It’s a bit of a catch-22: people get massages to relax their muscles, yet extremely tense muscles can actually make massages less effective. That’s where hot stones really help. The heat from the stones penetrates into the muscles and helps loosen them up so the therapist can properly manipulate them.What it is:Hot-stone massages typically use smooth basalt stones or river rocks that have been heated to a uniform temperature in a temperature-controlled bath or dragon’s belly. Basalt stones are very rich in iron, which makes them particularly great at retaining heat.Pat Mayrhofer, the president and founder of a massage-stone education and supply company, wrote in a Massage Magazine article that stones should be heated between 120 and 130 degrees Fahrenheit and that the optimal temperature is 127 degrees. She added that anything more than 130 degrees is too hot. For facial massages, rocks should be no more 125 degrees as the skin on the face is more sensitive than the skin on the body.What it does:After heating the stones, the licensed massage therapist either places them on specific points along the body to create soothing pressure or uses them to actually massage muscles with a steady pressure.In addition to loosening muscles, the heat opens up blood vessels and improves circulation. Improved circulation delivers more oxygen to the muscles, which helps alleviate aches and pains. Other benefits may include chronic-pain relief, reduced stress and anxiety, and enhanced flexibility.The stones should never be uncomfortably hot, and it is important to let the therapist know if they are. For more information about how to politely tell a massage therapist if something doesn’t feel good, read our massage etiquette tips.Where it’s from:The use of heated stones for therapeutic aims is an ancient practice. It’s been documented as far back as over 2,000 years ago in China, and it surfaces in a multitude of cultures over the ages. There was a bit of a delay, though, between these storied practices and the emergence of modern hot-stone massage.In another Massage Magazine article, Mayrhofer said it wasn’t until 1993 that a woman named Mary Nelson created LaStone Therapy. Her system sparked a trend, which blossomed into hot-stone massage therapy as we know it today. See hot-stone massage in action below:
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