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May 2017
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Since ancient times, many cultures and civilisations have been entrusting stones for medicinal purposes to rebalance dystonic chakra and act on vibrations of negative energy. Fire and heat have also always been precious allies for therapeutic means, and combining these elements gives life to hot stone massages. These massages have been practised for thousands of years and they have recently become popular again thanks to the rediscovery of American beauty farms which relaunched this treatment all over the world.

The therapeutic effect is obtained by applying basaltic and volcanic rocks, or even rocks from the Ganges and other river beds, to the body. These stones then release their heat gradually, however each type of stone does so differently and therefore it is good to take the effects of each type of stone into consideration; for instance, a polished stone releases its heat in a slower and more uniform way. The appropriate massage is matched with the effect of the stone and with the problem being treated, and treatment is often accompanied with oils and aromas. A hot stone massage can also be carried out using cold stones though, which is necessary for those who have fragile capillaries: these are the only people for whom a hot stone massage is not recommended.

Hot, cold and alternating stone massages

For a hot massage, lava stones are usually used because of their size and various weights, since different problems require stones of different weights. It is true that stones with manageable shapes are used more often, however, larger stones are often used for larger areas of the body. The stones are heated in water to 65-70°C and some oil is applied to the area where the stone will be placed, and this area is then manipulated by the heat released by the stone (which will have been dried before use). When the stones have released all of their heat, they are replaced with other hot stones.
For cold stone massages, particular types of quartz are used and they are cooled especially for this treatment. This variant of stone massages is particularly good for athletes, as well as for those who have fragile capillaries, since the cold stones stimulate circulation causing the blood vessels to narrow, and this improves toxin removal processes and oxygenation of cells.
The technique of alternating hot and cold stones is recommended for treating muscle injuries and inflammations since it stimulates vasodilatation and vasoconstriction afterwards, as well as having a sedative effect on the nervous system.

The benefits

This type of treatment is generally recommended for:

  • muscle, rheumatic and arthritic pains
  • back pain
  • stress
  • insomnia
  • depression.

It is also recommended for improving circulation. However, this treatment can also bring on other, more specific benefits, especially if carried out together with oils and massages.

A hot stone massage can help to relax rigid muscles, improve joint mobility and relieve tension in the spine, which is the main cause for painful and disabling back problems. Furthermore, it decongests lymphatic deposits, improves water retention, positively affects arterial circulation, improves venous return and helps to detoxify the body by unblocking metabolic exchanges. It also has aesthetic benefits since it smoothes and relaxes the skin.

Hot stone massages do all of this and more since we have not yet mentioned the benefits it has on one’s mood and on the well-being of one’s spirit, which are often considered to be less important than the benefits these massages have on the body. The hot stone technique produces a general feeling of relaxation and well-being and it increases sensitivity towards other people and the world. Moreover, it allows the patient to become more aware of his/her body.

The effects on Chakra

As well as being placed on painful and problematic areas, the stones can also be placed directly on the chakra, according to the holistic conception, in order to improve energy flow inside the body. There are seven principles of chakra and they are considered to be the wheels and doors to energy. ‘Retuning’ a chakra affects both positive and negative energy flow and influences particular moods and aspects of life that the chakra in question is related to.


Hot stone treatment is contraindicated for those who suffer from fragile capillaries, as well as those with open wounds and skin lesions, and if the patient is nauseous and/or has a temperature and inflammed lymphatic veins.

The American technique

The hot stone massage comes from two fundamental traditions: the Ayurvedic and that of the Native Indians from Arizona. The most common treatment practised in the West comes from the USA: many years ago Mary Hannigan Nelson, who is considered to be the founder of the technique used today, combined the traditions of the native Indians with New Age elements, giving rise to a massage ceremony that uses 72 types of stones (54 hot and black stones originating from volcanoes, and 18 white and cold stones, such as marble). This technique involves two main sections: during the first part, the chakra are rebalanced thanks to stimulation from the heat of the stones (only the black stones are heated and used in this section); and during the second part, the white stones are applied. Treatment lasts approximately one hour.

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