Heat has been used to treat various ailments for millennia, and hot stone therapy is one of the oldest and most famous examples of it. Records show that hot stone therapy can trace its roots all the way back 2,000 years ago to ancient China.
Over time, the practice has evolved to include Swedish massage techniques (long, slow strokes and kneading to penetrate deeper muscles) to create a warm, comforting experience designed to relax you and your muscles.
We broke down the benefits of hot stone therapy and how it works to help explain why everyone should want a hot rock on their back.
What is a hot stone therapy massage?
A type of massage therapy, hot stone therapy’s main goal is to relax muscles and ease tension throughout the body, primarily by targeting the long, skeletal muscles of the back.
Volcanic basalt retains heat well, making it the ideal rock structure. Rocks are heated up to 110-130 degrees Fahrenheit before they are placed. If you’re hesitant about hot stones being placed on your back, a towel can be applied in between stone and skin.
The stones’ heat loosens muscles and connective tissue across your back, spine, stomach, chest or face. By applying those Swedish massage techniques as well, the heat and rubbing increase the blood flow in the affected parts of the body, helping bring protein and oxygen to the area, encouraging circulation, repair and restoration.
Benefits of Hot Stone Therapy:
Studies have shown that massages of any sort are an effective form of stress relief as they can reduce stress, anxiety and improve cardiovascular health. Part of the reason for this is that when you’re stressed, your muscles stiffen, creating tension and pain.
When forced to relax through massages, that tension is removed which can lead to the overall feeling of stress leaving the body. Adding heat to that mix helps with the easing of muscle tension. It also adds a warm, comforting feeling which is enough for many to feel like their stress melts away.
Muscle tension relief
It’s no secret that massages, particularly warm, back massages, are relaxing. But they’re more than just a way to emotionally relax. Thanks to the warmth of the stones and the movement of muscles from the massage therapist, the increased blood flow to tense muscles allows them to physically relax.
This loosening of muscles also allows the massage therapist to more easily penetrate deep muscles while using less pressure, making it a more enjoyable experience for people who usually don’t like deep tissue or hard pressure massages.
Back pain relief
Another of the key benefits of hot stone therapy is relief from back pain – particularly lower back pain. According to Dr. Vert Mooney, Veritas Health, “Many episodes of lower back muscle strain result from strains and over-exertions, creating tension in the muscles and soft tissues around the lower spine. As a result, this restricts proper circulation and sends pain signals to the brain.”
Applying heat to the lumbar spine opens up blood flow in the area, allowing oxygen and nutrients to access the tissues damaged through strain and begin repairing it. This method of applying hot stones to treat back pain is a viable option for people who are seeking to lessen their back pain but are hesitant to take medication or commit to surgery.
Increased joint flexibility
Muscle tension and stiffness can make regular, everyday movement difficult and, on occasion, painful. When muscles are warmed and loosened, tension and stiffness are reduced and muscles and joints naturally become more flexible, making movement easier and less painful.
Increased flexibility is important in maintaining joint flexibility, especially as we age. The more we are able to move as we age, the easier it is to prevent muscle injury and keep up a good level of physical fitness, crucial to overall health.
Feel the Heat
Incorporate hot stones into your next massage therapy session at Courted at The St. James and start feeling the benefits of hot stone therapy. Give us a call at (703) 239-6910 or visit us online to schedule your hot stone therapy appointment or take a look at our other massage therapy services and add-ons to find the right massage for you.