Hot stone massage is a specialty massage where the therapist uses smooth, heated stones to warm up tight muscles so he can work on pressure points and problem areas to alleviate tension and stress. Hot stones may either be placed on the body or used as an extension of the therapist's hands, which allows the therapist to work more deeply and more quickly.
This quick massage treatment method is the perfect way to relax while you're on vacation—especially if you experience chronic muscle soreness that's been agitated by a long flight or car ride. Along with relieving tension, hot stone massage can help to promote sleep, relieve pain related to autoimmune disease, boost immunity, and even decrease cancer symptoms like fatigue, nausea, depression, and pain.
Most spas offer their own versions of hot stone massage, but they might call it lava stone massage, river rock massage, or warm stone massage. A hot stone massage, however, takes a lot of skill and sensitivity on the part of the therapist. If you plan to book a hot stone massage while traveling, there are a few things to keep in mind when deciding if it's the right treatment for you.
Watch Now: What to Expect During a Hot Stone Massage
How To Get A Great Hot Stone Massage
The quality of the treatment depends on how well the therapist has been trained, how skilled he or she is, and whether he or she enjoys doing the treatment. Some therapists don't like to do it because the hot stones are difficult to handle, but at least one therapist at most spas and resorts will provide this service.
Even a terrific massage therapist can only be moderately experienced in hot stone massage. In order to make sure you get a great hot stone massage, make sure your therapist has certification in hot stone therapy—while not required, you can relax with ease knowing your therapist has studied this method specifically. You can also ask where the therapist learned hot stone massage and how long he or she has been doing it to double check the quality of your massage.
Another approach is to ask the front desk if there is someone who is a specialist in hot stone massage. Some massage therapists love doing this treatment, while others aren't so good with it. A good front desk receptionist will know which therapist will be best for your specific needs.
The Process of Hot Stone Massage
Before you arrive, the massage therapist will sanitize the stones and heat them in a bath of 120 to 150-degree water. The stones themselves are usually basalt, a black volcanic rock that absorbs and retains heat well and has been smoothed by natural forces in the river or sea.
When you arrive, you will usually be asked to lay face down on a massage table. First, the therapist warms up the body with traditional Swedish massage, then massages you while holding a heated stone. As the stone cools, the therapist replaces it with another. The therapist uses many stones of various shapes and sizes—big ones on the big muscles, smaller ones on smaller muscles.
The therapist might also leave heated stones in specific points along your spine, in the palms of your hand, on your belly, or even between your toes to improve the flow of energy in your body. Many therapists believe that the stones themselves have an energetic charge that needs to be maintained by placing them in a spiral pattern.
Be sure to speak up if the stones are too warm or the pressure too intense, and you can always ask them to stop using the stones if you don't like how it feels. Additionally, if you like heat but not the stones, lava shells and steamed towels are another way to get heat into a massage.
Additional Information and Warnings
A hot stone massage is more expensive than a basic Swedish massage because it requires more preparation and clean-up and usually requires more time with the therapist. A typical hot stone massage costs between $125 and $150, but the price can go higher, especially at a resort or hotel spa.
If you are staying at a resort or spa retreat, be sure to book your hot stone massage early as facilities often only have one or two therapists who are proficient in the skill. Be sure to confirm that the therapist you book has specific training with hot stones, preferably through the LaStone Therapy certification program.
Hot stones warmed by a fire were originally used by Native Americans to treat aching muscles, but the modern revival of hot stones in massage is generally credited to Mary Nelson, a native of Tucson, Arizona, who trademarked her style of hot stone massage, called LaStone Therapy. In order to offer this method of hot stone massage, therapists must be certified through a course in the LaStone program.
Hot Stone massage is not appropriate if you have diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, or are on medication that thins your blood. You shouldn't get a hot stone massage if you are pregnant or have a sunburn, and you also may want to reconsider if you are menopausal, as it may trigger a hot flash.