As volcanic rocks retain heat, they are just as effective at retaining the cold. Some massage therapists, if knowledgeable, use cold stones after hot ones to soothe and calm the heated areas and skin where the hot stones were used. Cold stones are effective in preventing skin breaks, rashes, swelling, and are an effective therapy control measure due to the concentration of heat being applied to certain parts of the body.
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