I've heard this question many times when I am describing what I do. Some are intrigued or curious, some think it sounds terrific and some think it's probably not very comfortable. When done properly, a hot stone massage is a wonderful tool in getting into tight and knotted muscles. It's also VERY comfortable and relaxing!
One thing that is often misleading is the use of stock photos which show a person lying face down with stones placed on their back. That makes for a pretty picture but it's not a stone massage. While sometimes a hot stone is wrapped in a towel and placed on the upper or lower back, a stone massage is not just the laying on of hot stones - the stones are heated and oiled and then the massage is done with the stones. All stones used are basalt, which hold heat well and are polished smooth and rounded. Heat is a terrific aid in relaxing muscles, as anyone who has used a heating pad knows. The stones are comfortably warm, warmer than body temperature, but not so hot as to be uncomfortable - I will never touch anyone with a stone that I cannot comfortably hold in my hand! I also employ a technique called 'hovering' in which the stone is held just barely above the skin and moved around, to warm the area up first before actually touching it with the stone. If a stone ever feels too hot to you, speak up! You should never feel heat enough to be uncomfortable, it should just plain ol' feel good.
Stone massage can be performed with Swedish or deep tissue techniques. The Swedish will be more relaxing and use more of the flat side of the stone, the deep tissue will involve deeper pressure and the edges will be used in some areas. The heat and pressure of the stones allow deeper pressure without discomfort, because the muscles are so relaxed. Neuromuscular techniques can also be used to release constricted areas. Working with your breathing pattern and holding the stone with increasing pressure in the area being worked on, (such as around the scapula or on the trapezius) can aid in releasing myofascia and tense areas. (Myofascia is the sheath membrane enclosing all muscles. It has a habit of tightening up sometimes.)
Hot stone massages require a minimum of an hour's notice, to allow the stones to fully heat. All stones and warmers are washed and dried between each client. Massage can done entirely with hot stone, or combined with Swedish or deep tissue massage - some people like having the stones used just on their back and regular massage for legs and arms. . Sessions can be tailored to your preference. For the ultimate in a hot stone massage, you can request that essential oils be added, for an aromatherapy stone massage!