Rockin’ all over the world! Hot Stone Fusion for the Treatment of Pain: By Rachel Fairweather and Meghan Mari

Hands up if you thought hot stone massage was just a bit of luxury with no therapeutic effects; a bit of relaxation but not the domain of serious massage therapists aiming to alleviate and prevent musculo- skeletal pain. If so, cast your eye over the following comments from therapists and clients who have experienced the true power of Hot Stone massage taught the Jing way – a blend of creative and effective stone work known as HOT STONE FUSION.

“One of my clients had been in chronic pain with his neck after whiplash in two consecutive car crashes EIGHT years ago. He had never felt safe or comfortable enough to have anyone touch his neck. He came to me and we worked gently on the area with the heat of the stones. He was so relaxed by the use of the stones but tensed up as soon as I put my (loving!) hands on his neck. We worked very deeply into trigger points and stretching with the stones and the results were incredible – after only two sessions he was pain free”

“I have had massages with a therapist who did the stone course with you. I suffer from back pain that ranges from dull to piercing. Normally I would go for a purely therapeutic massage, but wanted to try the stones. Not only was the treatment amazing, but I had more pain relief from the use of placement stones and heated stones used to strip the muscles than I have had from any massage in a long time. While I adore just about every type of massage, the therapeutic qualities of Hot Stone Fusion massage outstrips them all. I got a relaxation massage and a pain relief massage all in the same 85 minute session!”

“As a writer I spend long periods sitting at my PC, and have experienced a succession of different types of pain in my back and shoulders. After just one session of Hot Stone Fusion Massage, my back has improved and my shoulders haven’t felt so good in years. Fantastic!”

These results are not unusual. If you are taught to use the stones effectively and specifically, you have at your disposal an amazing tool that will help you to:

o Alleviate both acute and chronic pain
o Effectively address injury rehabilitation
o Save your hands
o Work deeply in a gentle and more effective way
o Delight your clients
o Build your practice
o Earn more money

Back to Basics- the power of hot and cold in therapeutic treatment

Why should using the stones be so helpful in the treatment of pain? The answer lies in the age old use of hot and cold as a therapeutic modality- Physiotherapists, naturopaths and osteopaths are well aware of the efficacy of thermal modalities in bodywork, as was your mother who gave you a hot water bottle to soothe your sore belly when you were a child. Yet we find that massage therapists tend to be less informed about the therapeutic effects of using hot and cold in bodywork. This can give you great results with less effort from yourself.

Use of Heat

Heat can be used very effectively in cases of CHRONIC pain. This is pain that has lasted for longer than 72 hours and is characterised by being dull, achy or long standing.

Why does heat work in the reduction of pain and acceleration of healing?

The positive effects can be summarised as follows:

o Psychological effects: Heat makes us feel nurtured, relaxed, cared for and positive – attributes we want our clients to associate with our treatments. If our clients feel safe under our hands, their bodies relax and let us in to do vital therapeutic work without resistance.

o Decreased muscle tightness: Heat seems to have a direct effect on reducing tight muscles- often the primary cause of musculo – skeletal pain. There is evidence that heat applications may reduce the firing rate of muscle spindle cells and decrease activity in the gamma efferent system of the spindles. This reduction in muscle spindle activity will have a direct impact on reducing muscle tightness.

o Increased circulation and reduction of rehabilitation time: The local increase in circulation caused by heat application is beneficial in healing numerous injuries. Bringing fresh blood and nutrients to the areas helps maintain the optimum health of the tissues for injury repair.

o Increased pliability of connective tissues: Heat applications help to improve the elasticity of fascia (connective tissue) therefore therapeutic stretching procedures are much more effective if heat is applied beforehand. If connective tissues are not heated they appear to have a more elastic response to the stretching procedure so they recoil closer to their original length, when the stretch stimulus is removed. (Cameron 1999)

o Increased pain threshold: Heat increases the pain threshold thereby decreasing the client’s overall experience of pain. This reduction in pain can also help to break into the pain/spasm/pain cycle, which is a significant factor in the perpetuation of chronic pain.

Cold applications (cryotherapy)

Cold is an ideal treatment for ACUTE injuries i.e.: those where the injury is recent (less than 72 hours) and characterized by inflammation, swelling, lack of mobility and pain. A recently sprained ankle is a classic example of an acute injury.

