What Are Massage Stones Made Of? Plus The Best Massage Rocks 2019
Hot stone massages are so relaxing.
A common question when you first get one is…
What are massage stones made of? The stones are igneous rocks and form when lava cools and solidifies. The most popular igneous rock types used for massage is marble and basalt, with basalt being the most common. Basalt is a very popular massage stone because of its smooth texture, weight, and ability to retain heat. Most basalt massage rocks sold in the US are sourced from river beds in South America.
In this article, we’re going to expand into more detail with massage stones, what they’re made of, and a whole lot more…
First, a very brief history lesson on these amazing rocks.
Roots Of Massage Stones
The original hot stone treatment is said to have originated from India and has its roots in Ayurvedic medicine.
Volcanic stone massage treatments, and heat compress, also has roots in China. Traditional Chinese medicine used the stones in moxibustion (heat therapy) and Gua Sha massage.
Native Americans medicine are known to use basalt stones wrapped in leaves and used as a compress to reduce pain in the body or used as heat sources in sweat lodges.
The first modern account of a hot stone massage was in 1993 when it was “discovered” by Mary Nelson during a sauna treatment she was performing on her niece.
There were basalt stones in the sauna room and she used it to massage her niece and so the La Stone Massage treatment was born.
What Are Massage Stones Made Of?
As mentioned earlier, massage stones are igneous rocks, basalt specifically.
Igneous rocks are one of the three rock types that form when lava from volcanoes cool and solidify, the other two are metamorphic and sedimentary rock.
Igneous rocks can be intrusive or extrusive.
Intrusive sedimentary rocks are formed under the Earth’s surface. It doesn’t cool and hardens as fast as extrusive igneous rocks.
This results in rocks forming with large crystals and a rough surface. Some examples of intrusive igneous rocks are granite, diorite, and gabbro.
Extrusive rocks, on the other hand, form when lava is pushed outside of a volcano to the surface.
Exposure to air cools extruded lava much faster and results in smaller crystals and a smoother, shinier finish.
Obsidian and basalt are examples of extrusive igneous rocks.
Basalt is the most commonly used massage stone because its iron-rich composition help to keep heat longer.
What Are Massage Stones?
Massage stones are naturally occurring rocks used in a hot stone massage because of its ability to keep heat and its heavy mass that’s useful in doing massage.
Massage stones are used in two ways.
The first is by strategically placing the stones on various areas of the body to warm the muscles and get it to relax.
The heat also reduces muscle soreness.
Heated stones are placed along the spine, back of the legs and thighs, the stomach, palms, and other pressure points of the body.
Smaller pieces can be placed in between the fingers and toes for added relaxation.
It’s left there for a few minutes and then used as a tool which is the second way to use the massage stones.
The stones are used by therapists as a tool to apply pressure on the body with long gliding strokes similar to Swedish massage.
The weight from the stones helps to ground the client-patient easing them to deeper relaxation while the therapist’s strokes bring relaxation by lowering blood pressure.
Where Do Massage Stones Come From?
Large pieces of basalt can be found on ocean floors. The ones used for massage are sourced from river beds in South America and from the mountains in North-Eastern China.
The ones that come from river beds are naturally polished and shaped by the river’s flowing waters.
The smoothness is ideal for the gliding strokes of the massage and does not scratch the skin.
The ones mined from mountains will need to be polished in a rock tumbler to remove sharp edges.
Natural basalt stones can be grey, chalky, or black.
Overly shiny basalt stones are machine polished to get the smooth, buffed look.
Massage stones sold in the market today are un-oiled and will turn a darker grey or black when first used.
Using oil also darkens the color of the stones but will return to its natural chalky grey after washing.
Can I Use Any Kind Of Rock For Stone Massage?
No, but there are other rock types that can be used for either hot or cold stone massage aside from basalt.
Basalt is the most ideal to use for hot stone massage because of its natural weight, ability to keep heat longer, and smooth surface.
While marble is best for cold stone massage because its cool to the touch and stays cooler longer.
Can I Use Stones Sold At Landscape Supply Stores?
No. The stones may look the same but those sold in landscape supply stores are not basalt.
