Hot stone massage is great for relaxing a painful, achy body but can lead to discomfort and injury when not done properly. This HolisticZine article will take a look at the possible side effects of hot stone massage.
Did you know…
… that black basalt stones are used hot for relieving pains and white marble stones are used cold for reducing swelling.
Hot stone massage has been practiced since ancients times by Native Americans. It employs hot, volcanic stones to relax and soothe the body. The stones used are usually black and made of basalt which retain the heat pretty well. They also have to be very smooth, so as to avoid any injury to the skin. Naturally eroded river stones are said to provide the best effect.
The massage is a variation of the Swedish Massage, wherein the therapist uses heated stones, instead of bare hands, to relax the tissues. Some stones may be placed on pressure points to augment the effect. Hot and cold stones are often combined, to get maximum effect and stimulate the skin. It is said that the heat from the stones reaches deep in the tissue, and aids in relieving the various aches and pains. The massage and high temperature may also improve circulation and it is often used to relax tense or strained muscles.
Side Effects of Hot Stone Massage
Although the hot stone massage is generally considered safe, some individuals may experience certain adverse effects.
Scalding and Burning
While most trained therapist are careful, there is a chance of the stone heating too much. This can lead to burns, scalding and tissue damage. Complicating the matter further is the fact that some people might be more sensitive to heat and pressure than others, especially those with Type 1 skin type as per the Fitzpatrick Scale. This type of skin is characterized by a pale to very pale color and is often accompanied with light blue or green eyes and blonde hair.
Bruised and/or Sore Skin
Many people feel a bit sore for a couple of days, especially those with low pain-tolerance and sensitive skin. The use of excess pressure by the therapist can also lead to bruising.
Pain or Discomfort
Some people do feel that their pains are amplified after a hot stone massage, reducing their pain threshold. Discomfort and stiffness too, are often heard complaints.
Increased Sensitivity to Heat
This treatment is said to improve circulation which may, in some people, increase the body’s sensitivity to heat and lead to hot flashes, dizziness and headaches. Hence, this massage is not recommended for menopausal women and those taking certain medication, particularly hormones.
Increased Risk of Infection
The use of stones involves intimate contact with the skin – the oil used to avoid abrasions and the pressure used during the massage mean that the stones slough-off skin. This inadvertent exfoliation also means that the stone comes in contact with infectious agents (bacteria, virus, fungus, etc.) that might be present on the skin. Further increasing the risk is the fact that spas are not required by law to change the water after each treatment. Although, the high heat and sanitizers used in the stone bath are sufficient to kill most bacteria, the risk of an infection still persists.
The heat and movement of stones on the body increases the blood flow to the surface of the skin, which means more water is being lost through the skin pores and might cause dehydration, which in turn might result in headache or dizziness.
A few other side effects that people experience are:
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Runny nose
- Increased perspiration or sweating
Almost all kinds of massages are generally considered safe with no known serious side effects. However, an inexperienced therapist can cause serious damage resulting in burns, tissue damage and even permanent scarring. For these reasons, it is always advised to go to a certified and experienced therapist. You also need to inform the therapist if you are pregnant, taking certain medications, or are suffering from certain health conditions, like asthma or allergies.