Stone Massage: A Recipe for Success

A Q and A with Pat Mayrhofer, founder, Nature’s Stone Healing Therapy™

Editor’s note: Was there a day spa in the stone age?  If so, we’ll bet the therapist used stones. Is there anyone more experienced in the development of stone work with massage therapy than Pat Mayrhofer? We doubt it. Pat is highly attuned to the integrity of stone massage work; we share some of her indispensable advice below . Even if you missed it, you can still register and access Pat’s presentation during the March 5th Tools for Touch™ CE webinar. Pat offered a live stone massage video demo during her presentation, Massage Stone Basics.

Pat, why is temperature so important with stone massage?

In many ways, giving a massage is like cooking a great meal. A recipe will take you so far, but it’s that special extra flair that makes one great chef different from the next. This unique human factor is part of what makes our work so valuable. But as in cooking, there are times to “wing it,” and times to make sure you follow certain guidelines. And figuring out the temperature of your massage stones is one of those times.

What’s the ideal temperature?

Generally speaking, stones should be at a temperature between 120° F and 130° F, depending on the modality as well as the client’s age and condition. For a full-body hot stone treatment, the best temperature is between 127° F and 130° F. Yes, this is pretty specific! Less than 127°, and you’re giving a warm stone massage rather than a hot stone massage. This is still quite pleasant, but not always as effective. More than 130°, and your stones are no longer safe for your client’s body – or your hands!

What’s the best way to gauge the temperature of the stones?

There’s a really quick way to tell whether your stones are too hot: if you can’t reach into the water with your bare hands to pick them up, turn down the temperature! Using rubber gloves to retrieve stones from the water means not only that you won’t be able to tell whether your water is too hot, it also creates a breeding ground for bacteria when you stick oily hands inside them.

When should you use lower temperatures than 127°?

The face is a sensitive area, and so 125° is ideal for facial massage. Children also have more sensitive skin than adults, and so you would also want to lower the temperature of your stones accordingly when working with them. Most elderly clients can tolerate the recommended temperature of 127°, but you may need to adjust the length of the session. Of course, when in doubt about whether something feels comfortable to your client, don’t hesitate to ask!

What kind of thermometer do you recommend?

A good thermometer doesn’t cost much, but will keep your clients safe and do wonders for your peace of mind. A digital thermometer with a probe is best, but a candy thermometer will do in a pinch too.

What should massage therapists be aware of when trying to decide which stone massage training is best?

Pat TFT demoBeware of any training that showcases hot stones on bare skin. In the photographer’s eye it is very appealing to see beautiful black stones lying on a client’s back.  However this gives the wrong Impression of what stone therapy should be. First of all a therapist should NEVER place a hot stone on bare skin without moving it; this is how people get burned. Sadly, there are beautifully styled photos of gorgeous models with hot stones on their bare skin everywhere – so you can understand why some therapists mistakenly think this is the way stone therapy is performed. Not knowing the right way to do stone massage work can be dangerous to clients,

How does healing stone massage benefit the massage therapist?

The benefits to the therapist are many.

  1. Softens muscle so therapist can work more deeply with less effort.
  2. Client is more likely to return because of less discomfort with better results.
  3. The heat of the stones helps the therapist’s hands.
  4. Additional modality increases earning power.

What if you’re new to stone massage and not sure how to integrate it with your existing massage work?

If you’re new to hot stone massage or are self-taught, it can be extremely helpful to take an introductory class, which can take you through not only safety and hygiene, but how to help your clients have a truly enjoyable experience with hot stones. Learn more and register here for Pat’s Stone Massage Basics webinar. She’ll show you how you can make stone massage a part of your massage practice and you’ll be able to earn CE credits!