How Heat Can Work Muscle Pain Miracles

How Heat Can Work Muscle Pain Miracles

Heat has long been understood to be a great way to ease muscle pain, but how exactly does that work?

To begin with, let’s understand how muscle pain and strain manifests itself.

As you work your muscles throughout the day, you’re putting them through stress. Even if your lifestyle is relatively sedentary, modern life is still hard on your muscles and soft tissues. Repetitive motion, bad posture, lack of exercise, over-exertion–all these can cause muscle tension that restricts blood and oxygen flow. As this happens–you guessed it–the muscles send pain signals to the brain.

The resulting pain can range widely–from mild discomfort to intense, crippling agony.

What heat can do
Adding heat to muscles and soft tissue dilates the blood vessels to increase circulation. This activates your body’s natural healing process, sending vital resources to the distressed area.

Intense heat also has the benefit of soothing and relaxing the surrounding muscles and tissues. You may feel an instant sense of ease and well being wash over you.

Stop! Don’t heat that!
Is the painful area red or swollen? Is the pain you’re feeling the result of some kind of trauma? You better use ice instead. In fact, applying heat can make things worse.

A treatment, not a cure
Heat has tremendous benefits in the short term, but it can’t fix anything permanently, especially if the tension you’re trying to relieve is due to repetitive motion or poor posture. You’ll want to treat the proverbial disease here, not the symptom.

If your muscle strain is due to repetitive motion due to work conditions, you can keep on treating the symptom, but you may need to change the circumstances of your work somehow. This might mean something as simple as an ergonomic appliance. It could also mean a change of jobs. Whatever you choose, keep in mind that not changing anything will take a toll on your body in the long term, no matter how much heat you apply or how often you receive massage.

As for posture, that is something that can be corrected. Mindfulness is key here. Strengthening your mind-body connection will make you more aware of the subtle pain signals your body is sending. You may find that your body is full of aggravating muscle tension you’re not even aware of.

You can work on this yourself, doing regular mindfulness check-ins to ensure you’re standing or sitting in a way that’s natural. You may find, though, that the plasticity of your muscles has been working against you. Your bad posture habits may have trained your muscles to hold themselves in the wrong shape, trapping you in poor posture that’s difficult to correct. Regular massage and a daily stretching regimen may be called for as you try to loosen your muscles and help them conform to a new, healthier posture.

Heat, a key component of massage
We use heat regularly as a tool in massage therapy, sometimes with simple friction on the skin to warm things up. But we may also employ hot towels to help relax particularly tense areas.

Did you know? Hot towels are a session enhancement that’s absolutely free. Just ask!

We also use hot stones as a specialty treatment or enhancement to help break down adhesions and deepen your relaxation.

Book your next massage today!

As with everything on this blog, none of this information should be construed as medical advice or care. The employees of The Good Life Massage, including the writers of this blog, are not medical doctors. Consult with your physician before making any changes to improve your health.

Tom Gunn is the blog editor and marketing director for The Good Life Massage. You can hire him to help build your brand and expand your digital presence by contacting him at tomgunn@gmail.com

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4 Common Myths About Hot Stone Massage

Hot Stone Myths

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.

abstract background with dry round reeble stones
Our stones aren’t manufactured: they’re individually plucked from the shores of the Pacific Northwest with our own hands.

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 therapists.

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 therapists as massage tools. While the stones do make contact with the skin, the therapists 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 therapists 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 therapist, applying heat and pressure to one area while the therapist 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 therapists 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.

425-243-7705

Tom Gunn is the marketing director and blog editor at The Good Life Massage. Follow him on Twitter @tomgunnpoet.