When most people think of getting a massage, they probably think of a relaxing Swedish massage, in which a therapist takes oil or lotion and rubs it into the skin using long, deep strokes over the body. But a hot stone massage can sometimes be an even more effective treatment if you’re suffering from deep muscle aches or conditions like fibromyalgia or rheumatoid arthritis.

How does hot stone massage therapy work?
There are many similarities between a hot stone and other forms of regular massage, but the major difference is the use of warm stones, usually made of basalt. These are smooth, flat stones made of volcanic rock (high silica and iron content) which retain heat very well. A therapist will warm these stones in hot water then place them onto specific body areas such as the back, stomach, face, hands, and feet. It is believed that by placing the stones on key energy points of your body, the warmth can reach deep into your muscles to melt away tension and stress.

Muscles that are short and tight respond particularly well to the heat of the stones. You may be able to relax more as the heat warms up muscles and increases circulation to relieve tension, fatigue, and stress.

Some therapists will also hold the stones in their hands and use them to massage areas where they need to go deeper into the muscle. Afterwards, a therapist may sometimes place a few cold stones on the face or other areas to help soothe hot skin and contract heat-swollen blood vessels.

Treating symptoms of autoimmune disorders
Used alone or in conjunction with other full body massage protocols, the use of hot stones have a sedative effect which helps with issues of chronic pain.

According to the Mayo Clinic, people who suffer from fibromyalgia deal with widespread chronic pain accompanied by fatigue and tenderness in localized areas. Massage therapy manipulates muscle and soft tissue to relieve pain, and when used combined with hot stones, the pressure doesn’t need to be too deep to relieve pain, increase flexibility and reduce stress.

Rheumatoid arthritis
The Arthritis Foundation defines rheumatoid arthritis as an autoimmune disease which creates painful swelling inside and around the joints. Research indicates that hot stone and hands-on massage therapy can relax muscles and ease the pain of arthritis.

It’s important to note that heat should be used carefully, as too much might aggravate inflamed joints. And always, massage should be seen as a complement to any medically-prescribed treatment.

Additional benefits of hot stone massage
In addition to relieving pain, relaxing muscles, and increasing joint flexibility, hot stone massage has been shown to provide other benefits, including:

Reducing anxiety
Many studies have demonstrated that massage reduces stress and anxiety, and hot stone massage therapy is especially effective. The hot stones trigger a parasympathetic portion of your nervous system, allowing you to relax.

Allowing better sleep
Busy schedules, hectic lives, and aging all challenge our ability to get the recommended 7 to 8 hours of sleep we need each night. There is some research that shows massage, including hot stone massage, can promote relaxation and the ability to sleep, especially for older adults.

While hot stone massage therapy has many benefits, it’s not for everyone, and there are certain situations in which people should not have the massage at all, especially a hot stone massage.

These include:

  • Injuries or breaks in the skin
  • Illness accompanied by fever, like cold or flu
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Pregnancy

Treat yourself
Although it’s a new option to many, hot stone massage has been an effective therapeutic treatment for almost 2,000 years. Give yourself a treat and make an appointment to try out a hot stone massage, and see for yourself what the benefits can be.

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