There’s absolutely no question about it-a hot stone massage is one of the most relaxing, indulgent, and satisfying body treatments available. And, especially during these cold seasons, one of the most requested, promoted, and popular services at spas and massage studios. There are several things you should know and some questions you should ask before receiving your massage, to optimize your experience, and ensure your hot stone massage is everything you expect.
Hot stone massages are not inexpensive. They usually run between $10 and $35 more than a regular massage. Depending on your local standard massage rate, that can translate to between $60 to $100 dollars or more. Although a great hot stone massage is well worth that price, it can also be a big price tag for disappointment. New and seasoned hot stone recipients alike may find the information here beneficial. Use this guide to get your money’s worth.
First, you should know there are several types of hot stone treatments. A common offering at spas is the trademarked La Stone Therapy. It makes use of both hot and cold stones, utilizes specific techniques, and is fairly standardized. There are other, similar treatments that do not incorporate cold stones. Some treatments make use of the stones all over the body, while in others, the stones are used exclusively on the client’s back. Also, the stones may or may not be the mainstay of the treatment. Actually, in some bodywork, the stones may be the only aspect of the treatment, or combined with energy work. I have a client who related her experience with a treatment called “Oriental Hot Rock Massage.” The therapist placed towels over her body, placed very hot stones over the towels, placed another layer of towels over the rocks, the therapist left the room for 25 minutes, came back in and reapplied fresh layers of towels and rocks, and then left for the remaining duration of the 60 minute treatment.
Although this treatment may appeal to some for its minimally invasive, detoxifying, and relaxing effects, it certainly is not what most people would expect from something marketed as a massage. Imagine this client’s disappointment and predicament. Mid-massage is not the time to find out you have chosen the incorrect treatment and failed to communicate properly with your therapist. Her experience could have been avoided with a few simple questions. I have learned over the years that some people are rather intimidated by the whole spa or massage experience, and avoid asking important questions. Do not make this mistake. It is your massage, your money, and your time. If you are met with an attitude when asking questions, or are otherwise uncomfortable or have trouble when trying to communicate in a direct manner, find another spa or therapist.
Asking the therapist to describe the hot stone session beforehand will also prepare you for anything out of the ordinary. Once, during a hot stone treatment, I was unpleasantly surprised to find the hot stones being tied to my feet with tube socks. Although I have to admit the intense warmth of the stone felt great, the tube sock was tied so tightly that it was uncomfortable. Plus, a tube sock itself is something I would expect to find wadded up on my son’s floor, not in a spa. In short, it made me have to think, interrupted the flow of the massage, and therefore affected my overall experience negatively. Had I asked the therapist to describe the massage, my experience would have been better for it.
Next, you will want to ask how the stones are sanitized. Unfortunately, this can vary as greatly as the massages. Some spas and therapists keep their stones in the same water from client to client, and do not wash the stones between clients. There are spa sanitizers made for this purpose, which, if added to the stone’s water and left in during multiple hot stone sessions, supposedly kill all germs and bacteria. Also, some therapists I know have been trained to use a solution of Epsom salts and tea tree oil in the water, with the theory that this solution breaks down the bacteria chemically. Even assuming there are absolutely no bacteria in the water, any massage therapist with hot stone experience can describe the sludgy water that remains after a massage. Paying $75 to have a stranger’s sloughed-off skin cells, hairs, sweat, and oils rubbed all over you is not an appealing idea. Simply put, the stones, and the heater should be appropriately cleaned before each use. If you find this is not the practice, then ask if it could be done for you. If not, find another spa or therapist.
If you are familiar with receiving regular massages, and would like to try the hot stones, inquire about how it will differ from a regular massage. Some therapists feel that since the stones provide depth and relaxation, the massage shouldn’t be as deep as a normal massage may be. If lots of pressure is important to your massage experience, discuss this with the therapist. Conversely, some therapists will use much deeper, slower strokes, to make use of the induced muscle relaxation the heat provides. Discuss your pressure preferences with your therapist before your hot stone session begins, even if you have previously received regular massages from the therapist.
Some therapists use special oils or products for their hot stone massages. This can add to the experience greatly. Unfortunately, however, it also has a potential to cause the client discomfort or even mild injury if the wrong products are used in conjunction with heat. In general, the plainest, highest quality, and most unadulterated carrier oils are optimal. If essential oils are used, they should be selected with care. Commercial products with many ingredients or chemicals can cause skin reactions when heat is applied. The heat opens the skin’s pores, allowing any products used to have a more profound effect, for better or worse. A good rule is this–if you couldn’t eat it, don’t use it in a hot stone massage.
So, here is a list of questions to ask your therapist before receiving a hot stone massage:
*Will you please describe the hot stone massage in detail?
*Are the stones and heater(s) cleaned thoroughly before each and every use?
*How will the massage compare with a regular massage?
*What products and oils do you use with the hot stone massage?
These questions will open up a discourse between you and your therapist, and allow you to make sure the treatment you are seeking will be the one you receive. Have a great session!