Each has unique therapeutic value and risks.
Hot stone massage is a popular, luxurious treatment for deep relaxation. Stones, usually found near a volcano, are heated and used as a massage tool. Your therapist may also let stones rest on the body, providing deep penetrating heat. Many clients like to combine hot stones with aromatherapy oils like chamomile, cinnamon, and cedar.
Hot stone is a wonderful tool for relaxing massages where the goal is a deep sense of comfort. Many therapists use hot stones instead of their hands or elbows as a deep tissue tool, pressing the stones into tight muscles and fascial knots. Much of the connective tissue around muscles and tendons is a liquid crystal material, and the penetrating heat helps to change the phase of these tissues to smooth them out. The heat also increases blood flow to an area, encouraging healing by bringing nutrients and hydration.
Hot stone therapy is not well tolerated by everyone. Even clients without health concerns may find that a full body hot stone massage is too intense for them -- like staying too long in a hot tub. They become dizzy, sedated, and/or dehydrated. For those who do not tolerate hot stones, a therapist may use the stones to heat their hands and 'paint the heat' onto the client. This can give the soothing, relaxing massage a client wants while minimizing risks and unpleasant side effects.
Those with autoimmune disease, high blood pressure, heat intolerance, rheumatoid arthritis, cardiovascular problems, or taking certain medications find hot stone therapy makes them feel ill for hours or days after their massage. In cases where there is local inflammation from an injury or a client has autoimmune problems, the body already has too much fire chi (inflamed). Adding heat, even though it feels soothing, may make an issue worse!
Cold Stone Therapy
Cold stone is a wonderful alternative or addition to hot stone therapy. Cooling fire chi with water chi in the form of ice or cold stones on key acupressure points or knotted up muscles can be refreshing and surprisingly relaxing.
Cold stones are applied in the same manner as hot stones, and many clients are surprised to find that the chilly discomfort of a stone only lasts 60 seconds or so. The rush of the cold, like jumping into a cold plunge pool, can create a mild feeling of euphoria, rejuvenation, and peace. Clients choose aromatherapy oils like lemongrass and grapefruit.
The cold acts as an anesthetic, making deep tissue in hypersensitive areas possible. A therapist can better feel exactly where this connective tissue is adhered to itself because the liquid crystal structure of fascia behaves more like a solid when it is cold. Cold tissues contract, forcing out unwanted fluids that may be stagnant. As the tissue warms, new blood arrives with fresh nutrients to promote healing. This is excellent for treating recent injuries where swelling may cause nearby tissues to die because blood cannot get in to feed healthy cells.
Cold stones are also excellent for use on the face to help relieve the fluid retention that causes puffiness around the eyes and jawline. This is also a great choice for those suffering from migraines, TMJ, and clenching. For the face, we combine cold stones with a deep cleansing olive oil to both enliven, refresh, and hydrate all skin types. The oil we use contains an ingredient that allows the oil to be removed almost completely with just a warm towel. This is wonderfully hydrating for mature skin, and many who suffer teenage or adult acne find that the inflammation reducing cold and lightly moisturizing treatment help to balance overactive sebaceous glands and soothe the skin.
The biggest risk with cold therapy is leaving the stone or ice on the body for too long. Temporarily contracting tissues can provide great benefits. However, returning blood flow is important to feeding healthy cells. Those suffering from osteoarthritis may find cold stones placed near joints to be unpleasant.
Combination Hot/Cold Therapy
Hot and cold stones can be used in sequence to really get fluids moving! In a Japanese community bath house, you may notice hot saunas next to cold plunge pools. Visitors often move from one to the other every ten to twenty minutes to encourage the circulation of fluids and blood in the entire body. It is medically proven to be the equivalent of a cardio workout for the heart, lungs, and vascular system!
At Starshine, we use this concept with hot and cold stones to relieve painful joints and chronically tight muscles that other techniques may not be helping. First, the cold addressed the pain-spasm cycle of a nerve leading to a muscle, and then the heat address the overworked muscle tissue.
This combination therapy is often a part of a highly targeted massage session rather than a full body massage. Athletes and those experiencing recent injuries may choose this therapy. Clients prefer aromatherapy oils like cinnamon, wintergreen, eucalyptus and clove with combination hot/cold therapy. Unlike other liniments balms used by athletes and those suffering the aches and pains of age, we choose natural, preservative free bases for our balms rather than the petroleum bases of most off the shelf products.
Hot stone requires some time to heat the stones, and a Starshine therapist will need to know well ahead of time that you would like this technique as a part of your massage. Unlike other therapists and spas, we never charge more for hot stone therapy or aromatherapy. We are happy to serve you a cup for tea or water in our sanctuary-like reception area if you need to wait fifteen to twenty minutes before driving.