Basics of Hot Stone Massage

The hallmark of hot stone massage is the use of heated stones. Basalt river rocks are typically used because they are smooth (from the river’s current) and retain heat well.


In preparation for the treatment, the massage therapist heats the stones in a professional stone heater until they are within a precise temperature range, typically between 110 and 130 F. To prevent burns, microwaves, ovens, hot plates, and slow cookers should never be used.

While massage therapists often use anatomy to guide the placement of the stones, some therapists will also place stones on points thought to energetically balance the mind and body.


Swedish massage therapy techniques are typically used during the massage, which may include long strokes and kneading and rolling.



People often describe hot stone massage as comforting and deeply relaxing. The warmth is soothing for people who tend to feel chilly. The heat of the stones relaxes muscles, allowing the therapist to work deeper while using lighter pressure.


There is a lack of research on the benefits of hot stone massage. Although some preliminary studies have suggested that massage, in general, may provide benefits to people with conditions including prenatal depression, pain syndromes such as arthritis or fibromyalgia, hypertension, autoimmune conditions, and aging-related conditions including Parkinson’s and dementia.


    What to Expect

    During the massage, the therapist places stones on specific points on the body. While the points may vary depending on the areas of muscle tension and the client’s health history, the stones are generally placed in the following areas:

    • Along both sides of the spine
    • In the palms of your hand
    • On your legs, abdomen, feet

    Small stones may be placed between the toes or on the forehead.


    After the stones are placed on your body, it may take a few minutes for the heat to penetrate the sheet or towel so you can discern whether the stones are too hot.


    The therapist applies massage oil to the skin. Holding stones in both hands, the therapist uses gliding movements to move the stones along the muscles. The therapist uses Swedish massage techniques on the back, legs, neck, and shoulders while the stones are in place or after they have been removed.


    The length of a typical hot stone massage is between 60 and 90 minutes. Hot stone massage has continued to evolve, with many massage therapists and spas offering their own versions of the massage.


    To Get the Most out of Your Massage

    Use these tips:

    • See a licensed massage therapist trained in hot stone massage.
    • Be thorough when completing the intake form.
    • Don’t eat before your massage.
    • Stay hydrated by drinking water before and after your massage.
    • Let your therapist know if the stones are too warm or the pressure too intense.