The use of hot stones for healing dates back to ancient times,
but it wasn't until Arizona massage therapist Mary Nelson
introduced her hot stone massage technique, called LaStone Therapy,
that the use of hot stones for massage caught on.
The stones are usually made of basalt, a type of rock that is rich in iron, so they retain heat. River rocks are normally used because they have been smoothed over time by the river's current.
The stones are immersed in water and heated in an electric heating device until they are within a certain temperature range. The stones may be placed at specific points on the back, in the palms of the hand, or between the toes. The heat warms and relaxes the muscles, which allows the therapist to apply deeper pressure, if desired. The warmth of the hot stones improves circulation and calms the nervous system. Some massage therapists place stones on points that are thought to be energy centers of the body to rebalance the body and mind.
Many people find the warmth of the hot stones to be comforting. Hot stone massage is suited to people who tend to feel chilly or who have cold feet. It's also suited for people who have muscle tension but prefer a lighter massage. The heat relaxes muscles, allowing the therapist to work the muscles without using deep pressure.