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The Therapeutic Riches of Stone

The process of using thermal (hot) and cold stones in Spa and Salons is well known but there is a lot more to thermal stones that meets the skin. The relaxation process is enhanced by application of thermal stones which release endorphins and dilate blood capillaries. The overall effect can be so soporiphic that time, space and stone can just melt into one and take you to other wonderful places!

 But don’t sell stones short. There are many therapeutic benefits waiting to be released from deep within the thermal depths of your stones. In fact, I would argue that a massage therapist who doesn’t use thermal stones as part of their practice is foregoing one of the best remedial tools they have, second only to their hands.

One of the key physiological advantages of using thermal stone is the increase of metabolic activity; direct and sustained application of warm stone to areas of tight or dysfunctional tissue increases chemical reactions in the body (Van Hoff’s Law, for those who are into the science of it all) boosting the flow of nutrient-filled blood to tight muscle, ligament and fascia.

 Thermal stones are the hidden ‘gift’ for remedial, myofascial and trigger point therapists and will also ease the tension of their hard-working hands and fingers. Heat from thermal stones also diminishes pain and reduces ‘muscle guarding’. The therapist is able to influence muscle on a more sustained and deeper level without client discomfort. The ‘loosening’ effect of heated stone on scar tissue may also improve fibre alignment and reduce the tendency for scar tissue to adhere to other tissue around it. I have regularly used my thermal stones to assist in increasing the range of motion for pre and post- operative knee replacement clients who often present with uncomfortable formations of scar tissue.

There are also possible reflex effects of thermal stone; relief from respiratory congestion, increased filtration of the kidneys and diminishing pain for sufferers of fibromyalgia. The positive consequence thermal stone can have on the nervous system cannot be overlooked; heat from correctly applied thermal stones diminishes pain and has an ‘analgesic’ effect – all without the use of pharmaceuticals.

Stones ‘aint just stones!

The tactile therapist uses pressure, texture and heat in their hands to apply their therapy. Thermal stones are no different except of course, they do not have the exquisite palpatory literacy that the massage therapist possesses. Sedimentary stone, such as sandstone crumbles and does not retain heat. Igneous stones like crystal and slate, crack easily but both volcanic stone varieties (basalt and sedimentary/metamorphic) mimic and enhance a tactile therapist’s hands.

Basalt is an ancient stone and affords you a wonderful therapeutic massage tool. The Australian stones I have found are three hundred million years old sedimentary/metamorphic and offer heat endurance, texture and organic shapes to match body contours, however both volcanic stone varieties provide the possibilities of immense therapeutic value for you and your client.

Also worthy of a mention are the beautiful New Zealand basalt/sedimentary stones with the wonderful geological name of ‘Greywacke’ that I use in my massage process to release the psoas muscle. These stones are larger and flatter than their Australian counterparts and deliver broad, even warm pressure over the pelvic area. They can be used to diminish the possibility of initiation of the ‘fear reflex’ while palpating the pelvic area. They also assist in relieving menstrual cramping and may alleviate pain associated with endometriosis.

Stone shape and size; relaxation to remedial

We are familiar with the image of ‘hot’ stones warming backs but the remedial stone is ‘employed to work’. Turning, spinning, edging, resting and packing are all part of a taxonomy I use to describe what stones of different shapes and sizes can do in the hands of a physiotherapist, osteopath or massage therapist.

Heating it up

The lasting exothermic properties of these remedial stones can have contra-indications; if the stone is too hot for the client’s skin then mistrust, not to mention scalding or burns can result.  Working thermal stones should be no more than 40 degrees Celsius and using a professional stone heater with thermostatic controls is essential.

 Every client has a different level of sensitivity to heat on their body, as does the working therapist and it is essential that if you are introducing remedial thermal stone in your practice you seek out proper training.  Certification courses, including my own are run regularly for professional tactile therapists in the Australia, New Zealand, UK and Europe.

Thermal stones cannot improve your palpatory literacy but they do offer the skilled therapist an ideal therapeutic tool for enhancing clinical outcomes on both a physiological and psychological level in the clinical setting. The riches of stones are there for you to mine for you and your client.

Looking forward to seeing you in a stone workshop soon.

Greg Morling

Greg runs the premier workshops on how to use thermal stones in your Spa, Salon or Clinic. He can be contacted at or on 0409600300

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