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What Is Hot Stone Massage & What Are Its Health Benefits?

There are several types of massage therapy which offer us great relief from pain and various other conditions. Hot stone massage is one such type of massage therapy that is helpful in relaxing and easing tense muscles and also treat damaged soft tissues all throughout the body. Let us know more about hot stone massage and also about its health benefits.

What is a Hot Stone Massage?

What is a Hot Stone Massage?

Hot stone massage is primarily used for releasing muscle tensions and muscle pain and also for several other health benefits. During this massage therapy, smooth, flat, and heated stones are placed on the affected parts of the body. These stones are basically made of basalt that is a type of volcanic rock that helps in retaining heat. The hot massage stones are heated to somewhere around 130 degrees to 145 degrees.

These hot massage stones can be placed along the spine, on the chest, on the stomach, on palms, on the face, on feet and toes. These stones will be used by your massage therapists as they massage the body using Swedish massage techniques, like the circular movements, long strokes, tapping, vibration, and kneading.

At times cold stones are also used during a hot stone massage therapy. These cold stones are used after the use of hot stones, so as to calm any engorged blood vessels and also to soothe your skin.

What Are Its Health Benefits of Hot Stone Massage?

Now, what exactly are the things that make hot stone massage such a great therapy? Let us discuss about some of the health benefits of hot stone massage in this section.

It Helps In Relieving Muscle Tension And Muscle Pain:

Heat is known to ease muscle tension and muscle pain since long. Heat helps in increasing the flow of blood to your affected area and it might reduce the muscle spasms and improve the flexibility as well as the range of motion. We know that cold therapy relieves inflammation. So, depending on the symptoms, alternative hot and cold stones might be used during the massage,

Hot Stone Massage Promotes Sleep:

What could be better than a good and uninterrupted night sleep? Hot stone massage can be helpful in promoting your sleep. There are various studies that show that hot stone massage can help in promoting relaxation, better sleep, and also reduce stress and anxiety.

As per a literature review of the year 2006, it is found that massage might be a good alternative to sleeping pills in adults who suffer from insomnia.(1) The research explained that back massage actually assisted in promoting relaxation and better sleep. A study of 2001 showed that infants having sleep issues who were given a massage for 15 minutes by their parents, went to sleep quite faster.(2) In addition, they were also more active, alert, and positive upon getting up. Massage is thought to benefit you in getting more restorative sleep.

There are many people who do not sleep properly. It might be due to stress, busy schedules, or insomnia that gets them less than 7-8 hours of sleep every night.

According to a review, the literature on the effectiveness of massage has shown that it benefits in promoting relaxation and sleep in case of older individuals.(3)

Hot Stone Massage Reduces Stress And Anxiety:

It is known from several studies that hot stone massage can reduce anxiety and stress. We already know that massage therapy, in particular is effective enough in reducing stress. As per a study of the year 2001, it is found that a 10-minute of massage improved cardiovascular responses, like a stroke volume.(4) Another study during 1997 found that 15-minutes of massage during a break in workplace, has reduced stress significantly compared to a 15-minute break without massage.(5)

A study of 2015 has found that those individual who underwent abdominal colorectal surgery, had experienced less tension, pain, and anxiety after receiving massage after their operation.(6)

Improved Blood Circulation Benefits of Hot Stone Massage:

Hot stone massage is also known to improve blood circulation. Generally massage therapists allow the hot stones to rest on the trigger points in the body of an affected individual before actually beginning the actually massage. When the heat from these heated stones penetrate into the deeper tissues of your body, your blood vessels open up, thus leading to an improved blood circulation.

A poor circulation of blood can result in fatigue, which in turn tenses your muscles, and results in a buildup of lactic acid and fluid in your muscles. An increased blood circulation would deliver more oxygen to the muscles, which can help in easing pains and aches of your body.

It Might Help In Reducing Symptoms Of Cancer:

A large study of three years that was published in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management has examined how massage has affected fatigue, pain, anxiety, and stress, along with nausea, and depression in 1290 individuals suffering from cancer.(7)

As per the study it was explained that massage, particularly the Swedish massage has improved the symptoms of cancer, even in people with substantial symptoms. It is believed by researchers that the comforting use of human touch exactly played the role in this.

Hot Stone Massage Might Relieve Symptoms Of Autoimmune Diseases:

Fibromyalgia is a condition that results in widespread, chronic or severe pain. It is found that this condition could be improved with hot stone massage. As per a study of 2002, individuals having the condition of fibromyalgia who received a 30-minutes of massage were found to sleep longer, had lesser trigger points, and also had reduced levels of Substance P or a substance that involved in transmitting pain signals, than those individuals having the condition and who received relaxation therapy.(8) It is required to have more research in this regards, before using massage as a standard treatment for fibromyalgia.

According to a study of the year 2013, it was found that those people who have rheumatoid arthritis might get enough benefit from a moderate-pressure massage, like the hot stone massage.(9) It was found that participants in this study experienced lesser pain, greater strength of grip, and a greater range of motion after a month of the massage therapy.

So, we can say that hot stone massage might be essential in relieving symptoms of some autoimmune diseases.

It Benefits In Improving Immunity:

Hot stone massage boosts your immune system. As per a study of 2010, one single session of Swedish massage therapy had an acute and positive impact on immunity.(10)

It was shown from the blood samples taken before and after the massage; that there was a reduction in a hormone called, arginine-vasopressin, that regulates blood pressure and also water retention.

Benefits of Hot Stone Massage in Increasing Joint Flexibility:

Muscle tension can actually make it very hard or more painful for moving your joints. Massaging helps in relaxing the muscles, which makes it pretty easier and more comfortable for the joint movement or flexibility.

You might get fair benefits from hot stone massage, if you are suffering from some specific kinds of joint disorders.

Risks Of Hot Stone Massage and Warnings:

A hot stone massage is usually safe when performed by an expert and well trained massage therapist. However, there are certain conditions or circumstances where you should avoid this type of massage therapy. For example, avoid this Massage if you take blood thinners or have a bleeding disorder, if you have open wounds or burns on the skin, in case you have a history of blood clots, in case there is a fracture or if you suffer from severe osteoporosis, if you had surgery in the last 6 weeks, or in case there is a low platelet count or if you have diabetes.

You should also avoid the hot stone massage if you are pregnant or you need to talk with your doctor before taking any massage in your pregnancy phase.

You also need to note that in order to prevent burns during hot stone massage, there must be a barrier, such as a clean towel, between the heated massage stone and the skin. You must also not use the hot stones which have been heated using slow cooker, microwave, oven, or hot plate.


So there are several studies which show the effectiveness of hot stone massage in reducing various conditions such as stress, anxiety, pain, and muscle tension. However, more studies are required to find out the exact reason why and how this therapy has got such a potential impact in promote good health or easing various health conditions.

In order to experience the benefits of hot stone massage you need to look for a massage therapist who is actually trained to work with heated stones. It is for sure you will have a great experience while the hot stone massage if you have an expert massage therapist to ease your painful or stressful conditions.


Also Read:

Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Sheetal DeCaria, M.D. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:January 8, 2020

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