You’ve likely heard that after a good massage, you can expect to feel more relaxed, refreshed, and revived. But what about the effects of a warm stone massage? Are they equal to your traditional Swedish treatment? Is stone therapy better? At Backstage Salon + Spa in Rowley, MA, we have all the answers you need. Sit down with your favorite beverage and read how warm stone therapy might just be your ticket to improved health and tranquility.
Is a Warm Stone Massage Good for Knots?
Multiple studies show a warm stone massage (WSM) can relax rigid muscle groups. This means it’s a tried and true way to relieve knots, especially those that tend to develop in the neck and back. And we attribute these benefits directly to the treatment’s heat component.
During the massage, flat, heated stones spread warmth throughout a specific area of the body. The stones are chosen for their ability to hold heat that sinks deep into and relaxes tense muscles. The thought of placing 140-degree stones on your body may at first sound intimidating, but you frankly have nothing to worry about. The experience is designed to be both pleasurable and therapeutic.
An Ancient Practice
The earliest use of hot stones for health reasons can be traced to India approximately 5,000 years ago. The Hindus practiced Ayurveda, in which stones were placed on the body to ease muscle tension and pain. Some 3,000 years later, the Chinese treated certain diseases using shaped stones. To illustrate, they improved digestion by placing stones on the abdomen.
The earliest natives of Hawaii – at the time known as the Sandwich Islands – discovered that when applied to the body, heated lava rocks wrapped in leaves relieved pain. Medicine shamans called Kahunas administered the leaves. The concept of heated stones eventually made its way into Native American sweat lodges. During these sessions, the stones weren’t applied to a single body but instead used to promote all-over relaxation for everyone in the lodge.
Now, WSM is personalized to meet specific needs. The stones are commonly heated in water to help muscles respond better to different massage techniques, including kneading and rolling. These effects allow the technician to easily manipulate muscles and undo knots that form from repetitive movements or long periods of sitting.
Muscle knots are the body’s way of protecting a strained, injured, or weakened spot. The muscles surrounding that spot tighten to prevent additional injury. Although beneficial, knots can hinder daily life by producing ongoing pain and discomfort. A warm stone massage provides an indulgent way to counter these effects.
The heat emitted by the stones also opens blood vessels to improve circulation and relieve pain. Poor circulation is known to cause muscle tension, cramps, and overall fatigue. Many people experience these symptoms without understanding the culprit behind them. They try to treat pain with oral medications and combat fatigue with caffeine. But massage is a much more natural alternative with benefits for the mind as well (more on this in a moment).
During treatment, the heat penetrates your muscles (as mentioned earlier) and expands blood vessels. This allows blood to flow more freely to feed your tissues with oxygen and reduce aches and pain. Improved blood flow also carries away waste in an effect similar to that of cardio. The lymph system can then flush excess fluids and toxins more efficiently from the body.
Ease Stress and Anxiety
The combined potency of heat and pressure can similarly encourage a sense of relaxation. The rocks used during treatment are produced by volcanic eruptions from around the world. These rocks, widely known as Basalt stones, contain a natural magnetic healing property that can restore mental, spiritual, and emotional balance to the body. After treatment, many patients feel their stress and anxiety melt away.
Here’s another benefit backed by science: following a WSM, you can expect deeper and more restful sleep. This means patients with insomnia might finally get the rest they need. Equally important is that sleep refreshes both the mind and body, just as it’s intended to do.
It’s tough to get through even the simplest of tasks with stiff, painful joints. But massage can relax those muscles that surround the joint to slowly increase your range of motion. With regular hot stone therapy, you may experience less pain and friction as you go about your day.
Ramp Up Immunity
All the elements that make massage so enjoyable – pain and stress relief, as well as full-body relaxation – also help improve immunity. Studies confirm a single session of massage can increase the number of lymphocytes in your body. These white blood cells help fight infection and maintain overall health.
Reduce Muscle Spasms
The most common causes of muscle spasms include fatigue, pain, and overuse. They can be physically debilitating and, in extreme cases, persist for hours. By loosening muscles, a WSM helps reduce the inflammation commonly associated with muscle spasms.
What to Expect
Once you check in for your massage appointment, you will be guided to a private room that helps calm your mind. You will likely be instructed to remove your shirt so your therapist has better access to your back. Then, once you’re settled comfortably on the massage table, your therapist will place hot stones on targeted areas of your body. Common treatment spots include:
- The palms of your hands
- The sides of your spine
- Between toes or on your feet
Stones are rarely placed directly on the skin and instead put on a towel that gently covers your body. This allows the heat to slowly but surely penetrate to underlying tissues. Once the treatment area is sufficiently heated, your therapist will rub the stones or their hands across your body using rolling, gliding motions. Massage oil helps facilitate this movement, and you can expect your treatment to last about an hour.
A Stimulating Experience
WSMs are intended to appeal to the senses. From the feeling of hot rocks to the aromatic body oils, this is an experience that stimulates almost all five senses. And if you’re thinking this sounds like just another massage with the mere addition of stones, we urge you to reconsider.
The stones help your therapist ease into muscle tissues at a deeper, more therapeutic level. At the same time, they can apply less pressure to help your body avoid any resistance that manifests as pain or stiffness. The added warmth also provides deeper relaxation and faster results.
Preparing for Your WSM
One of the best things you can do for your body is properly hydrate before and after your massage session. Massages help drive toxins, including free radicals, from the body. Water encourages this process and, at the same time, keeps skin moisturized. We therefore suggest you drink plenty of H2O to reap the full benefits of your treatment.
Also, be prepared to speak openly and honestly with your therapist. Explain what you like about massage as well as what makes you uncomfortable. Would you prefer to stay fully clothed? Do you have a low tolerance for pressure? The more specific you are in the information you provide, the more tailored your treatment will be.
Because alcohol has a dehydrating effect on the body, we recommend you steer clear of it for a few days after your massage. Caffeine does the same, meaning you should plan to reduce your intake of coffee. Your goal after massage is to keep the body hydrated. If water sounds a little boring, flavor it naturally with sliced fruit or reach for a warm cup of herbal tea.
You should additionally stay relaxed for as long as possible. Don’t rush back to your ordinary routine of meeting deadlines and coping with pressure. Instead, rest on the couch or in bed and watch your favorite show. Or use this time to practice meditation. If that sounds too daunting, periodically take long, deep breaths that will help keep stress at bay. We further recommend that after massage, you:
- Pay attention to your posture – now is time to sit up straight and stretch your spine
- Skip heavy meals
- Engage in simple stretches to keep muscles loose
- Wait an hour or so before taking a shower
A Zen Experience for the Mind and Body
A warm stone massage is a great way to undo muscle knots and give your mind a much-needed break. In addition to relieving stress, this treatment can also improve your sleep and give your immune system a boost. In short, it’s a great way to pamper yourself mentally and physically. Schedule your appointment today by calling Backstage Salon + Spa in Rowley, MA.