You’ve seen it before, maybe on a glossy insert or ad found at a hotel or on a cruise ship: an image advertising hot stone massage. The rocks are uniformly black and smooth, laid out in a straight line down a relaxed lady’s spine.
If you’re not familiar with hot stone massage, this image might be simultaneously inviting and baffling. Why would I want hot rocks placed on me? And why would I pay extra for the privilege?
These are legitimate questions. Here are some legitimate answers.
But first, some myth-busting
This popular image of hot stone massage is somewhat misleading and confusing. You may have guessed that applying heat in a massage can be beneficial. But this principle isn’t properly applied by placing and leaving exposed hot stones directly on the skin. This could result in first or second degree burns.
You also might infer from the smooth blackness of the stones used in photos like this that there is supposed to be some kind of special property in them to somehow magic your tension away. This isn’t the case.
Any smooth stones will work for a hot stone massage. While most spas and clinics will use cut or synthetic stones that come with that uniformly black shape and color, we have opted to go with stones pulled from rivers and shorelines right here in the Pacific Northwest. These stones have been handpicked by our experienced owners to be the best possible tools in the hands of our practitioners.
Note, also, that the person in these ads looks completely dry. In practice, hot stone massage involves a lot of oil, or at least much more than would be typically used in a massage. While it’s true that the stones are smooth, oil is still necessary. We typically use grape seed oil. If you’re allergic to grape seed oil, we carry a variety of other vegetable and synthetic oils that can be used as alternatives.
The most common misconception is that hot stone is good for deep tissue and treatment work. This isn’t the case. Hot stone massage is primarily a relaxing experience. It’s like a combination of a good, thorough massage and a long soak in a bubble bath. These qualities made it a favorite in spa settings and on cruise ships.
Having said that, the heat of the stones accomplishes quite a lot. It helps the muscle fibers and connective tissue relax and loosen so that the massage can do more good with less discomfort.
It doesn’t matter how experienced you are at getting regular massage. If you’ve never had a hot stone massage, you really don’t know what you’re missing.
What a real hot stone massage is and why you’ll really want one
Hot stone massage is a session of 90 minutes or more that involves stones heated to 120 – 135 degrees, Farenheit. The stones are heated in water inside of a slow cooker. When the stones are used, they are coated in oil and used by the practitioner as massage tools. While the stones do make contact with the skin, the practitioner generally keeps the stones moving. This is to ensure the maximum benefit to sore or inflamed muscles and connective tissues, and also prevents the burns that would result if placed and left on the skin.
The practitioner may place the stones on an area of your body that could use extra heat, but this is done with a hot, moistened towel between the skin and the stones to prevent burns. In this way, the stones act like a second set of hands for the practitioner, applying heat and pressure to one area while the practitioner starts work on another.
At the end of the massage, the stones are carefully cleaned and sanitized.
What if I get burned?
There’s nothing to worry about. All our practitioners have been carefully trained and are fully certified to give this kind of massage safely.
What could be better? This, that’s what
A number of our available session enhancements are well suited to this kind of massage.
- Aromatherapy: citrus or lavender are optimal choices when paired with a hot stone massage
- Hand or Foot Scrub
- Cold Stone Treatment
- Ice Treatment
A hot stone session is a great time to try one of our cold treatments since the heat of the session tends to make the cold more bearable.
Be sure to add one of these enhancements when you book your session.
Keep in mind, too, that hot stone is available for couples sessions.
Visit our main page to book your couples session or give us a call if you have any questions.
Tom Gunn is the marketing director and blog editor at The Good Life Massage. Follow him on Twitter @tomgunnpoet.