by Pat Mayrhofer
There are many variations and protocols for performing effective stone massage. There are also many opinions about important basic facts for offering a safe treatment. My lengthy experience in teaching hot-stone massage gives me the ability to voice my opinion.
The temperature of the water is one of the key ingredients in providing safe stone massage. This is extremely important, not only for the safety of the client, but also because stone massage brings more insurance claims than any other modality. The therapist should be able to handle the stones with her hands and not burn. The stones should be a temperature that is enjoyable for clients, and when handled properly, will not burn them.
In addition, the therapist should be able to reach in the water with her hands to retrieve the stones. If the stones are too hot for the therapist to hold, then they are too hot to use on the client. Time should be spent massaging the client, not retrieving stones, so there should be no extra time taken by using a fish net, spoon or gloves.
At Nature’s Stones, we recommend working at a temperature between 120 degrees Fahrenheit and 130 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on the modality and client’s condition or age. In general terms, for a full-body, hot-stone treatment the best temperature is between 127 degrees Fahrenheit and 130 degrees Fahrenheit. When you work less than 127 degrees Fahrenheit, you are giving a “warm” stone massage, not a hot-stone massage; therefore, the massage is not as effective. Massaging with stones that have been heated to a temperature more than 130 degrees Fahrenheit is too hot for the therapist to safely handle.
If it is necessary for a therapist to use rubber-insulated gloves to retrieve hot stones, then the water is too hot. The use of insulated gloves is not a good practice for three reasons:
- It makes a bad impression on the client; they will not want stones on them if the stones are too hot for the therapist to hold.
- It takes too much time away from the client while the therapist puts on and takes off the gloves.
- Most importantly, gloves are unsanitary. Gloves become rancid from oily hands, and after time they will transmit germs.
When performing a facial massage, or when massaging children or individuals with sensitive skin or skin conditions, the temperature of the water and the stones should be lowered. The recommended temperature for facial massage is 125 degrees Fahrenheit.
Children truly enjoy stone massage; however, their skin is sensitive and requires a lower temperature. The older population can tolerate the recommended temperature of 127 degrees Fahrenheit to 130 degrees Fahrenheit, but the length of the session needs to be adjusted. A full-body massage is not recommended.
Therapists implement many methods to heat stones, such as a towel cabbie, Crock-Pot, electric fry pan and heating pad; however, the safest way to monitor the temperature of the stones is to heat them in water in a massage-stone heater. The use of the massage-stone heater is a subject all by itself and will be discussed in a future article.
To adequately monitor temperature of the stones, a therapist should use a good temperature gauge. I recommend a digital thermometer with a probe, which can easily and quickly be read for the convenience of the therapist; however, even a candy thermometer will do the trick. Be safe, professional and aware. Keep the practice of stone massage and your clients safe.
Please look for future articles on www.MASSAGEmag.com, as I explore the exciting arena of stone massage. I will write about safety issues, contraindications, the expansion of stone therapy to different modalities, the evolution into cold-stone therapy with marble stones and now the resurgence of stone massage with the innovation of carved basalt stones. I will also discuss accessory products, such as massage oil, essential oils, heaters, textiles, DVDs and seminars. I look forward to an ongoing conversation with you.
Pat Mayrhofer is president and founder of Nature’s Stones Inc., an international massage-stone, education and supply company. She is a massage therapist with more than 15 years of experience, having taught for 13 of those years in Italy, Austria, the Dominican Republic and the U.S. Mayrhofer and her staff have created a comprehensive series of live, hands-on training programs, educational DVDs available for distance learning and a line of associated stone and textile products. For more information, visit www.naturestonesinc.com.