Two leading massage modalities cover an even broader range of applicability when fused together. At its very essence, integrative medicine consists of combining therapeutic approaches to yield a more effective outcome. Integrating hot stone massage with the meridian principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) exemplifies how the sum can be greater than its parts.
Massage therapists are becoming increasingly adept at fusing different bodywork styles. Using different techniques from various schools is how therapists can create a signature massage. While there seems to be no end to the combinations, some provide more benefits than others. Even while working simultaneously with stones and meridians, massage professionals can imprint their own unique flair. However, a comprehensive grasp of both modalities is required before uniting stone massage with meridian work.
Hot Stone Massage
Hot stone massage is a form of thermal hydro-therapy. Using smooth, warmed, heat-retaining stones as extensions of the hands, clients receiving a well-administered hot stone massage will seek it again and again. For some, stone therapy brings unrivaled deep tissue release and alignment. For others, the heat of the stones gently softens muscular tension and melts away emotional stress. On a spiritual plane, the stones are from the earth and have an extremely grounding quality adored by many. Grounding can be very helpful to individuals struggling with issues related to sleep, headaches, dizziness, anxiety or feeling overwhelmed or scattered.
The heat of the stones, combined with the soothing gliding massage movements, warms and relaxes the muscles to a much greater extent than what can be achieved by massage alone. Proponents claim the following benefits of warmed stone bodywork:
- Increased circulation, lymph and vitality
- Release of excessive toxins
- Relief from tight muscles
- The weight and material of the stones function to ground the body
- Reduced ticklishness for many vulnerable clients
- Relaxed central nervous system (when stones are laid upon the spinal column)
- Added energetic quality to massage when incorporated with vibration (clicking or tapping of stones)
From active placement to active stone massage, there are many different ways to manipulate the stones on a person’s body. Using the heated stones to apply pressure to acupressure points, trace or rub meridians is one way to amplify the therapeutic efficacy of a treatment.
A part of TCM, massage along the body’s energy-containing meridians can have many therapeutic uses. According to the 3,000 year-old practice of TCM, energy that is deficient, excessive or stagnant within the body’s meridians results in imbalance and eventually, disease. By breaking up blockages and promoting energy’s free and easy flow, acupuncture and acupressure are common modalities used to influence the health of energy flow throughout these meridians. Because meridians connect every part of the body to every other part, bodyworkers are able to address all types of pain and illness at easily accessible body locations. Once the affected meridian is properly assessed, bodywork on that meridian can have seemingly miraculous results – including restoring vitality, stopping pain and restoring blood sugar levels.
TCM understands the human body as a microcosm of its surrounding environment. As such, factors affecting the environment also affect the body. Forces such as heat, cold, dryness, dampness and wind have specific implications to a person’s health. A host of common TCM pathologies evolve when excessive amounts of cold influence the urinary bladder, lung and kidney meridians. These are the meridians most easily affected by cold temperatures. A practitioner can recognize whether cold is cause of an imbalance when the following symptomatic patterns emerge:
- a preference for warm beverages
- frequent sensations of cold or being chilled
- a worsening of painful symptoms in cold conditions
- pale facial complexion
- profuse and watery urination
Once it is understood that cold is a culprit, using heat becomes a logical therapeutic choice. A common TCM technique, moxibustion is the burning of an herb over an acupressure point or meridian to impart warmth. While admittedly beyond the scope of practice of most massage therapists, there are other methods of warming a chilled meridian. Using hot stone massage is an alternate technique to warm and invigorate the energy within a meridian.
Continued education fuels creativity. Knowing how to give a skilled hot stone massage and combining it with meridian massage will enhance your sessions. Once you are aware that a client could use some energetic warming, the treatment you can capably provide will rival any of the most respected therapies available.
Alexandra, Sonia, LMT, Stone Massage Therapy: A Catalyst for Health, Massage Today, November 2003.
Baltz, Bruce, Deep Tissue Healing: The Art of Stone Massage, Massage Today, January 2005.
www.ezinearticles.com, Hot Stone Massage Guide eBook, Kareen Fellows, Ezinearticles.com, 2006.
www.hb.syl.com, A Stone Massage Description – Useful Knowledge for Self-Maintenance, www.syl.com, March 2006.
www.neholistic.com, The Breath in the Stone, Karyn Chabot, D.Ay., LMT, The North East Directory of Holistic Resources, 2006.
www.nhi.edu, Hot Stone Massage: An Ancient Tradition That Still Rocks! Upasana Titterington, National Holistic Institute, 2006.