Hot Stone Experience

Stone Massage Experience

The world of massage is a melting pot of philosophies. The beauty of this dynamic is it permits for a personalized approach to our profession. This lesson accounts for professional uniqueness by integrating your existing methods with the stone massage experience.

The Stone Massage Experience

Hot stones sliding against our skin can feel fantastic. They can send us to a fantasy land of beautiful pleasure, a peaceful place that melts away our stress and allows us to rest. An amazing hot stone massage is more than moving oiled rocks over someone’s back. It is an extension of our fingers, flow and technique. It requires precision, practice and exploration to help our clients feel like they’re on vacation.

The hot stone experience is designed to subtly alter the client’s perception of our pressure and to give them the treat of soothing heat. It is an extension, not a replacement of your massage. Though it may require some adjustment it is unnecessary to reinvent the wheel, use the tried and true methods of your regular massage with each stroke.

 

Fantastic Flow

The stones add a level of inconvenience and complexity to the massage that will disrupt your flow. This disruption is caused by the awkward pauses and non-massage movements interrupting your regular routine. This leads to reduced contact with the client and may make your massage feel sloppy and awkward. The way we avoid this is with practice and exploration, so find a friend and massage them to hone your skills. A mediocre massage can feel magnificent with fantastic flow. a

Flow is a cocktail of client anticipation, a therapist’s smooth strokes and predictable patterns. Slow methodical movements feel marvelous and when combined with hot stones they become heavenly. Ultimately the secret is in our speed, when combined with precision we can guide our client to sleep.

 

Effective Stone Work

Effective stone work requires a healthy relationship between your hands and the tools. Safety must be your primary concern while performing any kind of massage, especially hot stone. The stones you use and why you use them are governed by your approach to massage and the size of your hands. If a stone is uncomfortable, don’t use it. We only have one body, don’t damage it to conform to someone else’s body mechanics. We are all different, one size does not fit all.  Our pain and discomfort is a warning system used by our central nervous system to protect us from injury, use it to protect yourself and live the highest quality of life you can.

 

 Know your tools

Maximize the results of your massage by investigating the tools at your disposal. Spend some time with your equipment before the massage to ensure you have everything you need to get the job done right. Organize your work space to optimize the flow of your routine and to ensure your work space is safe.

  • What shapes and size stones are available?
  • Which will fit in your hand comfortably?
  • How many will you need to get the job done?
  • How will you organize the warmer to find the stone you need when you need it?
  • Is there safety equipment available to collect the stone from the water without burning your hand?
  • Is there a bowl to fill with water to cool an excessively hot stone if needed?

 

Body Mechanics

The use of good body mechanics is essential to a long, healthy massage career, your hand is a part of your body, keep it safe. Start by picking a stone and cradling it in your hand. Is your hand comfortable? If it doesn’t feel right put the stone away and avoid using it. You must feel comfortable holding and using every single stone!  Go through all the stones and find the right ones for you. This is how you build a collection catered to your body that will help you perform the perfect massage.

Avoid squeezing the stone. Gripping it tightly will put strain on your forearm muscles. Hold it loose enough to avoid strain but firmly enough to establish control. If any area of your body hurts while using the stone find a better way to hold it or search for a more appropriate size and shaped stone for your hand.

 

Performing the Massage

The Stone Massage experience may be performed with stones that are hot, cold or at room temperature.  As mentioned before, safety should be your primary concern, don’t burn or injure your client. Avoid using stones hotter than 104*F or those that burn your hand. When applying the stones maintain communication with your client, let them know they are in control.

Sometimes the stones will be excessively hot when removed from the warmer. For this reason have a water bowl nearby to dip the stone in to absorb some of the heat. Have a towel nearby in case water drips off the stones so you may quickly wipe it off the client.

You may need to be more liberal with your lubricant, this is because the stones do not secrete oil like your skin does.

 

Special Considerations during the Massage

  • Do not place and leave the hot stones directly on a client’s skin. This can lead to serious injury; these stones are very hot and could burn someone.
  • Do not apply firm pressure against bonye landmarks. Massage therapists often mistake boney landmarks for a knot, acquaint yourself with these locations to avoid unnecessary discomfort. 
  • Use less pressure than you normally would. A stone is harder than your finger, arm and elbow, remember this when applying your strength and body weight.
  • When we are using the stone there is a disconnect between our body and the client’s. Use your other hand to guide the stone and gauge the level of pressure.
  • Empathize with your client, imagine how this experience feels like to them. How would this kind of pressure and heat feel like to you?
  • Get to know each stone and assign it a purpose. The way another therapist uses it isn’t how you have to. You are an amazing massage therapist, use your magnificent mind to masterfully craft an incredible stone massage experience.
  • Remain aware, test the hot stones to ensure they won’t hurt anyone.
  • How the stone feels to you isn’t the same as it will feel to the client. It is important to develop tactics to test the sensations of each technique in addition to how hot the stone may be. Your hands are not an effective thermometer because they adapt to the heat of the stone. They will start feeling colder than they are, so apply the stone to your inner forearm to discern its heat.
  • When using the stones keep them moving. If a stone is hot it will feel less intense if you continuously slide it over their flesh.
  • Be empathetic, observant and communicate with your client. The awareness they have with their body is infinitely better than our interpretation of the massage experience. Maintain open communication to navigate the map of their body. When we listen to the needs of the client we can let go of our ego and become the better versions of ourselves.

