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How Can I Give a Hot Stone Massage?

By Bronwyn Harris
Updated May 21, 2024
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Hot stone massages, also known as warm stone massages, are extremely relaxing for most people. These massages have become popular at high-end health clubs and many day spas. Even if you are not a massage therapist, learning the basics of how to administer a hot stone massage can be a wonderful treat for those you love.

A hot stone massage obviously involves hot stones. Most people use basalt stones, although other types of stones can also be used. You can hunt for your own stones in a riverbed or buy them from a massage supply company. You want smooth stones of various sizes, with no sharp corners or rough spots. The other materials you will need for this type of massage include a roasting pan or Crock-Pot®, massage oil or baby oil, towels, and a slotted spoon or tongs.

Before your first hot stone massage, you must "season" the stones. This just involves coating them in oil — usually baby oil or massage oil. Next, you must heat the stones. To accomplish this, place the stones in your Crock-Pot® or roasting pan, cover them with water, and heat the water. When the stones are warm, remove them from the water, carefully, with your tongs or slotted spoon, and dry them off with a towel.

When giving a hot stone massage, you must be very careful that the stones are not too hot. Large stones will hold heat longer than small stones, so be safe and test the stones on your own skin before placing them on someone else. If the stones are too warm, you can lay a sheet or towel between the person's skin and the hot stones.

Place the stones carefully on the back of the person receiving a hot stone massage. Put the larger stones on the areas with larger muscles; the scapular area and the lower back on both sides of the spine. If the massage recipient has her palms facing up, you can place a medium warm stone in each of her hands. Place small stones between the fingers and toes. Use the rest of the stones as directed by the person receiving the massage — as different areas of the body will be more or less tense in different people.

If you know how to perform massage, you can now remove the warm stones one at a time, and massage the area. If you are not skilled in massage, you can very lightly run the warm stones along the person's skin. He may want the stones to be run very gently along the soles of his feet, his arms, or the back of his neck. Remember to follow his direction and be very gentle.

As you perform a hot stone massage, the stones will begin to lose heat. Replace them as needed with other stones that have been heating. When you are finished with the massage, wash the stones and store them so that they are ready for their next use.

What Type of Stones Are Used for Hot Stone Massage?

A hot stone massage is a type of massage that uses heat from stones to relax muscles and ease pain caused by damaged soft tissues in the body. Stones are also placed on pressure points throughout the body. Three of the main types of stones used include:

  • Sedimentary rocks, which are formed over long periods of time as factors such as weather impact the earth
  • Igneous rocks, which are made from magma resulting from volcanic activity 
  • Metamorphic rocks, which begin as sedimentary or igneous rocks and then become a new type of rock as a result of tremendous pressure and heat

Stones made from basalt, an igneous rock, are one of the most common stones used by massage therapists for hot stone massage. Basalt and other igneous rocks contain high amounts of iron ore, which tends to stay heated for a long period of time. This tendency to remain heated is helpful for hot stone massage because it means the therapist does not have to stop the massage to reheat the stone. Stones made of basalt are also relatively smooth, which is essential for the comfort of the client who is receiving the massage.

However, some therapists opt to use sedimentary rocks such as limestone because of their mineral content. If the type of stone used during hot stone massage is important to you, ask ahead of time what stone will be used and if the therapist could possibly use the stone of your preference instead.

What Are Benefits of Hot Stone Massage?

Hot stone massage shares many of the same benefits as other types of therapies, such as Swedish massage, and has some benefits that are unique. These benefits include:

  • Relaxation and ease of stress through the atmosphere of the massage clinic, the warm stones, and the deep massage brought about by the heat
  • Improved sleep in the nights following the massage 
  • Relief from pain caused by tight muscles and sore joints 
  • Increased flexibility through the loosening of stiff joints 
  • Improved circulation as the heat from the stones opens blood vessels and allows blood to flow more easily

If you suffer from pain, insomnia, stress, or stiff joints, you might be someone who would benefit from getting a hot stone massage. Hot stone massage is also ideal for patients who are in so much pain that other types of massage, specifically deep tissue stimulation, are uncomfortable. The warmth from the stones usually loosens muscles and joints enough that the therapist can then perform the massage with less pain to the client.

Hot stones benefit the massage therapist as well as the patient. This is because the hot stones are doing some of the more intense work that the therapist usually performs during a deep tissue massage. In this way, hot stones help preserve the therapist's fingers, wrists, and shoulders.

Where Did Hot Stone Massage Originate?

While hot stone massage might seem like the latest trend in the health and wellness sphere, this therapy is actually thousands of years old. Hot stone massage is widely believed to have started by practitioners of Hinduism in India around 5,000 years ago, as part of a holistic health practice called Ayurveda. A bit later, this therapy was adopted by people in China to help improve digestion and treat diseases. There is also evidence of hot stones being used for pain relief by Native Hawaiians, would used lava rocks from volcanos, and Native Americans, who used this treatment in sweat lodges. People from the past would often heat the stones using fire or water from natural hot springs.

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Discussion Comments

By CopperPipe — On Sep 13, 2010

Where could I find hot stones for sale in San Francisco?

By pharmchick78 — On Sep 13, 2010

Can you still get the same benefits from doing a hot stone massage at home as you would by getting a massage at a professional massage therapy spa?

I know that some massage therapy techniques don't translate very well to home usage.

Any ideas?

By closerfan12 — On Sep 13, 2010

What a great article! I've always wanted to have a hot stone massage because I keep hearing about the benefits of hot and cold stone therapy, and now I know how to do it at home.

Now all I have to do is get my husband to buy some basalt hot stones...

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