Cold has highly beneficial effects in helping acute injuries to heal quicker:

o Reduction in muscle soreness: Cold is of benefit in reducing certain types of muscles soreness, especially that associated with increased levels of unaccustomed exercise.

o Cold slows down the cellular metabolic activity. In acute injuries, the increase in cellular metabolic activity is one factor that prolongs the healing process. Using cold immediately after injury shortens the recovery period.

o Decreased nerve conduction velocity: This can be very beneficial in reducing pain sensations, increasing the pain threshold and therefore interrupting the pain/spasm/pain cycle.

o Decreased oedema: Oedema is one of the primary causative factors in the perpetuation of acute pain. Cold is very effective in reducing oedema.

o Decreased muscle tightness: By affecting the pain/spasm/pain cycle, cold application has a direct reflex effect in reducing muscle tightness.

Hot and cold contrast applications

To get both the beneficial aspects of hot and cold, the technique of “contrast bathing” is applied. The use of hot and cold is alternated to a particular area. This is believed to cause a flushing of the tissue fluids and improve many of the neurological responses that will create the best environment for healing.

There are many ways to apply hot and cold to the body during bodywork, including hot and cold packs, infra red lamps, hydroculator packs etc. However, few have the unique advantage of the stones – namely that you can actually WORK with the stones while simultaneously applying wet heat/cold, thus enhancing greatly the time effectiveness of your treatment.

It is important to note that there are many hot/cold stone massages where hot and cold stones are run up and down the body quickly, often causing discomfort for the client.. This is completely different, -here we are specifically treating an area of pain, tension, or injury to create a positive outcome for our clients.

Using the stones in remedial massage work

Jing is an organisation dedicated to giving massage therapists the tools to treat clients’ specific pain conditions. Hot Stone Fusion uses proven techniques to reduce pain and give your client an unforgettable experience.


o Placing stones is a lovely part of the work we do, but it is only 10% of it. Most of the work is done by dynamically and specifically massaging the body with the stones as extensions of the therapist’s hands.

o Large hot stones can be used over the drape to warm and relax the fascia and muscles in the area of pain for up to 20 minutes before treating the area directly.

o Broad effleurage strokes are used to warm the area, before using smaller specific stones to strip and elongate the muscles fibres, searching for trigger points. This saves your precious thumbs and gives great relief to your client. For example to alleviate low back pain we could treat Erector Spinae, Quadratus Lumborum, Gluteal muscles and the lateral rotators with these techniques.

o Cold stones can be used in a similar way for acute pain to decrease pain and swelling. Cold stones used in conjunction with deep transverse friction can be every effective.

o Cold stones are usually not used longer than five minutes in any one area.

o For “contrast bathing”, we employ dynamic sports therapy techniques such as deep petrissage

Creativity and Specific treatments

Jing therapists have been trained to use the stones creatively. You will learn a fabulous head to toe full body massage, plus the freedom to blend remedial techniques such as trigger point therapy, myofascial work and clinical stretching to produce great results. Our students are given the confidence to combine the stones with existing techniques as diverse as energy work, reflexology, sports massage or aromatherapy. This leads to a confident and creative practice as outlined by the comments below from students who have worked with us:

Using Hot stone Fusion in:

Reflexology: “I’ve only used stones with reflexology, but even in this small area they are great. I’ve used them on pregnant mums up the arms to remove tension and
relax them. I place them between the toes and under calves, clients love this”

Myofascial Work: “I feel results are much faster with the stones than with the hands alone… There is no getting away from HOW THE CLIENT FEELS with the warmth of the smooth stones gliding over them. They can be used without oil…just wet and then you can put a warm towel over the area to dry it and away you go with some myofascial techniques”

Aromatherapy: “Since doing the hot stone course with Jing and using it in my clinic alongside my aromatherapy practice, I have found in treating people with severe painful muscular complaints that the analgesic and muscle relaxant aromatherapy oils get in to the client’s blood stream quicker when using hot stones as opposed to traditional massage.

The benefit is that I can work deeper into the muscle tissue with the stones within 10 minutes, whereas with handwork I would have to take 30 minutes. So basically hot stones deliver better quality massage time for the client”

Hot Stone Fusion is a one of a kind training and can make you a one of a kind therapist. The teachers share with you 20 years experience of Stone massage from the US and invite you to use them in your own unique way. You and your clients won’t believe the difference.

About Jing

Jing Advanced Massage and Training is an organisation dedicated to excellence in all aspects of postgraduate massage training. Based in Brighton, we offer courses around the country including Hot stone Fusion and Hot stone Reflexology. Please call or check our website for further information and course dates.
Tel: 01273 628942

Copyright Jing Advanced Massage August 2006. Text Rachel Fairweather and Meghan Mari with thanks to Jing students Susky Hashemi, Christina Hitchins, Carmen O’Connor, Tara Hunt and Victoria Hayden. Photos Meghan Mari

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