4 Reasons a Hot Stone Massage Is Worth Every Penny

You’ll be seriously hooked after one soothing session.


Moyo Studio/Getty Images

Ah, a spa day. It’s a welcomed treat, a surprise gift, a special indulgence—and many people’s ideal of a perfect afternoon. Whether you make a full spa day out of the experience or schedule regular bodywork treatments like massages is beneficial for routine health and recovery. If you’ve mostly received full-body relaxation or Swedish massages, consider giving a hot stone massage a try during your next appointment.

What is a hot stone massage?  

It might start off with and/or incorporate elements of a traditional massage, a hot stone massage is one in which your massage therapist will incorporate a specific type of hot stones into the session, placing them on certain areas of the body, as needed, explains Julie Robinson, LMT, lead massage therapist at the Waldorf Astoria Las Vegas. “An experienced provider may manipulate the stones in tighter areas for focus then use general massage with hands or forearms to compliment the stones,” she says. 

According to Benjamin Lin, a licensed massage therapist at Modrn Sanctuary, the history of hot stone massages was intertwined with that of massages and can be traced to parts of Asia, especially India and China. “As ancient people there developed their understanding of massages, they began to recognize the healing properties of the hot stones early on,” he adds. 

The Chinese believed hot stones aided internal organ functions. Native Hawaiians used lava rocks for pain relief. There can even be traces of hot stone use among the Egyptians, Romans and Americans. In the modern world, Lin says Mary Nelson is credited with introducing hot stones in the form of LaStone Therapy, starting in 1993. 

What stones are used in a hot stone massage?

These aren’t just random stones picked up from the backyard. Massage therapists use basalt stones, a sturdy volcanic stone that rates high on the Mohs hardness scale. “The mineral content in basalt stones allows them to absorb and disperse heat efficiently,” explains Kevin Ramsey, LMT, a body care innovation manager at Massage Envy

Though these are the most traditional options, Ramsey says newer innovations in hot stone massage have seen the growth of Himalayan Salt Stones. “These stones are typically used in the same fashion as Basalt stones while being a bit more fragile and less heat conductive,” he explains. “Practitioners and service recipients may prefer salt stones for various reasons.”

What temperature are the hot stones? 

They're typically warmed up to anywhere between 110 to 130 degrees, the perfect temperature to relax the body and muscles without burning the skin, says to Brian Douglas, director of the spa at the PGA National Resort. “Nourishing oils are applied to the body, and the stones are used to massage them in,” he continues. 

They feel good—but what do the hot stones do? 

“The stones' warmth dilates the blood vessels and loosens the muscles allowing for deeper penetration and effect without discomfort,” Douglas says.

Sounds lovely, doesn’t it? Here’s your 101 guide to hot stone massages, including their history and healthy benefits. 

Hot Stone Massage Benefits

01 of 04

It relaxes the body through heat.

Think about how warm and comforting it feels to be snuggled in a big blanket or to soak in a steamy bath on a cold day. In a similar vein, a hot stone massage relaxes the body through heat, as the heat penetrates deeply into the body, relaxing the muscles and the veins, says Oanh Ngo, the spa manager at the Heart of Earth Spa at the Four Seasons Resort The Nam Hai, Hoi An.

02 of 04

It relieves exercise-induced muscle soreness and pain.

While it’s essential to build strength and challenge your cardiovascular health with physical activity, rest and recovery are a crucial part of any exercise routine, and heat can be an excellent way to bring stiff, sore muscles back to life. This is why athletes are big fans of hot stone massages (and why skiers love relaxing in a hot tub after a day on the slopes). Research has shown that localized heat therapy can help reduce muscle soreness, and hot stone massage can provide this relief and relaxation after physical exertion, according to Jackie Martinez, director of spa and retail at the Pelican Grand Beach Resort.

03 of 04

It promotes restful sleep.

The next time you’re on a vacation that includes a spa day, schedule your treatment toward the end of the day. Why? Primary benefits of hot stone massage is increased relaxation and improved sleep. “Many clients find that the heat alleviates muscle tension which allows for a deeper massage and leads to a more relaxing treatment session,” says Joseph Sorge, massage therapist at the Spa at Selenite. “Once you’ve tipped your therapist, you can retreat to your room, order room service, and enjoy the extra Zzzs.”

04 of 04

It supports natural detoxification in the body.

While there’s no scientific evidence to prove that massage can remove certain toxins directly, massage can help support your body’s own natural clearing-out process of normal buildup and byproducts of everyday life and body systems. 

Ngo explains a hot stone massage encourages the body to detox and heal naturally by increasing the lymphatic flow. “Guests are advised to drink plenty of water after a hot stone massage to help flush out these toxins,” she continues. “A hot stone massage can also greatly improve blood flow and circulation.”

Safety Precautions for Hot Stone Massages

According to Ngo, certain groups are not advised to get hot stone massages, including:

  • Those with conditions that cause loss of sensation, such as neuropathy, diabetes, high blood pressure, and peripheral vascular disorder.
  • Those with inflammatory conditions, such as Lupus.
  • Those currently in a post-surgery, injury, or trauma period where their nerves were affected.
  • Those who are pregnant should avoid a hot stone massage, as OBGYNs usually advise against anything that heats the body. 
  • “A hot stone massage is also unsuitable for those with skin conditions like open wounds, burns, skin cancer, psoriasis, dermatitis, acne, eczema, and shingles,” Ngo adds. “This also applies if you have weakened or inflamed skin areas.”

Lastly, Sorge says therapists should consider the temperature of the stones when performing service, and clients should be vocal if the stone's temperature is uncomfortable. “Open communication is the best way to ensure that the client is getting the best treatment possible,” he says. “If a client is unsure if this treatment is right for them, we always encourage them to consult their healthcare provider.”

Was this page helpful?
Real Simple is committed to using high-quality, reputable sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts in our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we fact check our content for accuracy.
  1. Ghavami H, Shamsi SA, Abdollahpoor B, Radfar M, Khalkhali HR. Impact of hot stone massage therapy on sleep quality in patients on maintenance hemodialysis: A randomized controlled trial. J Res Med Sci. 2019;24:71. doi:10.4103/jrms.JRMS_734_18

  2. Kim K, Monroe JC, Gavin TP, Roseguini BT. Local heat therapy to accelerate recovery after exercise-induced muscle damage. Exerc Sport Sci Rev. 2020;48(4):163-169. doi:10.1249/JES.0000000000000230

Related Articles