Practice and Exploration

  • Safely place the hot stones against your flesh and describe how the stone feels. It is important to acquaint ourselves with these sensations, so we can more effectively empathize with our clientele.
  • Experiment and explore the stone at varying temperatures. Start with it at room temperature to determine how you want to hold and use the stone.  
  • Use your knowledge of anatomy and physiology to explore the body with the hot stone. Have a partner vocalize how each area feels. If your partner is a massage therapist have them perform the exact same techniques on you. This will give you an idea of how it feels.
  • Practice as often as you can. Find yourself a practice buddy and try new techniques and ideas with them. We might be working on dozens of clients in a week, but that isn’t the same as practice and exploration. Hone your craft in your downtime so your client gets the quality they deserve when paying for it.
  • Be honest with your evaluations when working with another massage therapist. When something is always candy coated we can never taste its actual flavor. Work with your peers to encourage a strong industry. When your fellow massage therapists provide an amazing massage it supports the value of our product. Let’s work together to make sure the public knows massage is magnificent!

Shawn White Blog

Shawn White Massage

Research

 

 

 

 

MBLEX

Massage: MBLEX, Body Mechanics & Communication

When I went to massage school very little was spent on body mechanics, technique or communication. Instead the class room experience focused on the MBLEX (the licensing exam every massage therapist must take to become a licensed practitioner). I understand the weight this test is supposed to play in a massage therapist’s career and public safety. However, when put on a scale with body mechanics, technique and communication, we quickly see how this kind of educational practice is not in the best interest of the community, industry or the massage therapist.

Body Mechanics is essential, if we don’t know how to massage someone without hurting ourselves we won’t be massaging very long. When I went to massage school there was very little time spent on body mechanics. If you asked the teachers they would claim they were focused on ensuring students were given the skills necessary to protect their body.  How can an instructor be teaching students to have good body mechanics if they aren’t watching them? During the class room portion of my education the teacher would sit at their desk grading papers or talking while the students massaged on their practice tables. Little to no observation was employed to ensure students were using correct mechanics. During clinicals, when students performed massages on the public or each other, the instructor’s ability to observe was greatly diminished because they were required to help other students study for the MBLEX. Massage therapy is a hands on learning experience, requiring an incredible amount of observation and repetition, without these kinds of practices a massage student will have a difficult time becoming a massage therapist with a long healthy career.

Practicing massage in the class room should begin early, be performed regularly and have a fair amount of instructor involvement. When going through school we rarely performed massages, when we did it was irregular and the instructor seemed disinterested in maintaining a constant role helping students learn, explore and become more effective. When I asked why we didn’t practice massage very often, the answer was “we would get our hands on experience while doing our clinical work“. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case, most our clinical experience was just a continuation of the classroom and nearly every hour was spent studying for the MBLEX.

The MBLEX is not the end all be all test of massage therapy. It reflects some aspects of our ability to showcase our academic knowledge. More specifically it tests a person’s ability to access obscure information, apply critical thought and sit patiently in front of a computer. These skills do not easily translate into practical massage applications. I am an avid researcher and I love knowledge, passing the MBLEX was a breeze and though I thought the test was fun I have discovered its relevance has little to no value. With a few changes the test could be made a lot more valuable to our clientele, the massage industry and the therapist. One being the elimination of questions supporting pseuodoscience, others would be to test a student’s research knowledge, writing and literacy. These are all valuable skills a massage therapist needs in the field. Unfortunately no time was spent in my  schooling teaching students how to research, critically think or write effectively. In class our teacher spoke a lot about how to write SOAP notes, but no time was spent teaching us how to write them or testing our ability to write.

The biggest and most important part of massage is communication. Great massages happen because a massage therapist knows how to effectively communicate. If a client doesn’t feel comfortable telling us how the pressure is, if the table is too warm, if a heat pack is too hot or they want a specific area massaged, we will never be able to provide them with the experience they are looking for. When I went to school we had a course on communication, but it wasn’t very involved and there was very little participation for a communication course. When I heard we were going to do some role-playing I was excited, this kind of learning is a lot of fun and can be a great way of discovering how others explore life. Unfortunately we only spent about 2 hours on communication with maybe an hour of role-playing.  Most of the time was spent justifying why we did what we did instead of trying out a bunch of likely or hard situations. If more time was spent on communication I believe we could more easily meet the expectations of our clientele, reduce workplace conflicts and make life more enjoyable for everyone.

The MBLEX is an important test, but in many ways its has a negative impact on the industry. I believe with a few changes it can occupy the purpose it was meant to. By removing the pseudoscience it supports, adding questions that evaluate research knowledge, writing and literacy, we can begin moving our industry forward. This would be the first step with later steps involving the removal of the Provisional License (which is a grace period that encourages lower quality education in our massage schools.) and the creation of policies that enforce massage schools to provide the education they are selling.


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