When stone massage was first introduced to the public a few years ago, it was a novelty. The stones used were all heated, and there were specific ways to use them. Now, though, the use of stones in massage has been expanded, which make them much more adaptable to the needs of the person getting the massage.
Stones used for massage can be large or small, smooth or rough, dark or light. Large stones can be used to treat large areas of the body, and are great for some of the more sweeping strokes of Swedish massage. Smaller stones can get into smaller spaces. Smooth stones glide effortlessly, but rougher ones are useful too, because the friction they produce “wakes up” and warms up tissue, and can even produce some exfoliation. And pointed stones are wonderful for treating very specific areas.
Very dark stones heat up faster and hold heat longer. But they can sometimes get too hot, or release their heat too fast. Stones that are not quite so dark – gray, for instance – may not get as hot, but they also won’t cool down so fast. And if cold is needed, there are always light-colored and white stones.
People who’ve had a massage with only hot stones usually rave about it. So why would you want to use cold stones? Well, cold is better for inflamed areas; if you have tendonitis you probably wouldn’t want to add heat there, because it would only make the area feel worse. And cold, or at least coolness, is great for the face. Think of how good a cool compress feels if your head is stuffed up. A cool stone will have the same effect.
Stones can be used to give a massage, or they can be placed on various parts of the body and left there for a while. They can be used as tools for specific work like neuromuscular therapy. They can be used throughout the massage, or only during certain parts of it, such as at the beginning and the end. Techniques for using stones in massage are limited only to the imagination of the therapist and the needs of the client.
So why would you want to get a stone massage, instead of just a regular massage?
To begin with, the stones’ heating or cooling effect will add to the regular massage techniques to make muscle relaxation easier, faster, or deeper. And speaking of deep work, stones can help your therapist work more deeply without using so much pressure – which is good for both you and the therapist.
Relaxation can also be enhanced by placing stones over the spine. This is not an area that a massage therapist can usually treat, but stones that just sit here can have a calming effect on the entire central nervous system, not just on the muscles.
Also, massage itself usually improves circulation, but the addition of heat – through heated stones – will add to that effect. And cold, as mentioned above, is great for reducing swelling and pain due to inflammation.
Besides heat or cold, stones can sometimes offer the benefits of magnet therapy, as most stones are at least somewhat magnetic.
The Swedish technique of vibration, normally done with the hands, is more easily accomplished with stones that have been clicked or tapped together and then placed on the skin.
And finally, a lot of people just say they feel more “grounded” after a stone massage. It’s hard to describe, but think of it this way – if there are times when you have trouble concentrating or feel like you’re going in too many directions at once, a stone massage may help you feel more focused or “down to earth.”
There are times when stone massage should not be used, or should be used with caution. Be careful about getting a stone massage if you are sick or have a fever, have a heart or other circulatory condition, or have extra-sensitive skin. Keep in mind that heat will increase circulation and cold will decrease it; heated or cool stones can increase these effects, which would not be helpful for someone with any of the above conditions. Stone massage may also not be good for children, or for pregnant or menopausal women.
Lastly, be prepared to pay more for a stone massage. It takes longer to set up and longer to do, and the massage therapist uses more equipment and supplies and may need additional training. But most people who get them say they’re worth it. In fact, some say they won’t ever go back to “regular massage.” Stone massage is that good. Try it, and you’ll see!