The power of hot stones in clinical massage therapy

GettyImages-184106906We all associate heat with comfort and relaxation, but did you know that hot stones also relieve pain and heal when used in clinical massage therapy?

They are the most efficient and effectiveway of applying the ‘moist’heat needed to encourage muscles and surrounding tissue (the fascia) to relax and so allow a much deeper and more effective massage treatment. To give you an idea of just how effective, one stroke with a hot stone is the equivalent of 10 hand massage strokes!

But you can’t use any old stone — they must be volcanic basalt stones, which are thousands of years old and are picked from river beds in America where the continual erosion creates a smooth surface. Basalt is a mafic silicate rock, which means it contains iron, magnesium and other heavy elements that mix with silica and oxygen during the formation stage and it’s this unique combination that allows the stones to retain their heat for so long.

In clinical massage, they are invaluable when dealing with musculoskeletal pain and dysfunction caused by strains and over-exertion. The root cause of the discomfort is tension in both the muscles and their associated fascia and soft tissues which in turn restricts circulation and sends pain signals to the brain.

The brain then sends signals to protect the body, causing the muscles to go into spasm and this is where the stones work their magic. The heat from the basalt penetrates the spasm-affected muscles and connective tissue, and this reduces the pain. In turn, the brain’s response to the pain is slowed, and the loosening effect allows the therapist to work on the muscles and make the fascia more pliable so that it ‘unsticks’ from surrounding structures.

Once the cycle of pain is successfully interrupted, the body is able to release and begin recovering.

Among the other benefits hot stones deliver are…

  • Helping boost the immune system and detoxify the body by stimulating blood circulation and speeding up the delivery of nutrients
  • Promoting the healing process by improving circulation and speeding up the body’s systems
  • Stimulating lymph flow and so boosting the immune system
  • Releasing deeply-held tensions
  • Relaxing tired muscles and improving flexibility and strength
  • Providing relief from specific disorders such as back and muscle pain, anxiety and stress
  • Changing the body’s physiological responses through the use of hot and chilled stones and so aiding recovery from injury

Hot stones can also be used to rejuvenate the body through the use of thermotherapy, which involves applying a combination of heat, cold, and then heat again.

The heat improves circulation and relaxation, while the cold decreases swelling and numbs some types of pain. Reapplying heat further increases the blood flow to the affected area.

Hot stones really are remarkable, and they can benefit all the body’s systems — skeletal, nervous, muscular, cardiovascular, circulatory, lymphatic, respiratory, digestive, urinary, endocrine, and reproductive — and all the sense organs.

Once you’ve had one hot stone therapy treatment, the chances are you’ll be hooked! The sense of deep relaxation and harmony they create while aiding rapid healing is unique and at the Wells Clinic I find our clients are always greatly looking forward to their next session with their friends, the hot stones!