Does Hot Stone Massage Really HELP?



By Jen Hyland, RMT


If you like heat, it won’t take any convincing for you to believe that a hot stone massage will feel amazing.  If you’ve had a hot stone massage, you felt warm, your muscles relaxed, your nervous system calmed down, and it probably didn’t feel like the therapist was working as deeply to achieve the same results. But as a clinician, my question about hot stone massage threatened to ruin the whole experience: Is there a therapeutic benefit to hot stone massage, and is it an effective massage therapy tool?

The first answer I came up with, was that of course hot stone massage has a therapeutic benefit – all massage therapists cover hydrotherapy (hot and cold therapeutic applications) in their programs. One of our standards of practice clearly communicates how to provide safe and effective hydrotherapy and another talks to us about how to properly sanitize any tools that we use in our massage practice.

Deep moist heat or fomentations are excellent for helping you to fully relax. They have a strong sedating effect and leave you feeling comforted. In many cases you will feel drowsy afterwards. This makes them a powerful treatment tool for anyone with insomnia or trouble sleeping. Long applications of heat help with chronic injuries and chronic pain.

Using stones as a massage therapy tool allows the massage therapist to work in different ways without specific pressure. Patients the treatment as highly effective without as much discomfort as with traditional massage therapy. This is especially effective for patients with a low threshold for pressure, or who are new to massage.

Completing my training with the stone massage company, I worked with a series of clients to test the techniques and see how clients with different health conditions responded. It was important to me that I only offer a technique if I can see real value in its application.  The result? I had 2 guinea pigs that deserve a make-up treatment to make up for their patience as I repeatedly fumbled around, trying to adapt my stones to my techniques, and to make sure that everything went smoothly. And then…it clicked. For the remaining treatments I was using the stones as both heating tools and massage tools. For massage therapy they functioned as an extension of my body, letting me use gentle effleurage and petrissage techniques with deep penetrating results. Each treatment still begins with a full intake and assessment, and the stones are only used if clinically indicated. On each patient there will be areas where it makes more sense to massage with my hands than with stones, and that adjustment is made as necessary.

Because of additional preparation and clean up time, hot stone massages have a small additional fee. As a temporary special, for the rest of March, I’ll be making hot stone massage available at our regular massage therapy rates – book now to secure your spot!