What to expect during a hot stone massage

For many, the ultimate spa indulgence is a hot stone massage. But it turns out this sensual treat may even promote your good health by lowering stress, relieving pain and promoting relaxation.

Hot stone massage uses two powerful stress-busting components: heat and traditional massage techniques.

According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, some studies found use of heat effective in controlling pain, while research suggests that massage can fight anxiety, tension, depression and stress hormones including cortisol and catecholamine.

The American Massage Therapy Association also conducted a survey in which 90 percent of respondents reported that massage was effective in reducing pain. Massage also can enhance your feeling of well-being, improve circulation and promote healthy sleep.

Here's what to expect at your hot stone massage:

• Similar to a traditional massage, you will recline onto a massage table. Some facilities use heated tables.

• Your massage therapist will have prepared several hot, smooth stones by heating them in a hot stone cooker or crockpot. Basalt is a favored choice of many spas because of the rock's ability to retain heat.

• Soothing scents may be added to the heated water to further relax you. Your massage therapist might add chamomile, a calming scent, or ylang ylang, a natural anti-depressant. If you suffer from migraines, peppermint and rosemary may be used. If you are looking for arthritis or joint pain relief, your therapist may use ginger.

• The heated stones will be gently placed on the muscles on either side of the spine to promote deep tissue relaxation. Smaller stones may be placed between the fingers and toes to warm and relax the area.

• Next, the massage therapist will gently glide the hot stones over your body. As the stones cool, your therapist will select other stones until your muscles are completely relaxed.

Although hot stone massage has gained popularity in recent years, many therapists do not recommend hot stone massage for women who are pregnant. As always, consult your doctor about this or any other medical concerns you may have.

Also, make sure you book your appointment with a reputable Charlotte massage therapist. Angie’s List can help connect you with a therapist who is licensed and comes highly rated by members in your area. Making sure your therapist has proper credentials is essential with hot stone massage, as you could be scalded, burned or bruised in the hands of an amateur.

The facility at which you receive your massage should be clean and sterilize all materials and equipment – including the basalt stones – between clients. If you’re unsure if this was done, don't be afraid to ask.

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