by Pat Mayrhofer
Massage stones are one of the best therapeutic tools a massage therapist can have. Massage stones share the work with the therapist, saving his or her hands by alleviating the stress and strain it takes to work deeply. The heat or cold from the massage stones penetrates deeply to relax the muscle and reduce pain and swelling. Any technique a therapist can perform with his or her hands can be accomplished with massage stones more effectively—and with less discomfort to the client.
Manual myofascial release can be a long and tedious procedure, and the therapist may wait awhile for the tissue to respond. When the therapist adds warm massage stones to the myofascial release technique, the process becomes less time-consuming and more effective. To reduce the risk of burning a client, it is important to use warm massage stones rather than hot massage stones. Hot massage stones should never be placed directly on bare skin without moving them. (Warm stones are about 125 to127 degrees Fahrenheit, while hot stones are about 127 to 130 degrees Fahrenheit.)
Trigger-point release is incredibly more effective with massage stones. There are two different techniques to accomplish this release with massage stones. The first way is to apply static pressure. With medium pressure, place a warm massage stone with a rounded end on a trigger point and wait seven to 10 seconds for the restriction to release. It is more effective to repeat the process often, rather than to sustain the pressure for a long period of time. Prolonged pressure on the point may irritate the area or hyper stimulate nerve receptors. Repeating the process gives the tissue an opportunity to allow the blood to flow more easily, carrying toxins away and bringing oxygen to the affected area.
The second method for releasing trigger points with massage stones is with vibration. Place a warm oblong massage stone or a massage stone with a rounded point, holding it upright, on the irritated trigger point. Next, hold a second stone between your thumb and index finger. Tap the first stone with the second stone, using the weight of the second stone to apply appropriate pressure. Tap for seven to 10 seconds to allow the trigger point to release. This vibration method is also effective for releasing stress and tension in larger areas of the body. Place a massage stone flat on the effective area and tap it with a second stone as you continue to move the first stone along the muscle.
Cross-fiber friction is another technique that is enhanced with the use of massage stones. Hold the stones with the long edge of the stone across the fibers you wish to work on. Move in opposing directions to break up the restriction. This method is helpful in gently breaking up scar tissue. Place the edge of the stones on either side of the scar, tilt on an inward angle, and move in opposing directions. When selecting the size of the stone to use, follow this rule: The larger the area to be worked, the larger the stone; the smaller the area to be worked, the smaller the stone.
Stripping a muscle can be uncomfortable for the client. While it is an effective technique to separate muscle fibers, allowing the fibers to move unrestrictedly, it can cause the client some pain. Warm massage stones can make this technique less stressful for the client as well as the therapist. When stripping a muscle, always work from origin to insertion. Without the use of a lubricant, warm the tissue by moving with a flat, hot stone on the skin. Next, raise the stone on an angle and glide with the long edge of the stone through the tissue. After several passes, choose a more narrowedge of the stone and slowly move through the muscle, separating the fibers as you go, making several passes. With the massage stone on its most narrow point, proceed through the tissue with a slow motion. Always keep in mind that the deeper the motion, the slower the movement. Change the massage stone if it cools too much; the warmer the stone, the more effective the treatment.
Each of these techniques is valuable in relieving discomfort in problem areas. The use of massage stones makes all the techniques more effective. Follow my articles as I describe how to help alleviate problem areas in particular muscles using these techniques with massage stones. There are many ways to relieve troubled areas; I will discuss what has worked for my staff and I over the past 16 years.
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 16 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.