A client comes in for a massage, enters a cozy environment and expects to relax. He or she lies down on the massage table, takes a deep breath and anticipates a warm nurturing touch. The atmosphere that a massage therapist has worked so hard to create can be suddenly stopped — like a turntable’s needle careening off of a vinyl record — when ice cold hands contact the client’s skin. As cold contracts tissues, cold hands beginning a massage act against the intended outcome.

Before cruising down this list of warming suggestions, make certain that your hands are not cold due to a medical condition. Thyroid imbalance, diabetes mellitus, Raynaud’s disease, atherosclerosis and congestive heart failure can be contributors to cold extremities that require medical attention.

Listed below are seven ways for a massage therapist to warm their hands before giving a treatment:

  1. Hydrotherapy – This is a little different than simply running your hands under hot water to warm them. If you have access to two basins, fill one with cold (not icy) water and one with hot (not scalding) water. Dip your hands in the hot basin for 30 seconds then plunge them into the cold water for 10 seconds. Repeat a few times. The alternation of temperature creates a pumping action that increases circulation.
  2. Hot Stone – Convenient if you do Stone Massage, holding a hot or warmed stone can transmit that warmth to your hands.
  3. Imagery – Spend a few moments to think your hands hot. You can use a memory such as imagining yourself on a beach in the summertime, and pouring the heated sand from hand to hand. A mantra such as “My hands are warm,” can focus your physical energy to match your thoughts.
  4. Paraffin – If you have a warm paraffin wax basin, use it to dip your hands into. Not only does the paraffin warm your mitts, but it also softens them. This probably goes without saying, but remove the wax before beginning a session!
  5. Chemical Heat Pack – These resourceful devices are inexpensive little packs that can be found in a sport or ski shop. When activated, they maintain heat for quite a few hours. You can keep the pack in a pocket and use it to warm your hands in between clients.
  6. The Windmill – Make sure you have plenty of space for this exercise. With a comfortable forward stance (front foot pointing forward, the rear foot at a 45-degree angle), extend the arm on the same side as your rear foot by straightening your elbow, wrist and hand. Focus your energy out of your middle finger and swing your arm around in a windmill fashion 10 to 15 times. Switch directions of your circling. Repeat on the other side. Do not attempt if you have a shoulder injury. This exercise will bring a rush of blood, and therefore warmth, to your upper extremities.
  7. Qi Ball – The qi ball exercise teaches you how to feel your own energy and increase its accessibility at your fingertips. Stand in a relaxed position with your feet shoulder width apart, your knees slightly bent and your pelvis tilted forward. With your elbows bent and your arms held away from your body, configure your arms and hands as if you were holding a basketball. Hold this position until you can feel the imaginary ball (this may take several minutes). Then slowly and steadily move your hands apart and together ever so slightly. As you pull your hands apart and then push your hands together, you may experience a magnetic feeling between your palms. When your palms get close together, you will feel a radiation of heat between them.

The last suggestion is just one of the many qi gong methods that can warm cold hands. Qi gong is an ancient Asian art form that may or may not use physical movement to exercise one’s energy internally. Its purpose is to perpetuate health by invigorating qi (energy) flow within the body. Qi gong is the basis for all martial arts and energetic touch modalities.

Many massage therapists struggle with low hand temperature. This struggle is especially common in colder climates. Look through this list of suggestions and experiment with the choices that appeal to you. Before you know it, your freezing digits will be a thing of the past.