It isn’t smooth and may irritate skin or cause cuts, the surface is rougher because it’s used as a construction material.
Heating these would cause it to crack because of the too porous surface.
What Other Stones Can Be Used For Stone Massage?
Massages can either be hot or cold.
A therapist would select a stone based on the type of massage to be done on the client-patient.
For hot massages, basalt or other mineral stones can be used because they retain heat well.
The smooth surface makes it easy for the stones to glide on the skin even without oil.
Another added benefit of using these types of stone is the rich, natural mineral component of the rocks which has healing properties.
For cold massages, polished marble and jade are best because of its cool surface that soothes and relieves inflammation.
Some therapists use crystals like rose quartz, quartzite, and turquoise for cold stone massage.
Another stone that can be used for cold or hot stone massage is Himalayan salt.
Aside from the cool, smooth surface, it is believed that these crystals have healing properties based on Ayurveda traditional healing.
Can I Use It On My Face?
Basalt stones come in different sizes and can be used on the face.
Therapists skim it on the face, jawline, and neck to help tighten the skin and to relax the muscles.
Other treatments include placing one on the forehead where the chakra for the third eye is.
Some massage therapists use rollers made of jade or rose quartz for the face, see our related article Guasha Face Tools to learn more.
Here’s a video of a facial massage using basalt massage stones.
What Does A Stone Massage Feel Like?
A stone massage feels similar to a Swedish massage with long strokes using palm-sized pieces of basalt stone.
It feels really good and is very relaxing.
The stones are warmed in a small pot with a wet dishtowel.
Some therapists use a rice cooker or a crockpot to keep the stones at an even temperature.
The ideal temperature for a hot stone is between 120°F-140° F. Anything higher will be uncomfortable and may cause burns on sensitive skin.
There are massage stone kits that come with a warmer, more on that later.
Heated stones are placed along the spine, the legs and thighs, the chest, the stomach, the hands, and feet.
A few minutes with the massage stones and the therapist applies pressure on the body with the stones working their way from the legs all the way to the face.
Some of the stones are left on parts of the body that were already worked on.
Cold stone massages are the yin to the hot stones’ yang.
It can be used to soothe hot skin and close the pores on the face.
Alternating cold stones with hot stones increases blood circulation and starts the Hunting Response where toxins are processed from the body.
The cold massage treatment is helpful in clearing decongestion, the therapist says it works well for tension headaches and sinus headaches.
Caring For Your Massage Stones
Wash massage stones after use even if you did not use oil because it was used on the skin there will be skin cells on it.
If you used oil, you 100% need to clean it.
Use warm water with a few squirts of dishwashing soap to get all traces of oil out, then dry and store in a covered container.
You might notice the stones getting lighter in color, gray and chalky, but that’s perfectly normal.
The longer the stones are used, the darker its color will become.
Do It Yourself (DIY)
Here’s a video you can follow when you want to learn to heat your own massage stones.
Rocks found near rivers can be used, but make sure to collect smooth and uniformly shaped ones.
Color is not important, most basalt stones are grey, speckled or with white streaks. The dark grey or black color comes out when the stones get wet.
Benefits Of A Hot Stone Massage
Hot stones massages are great.
Aside from its stress-reducing effects, here are other benefits of hot stone massage will bring you.
- Reduces pain with deep tissue Swedish massage strokes. Myofascial release is triggered reducing muscle spasms and increases flexibility and range of motion.
- The heat helps release the soreness and tightness in the muscles. Another positive effect of heat is the increase in circulation which helps to heal microtears in muscle.
- Plenty of research shows how massage helps people sleep better. The increased relaxation lifts your mood which lessens anxiety. It also soothes the body making it sleep easier, better, and longer.
- Improves the immune response. In a study done by Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, a 45-minute session of Swedish massage resulted in lower levels of varginine vasopressin – a hormone that helps in regulating blood pressure and water retention, and cortisol – the stress hormone.
Benefits Of A Cold Stone Massage
- It acts as a counterpoint for the heat, soothing the skin, muscle soreness, and pain.
- Relaxes dilated blood vessels and increases blood and lymph circulation in the body.
- Reduces puffiness in the eye area and decongests the sinuses.
