The 9 Best Hot Stone Heaters
A Brief History Of Hot Stone Massage
She tinkered with them until she created her own style of massage, which she marketed to great effect.
If there's one thing you can say about humans, it's that we've always been resourceful. Our ancestors didn't have much, so they had to use animal pelts for clothes, trees for spears, and rocks for massage (presumably they also had to walk to school uphill both ways).
That's right — hot stone massage dates back as far as the third millennium B.C.E. It started as a part of Ayurvedic healing, and early practitioners used rocks that they pulled out of streams.
The Chinese were definitely using heated stones over the next 1,000 years, as they believed that they improved the function of internal organs, especially the digestive system.
Use of heated stones began to crop up all over the globe at that point. People as far away as the Americas began to use them for both medical and religious purposes, but it's unknown whether they came up with the idea themselves or if it was brought to them from the Asian subcontinent. Regardless, many tribes in the Americas were so devoted to their use that they took to wearing the stones as jewelry in addition to using them as therapy.
The Greeks and Romans used them in their baths, and in Spain, folk healers used them to ease menstrual pain and help with childbirth.
Whether they were effective for those purposes is up for debate, but what they were good for was relaxing sore, tired muscles. Many Native Americans used them in sweat lodges, and in Hawaii, they were wrapped in leaves and used for pain relief.
While they were used in non-traditional medicine for thousands of years, they didn't make their way into mainstream Western consciousness until the late 20th century C.E., when a woman named Mary Nelson founded LaStone Therapy.
Nelson became acquainted with the technique by accident, as she found a few hot stones and used them to massage her niece in a sauna. She tinkered with them until she created her own style of massage, which she marketed to great effect.
Today, hot stone massage can be found in spas and massage therapy practices all over the world, and millions of people swear by its benefits. It's amazing to think that such an ancient practice could have such a powerful impact today, so maybe our ancestors knew more than we give them credit for.
Why You Need A Hot Stone Heater
If you're hoping to start practicing hot stone therapy at home, whether on yourself or a loved one, then you'll need a heater (otherwise, it's just stone therapy).
Many people think they can skip the heater and just use the microwave, but that's inadvisable for several reasons. It's incredibly difficult to regulate temperature using the microwave, much less achieve an even heat throughout the stone. This could end with you scalding yourself with a rock that's still cold on the inside.
It's up to you if you're willing to chance it, but there seems to be little point in doing so, given how convenient heaters are.
Also, you'll likely find that your stones have a tendency to crack if you microwave them repeatedly. This is because the heat produced is dry, sucking the moisture out of the inside. Some have even been known to explode if left in there too long.
Heaters, on the other hand, are specifically designed for hot stones. Many are made to be filled with water, so you have none of the issues that you'd have from nuking them. They usually have dials with specific temperatures, so you can know exactly how hot the rocks are going to be before you place them on a sensitive area.
Not only that, but they serve as a convenient storage area for your stones when not in use. This prevents you from losing them (and having to pay to replace them), and reduces clutter in your home or business.
You can survive without one, if you so desire, but understand that you'll be taking risks with both your body and your equipment. It's up to you if you're willing to chance it, but there seems to be little point in doing so, given how convenient heaters are.
Plus, it's probably embarrassing to tell people you're going over your rock budget every month.
Does It Really Work?
If you're the skeptical type, you might be tempted to lump hot stone therapy in with other dubious practices like detox cleanses and homeopathic miracles. Hot stone massage has one big advantage right off the bat, though: it feels really good.
Beyond that, though, does it do anything for you?
While in-depth studies are rare, the answer appears to be yes — so long as you don't expect anything too miraculous.
The primary benefit you'll see is relaxed muscles. The stones allow the practitioner to dig into your muscles even deeper than normal, helping them to relax. This can calm spasms and release tension, which can then help reduce pain.
A session can also improve blood flow to affected areas, at least temporarily.
Once you get those muscles to loosen up, don't be surprised if you experience improved flexibility, as well. If you have an injury that limits your range of motion, regular stone massage could help work out the kinks in the muscle, helping you get back to full mobility (but again, don't expect miracles).
A session can also improve blood flow to affected areas, at least temporarily. This can help minimize soreness and counteract symptoms like numbness.
All of this comprises what's known as the relaxation response, which causes reduction in your blood pressure, lowers the level of stress hormones in your body, ups your serotonin levels, and, well, helps you relax. That's why you feel fantastic after a massage — and it represents the primary benefit you should seek from a session.
You should be suspicious of claims that sound too good to be true, however. If you're promised that your meridians will be unblocked or your qi will flow freely, be skeptical. Likewise, if someone tells you it can cure anything more than sore muscles and high stress levels, consider finding a more reputable provider.
Then again, the worst case scenario is you end up getting a massage, so maybe just keep your mouth shut.