What's it all about: Hot Stones Massage

Heard of hot stones massage but never tried it? Wondered how stones could give you a good massage experience? Read on to find out more...

Where did it come from?

Surprisingly enough, in the ancient world of massage, hot stones is really quite a new idea. And its origins may surprise you – they certainly did me! I was expecting thousand year old ritual but the reality is slightly different.

Of course, for thousands of years, the benefits of using heat to help with pain discomfort, and as an aid to relaxation have long been known and stones have been used as tools since man first learned how to pick them up.

In India, as far back as 5,000 years ago, heated stones were placed on the body as part of Ayurvedic treatment.

In China, as long as 2,000 years ago, sharpened stones called Bian Stones were used to treat various ailments in a very basic form of what we would now call acupuncture. Heat would be applied by the process of moxabustion, where the herb mugwort is burned and the heat caused by combustion used increase circulation to different specific parts of the body.

In a centuries old Native American ritual designed to cleanse the body and spirit, known as a Sweat Lodge, heated stones are enclosed in a dome shaped tipi and water poured over the top to create intense heat and steam.

Hawaiians also used heated stones wrapped in Ti leaves, which were believed to have healing properties, and placed on to the body.

But, it seems that whilst heated stones have been around for a long time, no one actually thought to use them to give a massage until recently. And I mean really recently…. you may be surprised to learn that it wasn’t until 1993 that modern day Hot Stones Massage was formed!

In America, suffering from repetitive strain injuries in her arms and wrists, massage therapist Mary Nelson was sitting in a sauna with her niece when, guided by her Native American spirit guide, she was suddenly compelled to pick up one of the stones and use it to massage her niece. Discovering how amazing it felt Mary began to develop modern day hot stone massage, which she names LaStone Therapy. Although in it’s infancy as a therapy, the benefits are many.

So you just put the some stones on and leave me to lie there, right?

No! We’ve all seen those pictures of a blissful lady lying on a massage table smiling, flowers in her hair, a row of smooth stones carefully placed down her spine. The reality of a hot stones massage is completely different. I use basalt volcanic stones to give the massage; that is, they are not just plonked on and left there while we go off to have a cup of tea (that would be great!), but instead used as an extension of the therapist’s body. Held in the palm of the hand, the stones are rolled across the muscles, spreading delicious heat through the body and working through tension.

I switch between heated stones and hands to massage the muscles throughout the massage. When appropriate, I sometimes use a large stone wrapped in a towel which is placed on the lower back and left to radiate heat like a hot water bottle. The placement of the stone doesn’t interrupt the massage. The stones come in all shapes and sizes perfect for each part of the body from the huge sacral placement stone to teeny weeny toe stones!

Who would enjoy hot stones massage?

The image of hot stones massage brings to mind a luxury spa break, and indeed, hot stones can be deeply relaxing. Wrapping your body in a blanket of heat, especially on those cold winter days, is absolute bliss and can really allow you to drift off to another level of relaxation. However, there are also some really useful applications for this concentrated, penetrating heat.

The heat stimulates sensory receptors to reduce pain and increases blood flow bringing nutrients to the area and flushing out debris and waste. This can reduce joint stiffness and muscle tension.

For those suffering with chronic, stubborn tension, hot stones are great for helping to release muscles. Heat from the stones really sinks deep into the muscle fibres, helping them to soften more quickly and enabling the therapist to work deeper with less discomfort for you.

Stones can be used throughout the whole massage and on any area, or they can be used just to target specific areas with the therapist using hands to work into tension too.

What else do I need to know?

The stones can be super hot, or quite hot, or just a little bit hot. Just as the pressure of a massage can be adjusted, so can the heat of the stones. I’ll ask how it feels and make sure the temperature is right for you.

There is no extra cost for using Hot Stones in a massage. All you have to do is let me know when you book your appointment and I’ll make sure they’re ready for you.

Would you like to book a hot stones massage for yourself or someone you know? Any questions I haven’t answered? What’s your experience of Hot Stones Massage? Do you enjoy it? E-mail me at or comment on my faceook page

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