Do You Need To Use Massage Oil?
It’s best to use massage oil, but not everyone does.
Sweet almond oil and apricot nut oil are recommended massage oils due to their consistency and non-comedogenic effect on the skin.
Find alternatives oils to use on your next massage from our related article about massage oils and essential oils.
To Warm Or Not To Warm The Oil
This is a personal preference.
Some therapists will keep their oil warmed because it’s soothing and makes the muscles relax more.
For others, the heat releases the aromatherapy essence in the oil adding to the sensory experience.
And there are those that add a little bit of oil in their palms and rub on the stones before using on the skin, no need to warm anything because the stones are already heated.
The Right Temperature To Prevent Burns
If not careful, it’s possible to get burned if the stones are used immediately after being taken out of the warmer.
A hot stone massage shouldn’t really be hot, but rather warm, with the ideal temperature between 120°F to 140° F.
If you’re receiving the massage from a trained therapist, they should know how to check if the stones’ temperature the proper temperature.
How Much Do Massage Stones Cost?
Massage stones are sold in packs of 4 or more, or as kits, with different sized stones and a warmer.
The 4-pack sells for $15 to $25 dollars while the kits start st $40 to over $200.
Cold stones such as marble or jade cost more because these have to be shaped and smoothed out before selling.
In comparison, basalt taken from river beds are naturally smoothed by time and water.
Where Can I Buy Massage Stones?
Massage stones can be bought at wellness stores and massage supplies shops.
It’s also sold at regular brick-and-mortar stores like Walmart and Bed, Bath and Beyond.
If you can’t find any there, you can always order online from Amazon or eBay.
Best Massage Stones (Our Recommendations)
As discussed in this article, there are a wide variety of massage stones for a wide variety of uses.
There are stones for hot stone massages.
There are stones for cold stone massages.
There are some specifically for the face.
There are also massage kits.
If you are looking to buy some massage stones we reviewed a bunch in the market, and to save you time, below are the ones that we recommend.
1. TIR Massage Stones Set (Best Massage Stones)
This is a set of 8 medium-sized massage stones that are affordable yet the stones are great quality. The stones are pure basalt stone. The company provides free training videos on how to use the stones, which is very helpful.
2. Royal Massage Clamshell Hot Stone Heater (Best Massage Kit)
Massage stone kits come with the stones, heating plates and a shell to put everything in. This kit is easy to use, you just plug it into a 110-volt outlet and it will warm up the stones to the ideal 120°F temperature. Heating the stones only take 10 minutes and the cool part is that it doesn’t need water to heat. You also don’t need a thermometer, because it’s set to heat at a specific temperature automatically. No fuss, which is convenient. The fact that this kit doesn’t require water also makes clean up easier.
3. Himalayan Salt Massage Stones (Best Dual Hot & Cold Stone Massage Set)
If you want something that does both hot AND cold massage treatments, Himalayan salt is best for that because it can do both. The Himalayan stones are about the size of a bar of soap and contain 84 minerals. Not only that but the Himalayan massage stones has natural antimicrobial properties, so tons of health benefits. These salt massage stones are smooth and the quality is great.
4. Jade Roller for Face (Best Massage Stone For The Face)
Using jade rollers on your face helps increase circulation and promote lymphatic function, essentially detoxifying the area. The product is real jade (not the same jade used in jewelry) and feels really nice on the skin. It feels cool to the touch. It’s very reasonably priced for jade. With this product, there are two ends, a tube on one end and a ball on the other end. The ball is used for the eye area and other parts of the face that the tube can’t get to.
Kennedy, A.B. (September 2012). Massage Therapy Can Help Improve Sleep. Retrieved from https://www.amtamassage.org/approved_position_statements/Massage-Therapy-Can-Help-Improve-Sleep.html
NIH staff. (September 1, 2010). Study Examines the Effects of Swedish Massage Therapy on Hormones, Immune Function. Retrieved from https://nccih.nih.gov/research/results/spotlight/090110.htm
Cook, P.G. (March 2, 2012). History And Background of Hot Massage. Retrieved from https://ezinearticles.com/?History-and-Background-of-Hot-Stone-Massage&id=6915529