By Laura Gordon
Let me ask you this, do you know what it’s like to be comforted under the weight of warmth? How about soothed by the cooling effect of a smooth surface? Well, you haven’t lived or at least relaxed as completely as you can until you experience a warm or cool stone massage – both treatments are members of what is called Geothermal Therapy.
It is the vasodilatation of the warm stones and the vasoconstriction of the cool stones that makes this therapy unique in its short term or long term application. Short term being 5 minutes or less and long term being 5 minutes or more.
The stones most effective for Warm Stone Therapy are basalt, or volcanic stone. Their composition includes olivine and iron-magnesium silicate. On a scale of 1 to 10, the diamond being the hardest, basalt is about a 7 and due to its density and crystalline makeup, a basalt stone retains and evenly transfers heat. The stones are warmed in hot water and placed in a pattern on the back along each side of the vertebrae as well as on the hamstrings and more. The warmth and weight of the stone has a calming as well as a comforting effect on the body. Meanwhile the warmth penetrating into the body, causing vasodilatation, improves oxygen supply to cells, elimination of metabolic wastes, relief of soreness, tension and stiffness thereby improving range of motion (ROM) and reduction of pain, promotes a sense of well-being, increases circulation of blood as well as lymph fluid and this is only half of a long list of benefits. The benefits for the massage therapist include a more deeply relaxed client whose muscles are more pliable for work into deeper layers of tissue.
Meanwhile going from hot to cold, marble is applied cool or even cold to the body creating vasoconstriction. They are placed much the same as the warm stone pattern on the back and include other areas such as the face. Marble is a soft stone (3 or 4 in hardness as compared to basalt) made from sea life that sunk to the bottom of the ocean floor and compressed into a solid limestone that eventually became marble It has been found to be the most appropriate stone in smoothness and weight. Though crystals and gemstones can be used as well, it is the marble that retains its coolness longer because of its denser composition. The benefits of applying cool stones includes helpful for injuries or over exertion by reducing swelling and inflammation, alleviates anxiety, soothes sinus problems, eases menstrual symptoms, boosts circulation and revitalizes energy levels. The benefits for the massage therapist include a client soothed by the cool stones, more relaxed and enjoying an altered state of consciousness.
Can you think of anyone in your life right now who would benefit from either or both therapies? Please, comment below and state their symptom(s), which therapy you would use, and where else you would place the stones besides along the vertebrae column.
Resources: “Warm Stone Discussion”, Carolyn E. Nimmo-Webber, Massage Magazine, July 2006 and “Cold Stone Massage” at www.livestrong.com