Written By: Sarah Tait
Even during the best of times, hot stone massages can do wonders for your mental and physical health. In addition to easing muscle tension and pain, this age-old treatment has ample stress-reducing effects that will put you in a tranquil state of mind.
The benefits of hot stone massages are particularly useful during the stressful times that we are living through in 2020. While each of our situations may be unique, we are all undoubtedly feeling the weight of the current pandemic. It is therefore critical that we do what we can to look after ourselves, and a hot stone massage with a Registered Massage Therapist (RMT) is one great way to re-calibrate your mental and physical state.
Whether or not you have had a hot stone massage before, you may be wondering if this treatment is safe during a pandemic and if the stones can be sanitized in accordance with COVID standards. The answer will surely please you as hot stone massages certainly are safe as long as your RMT is following proper cleansing guidelines.
In this article we will discuss what hot stone massages are, their incredible benefits, and how the stones can be sanitized in order to ensure a safe and effective treatment during COVID.
What is a hot stone massage?
The long, successful history of hot stone massages should be enough to entice you to try one. With roots in Ayurvedic medicine, hot stones have been used to soothe ailments for centuries in India, China and the Americas.
Lasting an average of 90 minutes, hot stone massages involve a therapist applying a warm, palm-sized basalt stone on various parts of the body including the spine, stomach, palms, legs and thighs, and on various pressure points. The massage therapist will facilitate muscle relaxation by using a variety of Swedish massage techniques such as long strokes, circular movements and kneading.
While hot stones come in many different forms, most massage therapists use basalt stones due to their heat retaining and healing properties. These small, flat stones are a type of volcanic rock that are naturally shaped and polished by the earth’s elements. The natural stones are perfectly smooth and ideal for providing a relaxing experience for the client.
Benefits of hot stone massages
Massages in general are wonderfully relaxing, but those done with hot stones are even more divine. These unique massages work to soothe both your body and your soul and leave you feeling completely at ease.
The many benefits of hot stone massages include:
- A deep sense of relaxation and stress relief (raise your hand if you could go for that right now!)
- Improved sleep due to increased relaxation and lowered anxiety
- Reduced muscle tension and pain resulting in increased flexibility and range of motion
- Improved blood circulation which helps to reduce micro-tears in muscles
- A heightened immune system due to a decrease in arginine-vasopressin (a hormone that helps regulate blood pressure and water retention)
Though we are only scratching the surface with the health benefits of hot stone massages, this list should be enough to convince you to give it a shot. The ancient techniques employed during hot stone massages will certainly help restore your physical and mental health in 2020 and onwards.
How to ensure proper cleansing techniques
Many industries are adjusting to a new normal and the massage therapy industry is no exception. Licensed therapists are keeping a keen eye on their sanitizing practices in order to ensure that they keep their clients completely safe and at ease during treatments. Those who offer hot stone massage treatments are working diligently to clean all equipment, including their hot stones, in accordance with COVID standards.
We spoke with two Winnipeg-based RMTs in order to get their recommendations on how to effectively sanitize equipment, including hot stones, after treatments. Barb Cantley RMT, owner of Stone Lotus Massage and Larysa Resler RMT, both teach hot stone courses and are well-versed in proper cleansing practices.
Here are some important steps that diligent RMTs are taking in order to ensure safe hot stone massages:
- Massage therapists should leave approximately 10-15 minutes between each appointment in order to properly sanitize their rooms. This will allow them time to clean all solid surfaces, change linens and prepare for their next treatment.
- Massage therapists should thoroughly wash their hands after each treatment.
- Finally, therapists should spend 20 minutes sanitizing stones after a treatment.
While each step is equally important, the last one mentioned is crucial as basalt stones are porous and can absorb oils, dirt and debris just like our hands and fingernails. There are several ways to properly cleanse stones, but Barb Cantley suggests the following method:
- Add mild dish soap or stone wash with 1 tbsp of bleach to hot water.
- Place stones in the sink or basin. Wash and scrub each stone. The small amount of bleach will kill bacteria.
- Drain and rinse stones well with clean, hot water.
- Lay all stones on a clean towel and allow to air dry.
- Prior to use, heat stones at 56 °C / 130-140 °F. Use a few drops of tea tree essential oil in your tank for additional anti-bacterial and cleansing properties.
Larysa Resler also recommends spraying the stones with a purifying spray or alcohol spray prior to step 5. As an alternative method to the above strategy, she also suggests placing the stones in a dishwasher on high heat or sanitize cycle. “It’s like a mini tsunami wash for your hands,” explains Resler. “They come out perfectly clean every time!”
Relax literally and figuratively with a hot stone massage
With all that is going on in the world, it is surely a relief to know that there is a solution to your stress and/or any aches and pains that you may be experiencing. The icing on top of the cake is knowing that the solution will keep you safe and healthy as long as you seek out a knowledgeable and diligent massage therapist.
Prior to booking, we highly recommend having a conversation with your massage therapist and asking her or him what methods they follow in order to ensure a safe massage. Always check to make sure that they are following proper safety precautions that follow up-to-date COVID standards. Do your due diligence as a client – you’ll be happy that you did!
Enjoy your safe and soothing hot stone massage!