What Is a Hot Stone Massage? Benefits and What to Expect

BY: Anam Ather |Mar 19, 2020


It’s a bit of a catch-22: people get massages to relax their muscles, yet extremely tense muscles can actually make the massage less effective. That’s where a hot-stone massage can really help. The heat from the stones penetrates into the muscles and helps loosen them up so the therapist can provide a deeper and more relaxing massage quicker.

What is a hot-stone massage?

With this treatment, a licensed massage therapist will typically use smooth black basalt rocks or river rocks that have been heated to a uniform temperature in a water bath. Basalt stones are very rich in iron, which makes them particularly great at retaining heat and are even believed to help improve the flow of energy in your body.

The therapist will then either place the hot stones on specific points along the body to create soothing pressure or use them to actually massage muscles with steady pressure.

Hot-stone massage benefits

In addition to loosening muscles, the heat from the massage stones opens up blood vessels and improves circulation. Improved circulation allows more oxygen to be delivered to the muscles, which helps alleviate aches and pains. Other massage benefits may include:

  • Chronic-pain relief
  • Reduced stress and anxiety
  • Enhanced flexibility

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Hot-stone massage techniques

The stones should never be uncomfortably hot, and it is important to let the therapist know if they are. As a therapist at Chicago’s Allure De Vie Spa informed one of our beauty editors, heated stones can be warmed anywhere between 100º and 150º Fahrenheit. For facial massages, it’s a little lower, as the skin on the face is more sensitive than the rest of the body.

For advice on how to politely tell a massage therapist if something doesn’t feel good, read our massage etiquette tips.

The history of hot-stone therapy

The use of hot stones is an ancient practice. It’s been documented as far back as 2,000 years ago in China, and it surfaces in a multitude of cultures over the ages. There was a bit of a delay, though, between these storied practices and the emergence of modern hot-stone massage.