Massage Therapists and Personal Trainers Working Side-by-Side

Body wellness for quite sometime has been multidimensional with numerous choices on how to help the body heal or increase its performance level. When looking at the functional aspects of the human body, massage therapists and personal trainers are on the front lines of this movement and the role that they play is coming more to the forefront.

This is quite apparent especially in the private club world with the advanced training and specialties that are available in both fields. Like in any profession, you have those that are dedicated to higher education and challenging themselves along with their clients to reach their goals and those that stay with the status quo. There is a strong synergy between massage therapists and personal trainers; there are some crossovers between professions but not enough to prevent a meaningful collaboration.

Personal trainers’ goals are to bring stability, balance and increase performance to the same populations that massage therapist work with while using a different approach.

A concerted effort should be made in order to bring education awareness to these two essential occupations on how they can work together to provide the best outcome.

As a massage therapist, I look at body imbalances and how we can assist our clients in initiating better posture, minimizing pain, improving athletic performance and increasing function for daily activities. We work with all populations from young to old, pre or post surgery and competitive athletes to name a few. Our primary goal is to increase blood flow to ischemic tissue and when this is obtained, the end result is better functioning muscles, less pain and ultimately a better quality of life.

There are many ways to accomplish this goal; the education process for personal trainers should be a basic understanding of the primary modalities, how they work and how to describe them to their clients.

What we do is only one piece of the puzzle; in order to set in place long-term results, a strengthening component is essential.

Personal trainers will help in strengthening the body so it can fight gravity more effectively while educating the muscular system on how to function at an optimal level. Without this component, the client will fall back into its old patterns and never achieve the desired goals.

Personal trainers need to educate massage therapists on the exercises they prescribe in the strengthening process whether it being corrective exercises, functional training or traditional strength rehabilitation.

This is just a microcosm of wellness options and the path that a client can choose; this is not to take away from spa services, aerobic classes, yoga, Pilates or any other movement specialty as they all play a significant role assisting the body in its healing process.

It is time for all of us to educate ourselves in the different modalities that are available so the population at large can be educated and supported as they reach out to the many options available to them; we owe it to our clients, our professions and the goals we are looking to achieve.

July 24, 2015 by Bruce Baltz

It’s Not About the Destination ~ It’s About the Journey

We all have motivating factors that have pointed us into the direction of Massage Therapy.

What were yours?

We come from a wide range of influences:

Were you a client or patient of massage and it helped you heal?

Did you have a job in the health and wellness field and it was a progression for you?

Did you have a high pressure job and needed a change?

Were you retrained from a previous career?

There are numerous possibilities of scenarios; no matter your reasons, we all felt a desire to help others. For me, it was a transition from being an athlete and personal trainer and at that time the best trainers I knew were LMT’s.

I have found my journey to be quite unpredictable especially the first 15 years. I went from working clinically, working with athletes, managing massage programs for spas, becoming a CE provider, work as VP of sales and education for a product manufacturer and now as a consultant and practitioner.

There is an increase of career opportunities in the massage/spa world as it develops and changes with new demands on businesses as they grow and prosper. I see this as a good thing; more practitioners are stepping into management therefore have the potential to benefit the overall communication, productivity and harmony in the workplace.

I have no intention of leaving the massage/wellness industry but I do acknowledge the wear and tear 20 years of massage has had on my body. This makes it more important than ever to develop our skills outside the treatment room because it can provide new opportunities.

We are in an exciting time of growth and possibilities so we need to evolve with the industry while we maintain balance and integrity. This is not easy and there will always be challenges put in your way but these trials make your resolve even stronger to support your peers and clients.

Our journey appears to be a never ending organic process which I am proud to be a part of.

October 06, 2014 by Bruce Baltz

Growing Pains for the Massage Industry

When looking at the big picture of Massage Therapy, things have changed dramatically over the past 10 years which is not a bad thing but it is presenting new challenges as we all try to get on the same page.

We are seeing states, associations and organizations along with schools trying to find the magic number that can be attached to what is the appropriate number of hours for a base massage therapy education.

Currently throughout most of the US, the base core standard is 500 hours with some states like NY setting the bar at 1000 hours. Many of us feel that increasing the hours would help move the industry forward and become more respected as an alternative healing modality, but at what cost? Can smaller privately owned schools compete and make the adjustments to increase hours and not price themselves out of business? Will the pay scale be adjusted by employers with students taking on more debt to pay off their loans? The list could goes on and on; all industries trying to change and advance in hopes of finding their new place come up against similar challenges.

As we struggle with education, we are seeing consolidations of mom and pop businesses such as manufacturers of massage tables, topical massage and spa products and distributors which have been the backbone of our small but passionate community of Massage Therapists and body-workers.

During this evolution, we have seen the introduction of venture capital seeing a substantial growth opportunity in a now proven industry with a strong following. Whether you think this is good or bad; it is a significant progression and advancement component. I am finding it hard to have my cake and eat it too but we are a strong group of passionate individuals and we will find a way to adapt. One thing is for sure, anything good will never stay the same therefore change is inevitable.

September 03, 2014 by Bruce Baltz

A little education on product awareness goes a long way

I have spent the better part of 3 years educating on the differences between oils, lotions, creams and gels and their benefits. They do have distinct differences in viscosity and glide and whether you choose water based or oil based, at the end of the day it all comes down to what feels best in your hands and what your clients like. I think there are some basic guidelines massage therapists or body-workers should be aware of.

  • Creams and lotions are water based with varying viscosities; the thicker they are the more controlled glide they will provide;
  • Lotions have more water then creams so they will be thinner then a comparable cream. This means they will absorb faster into the skin, producing less glide;
  • Gels are a blend of oil and wax providing the greatest amount of glide therefore less product is needed;
  • Oils are the original massage product; quality oil should not have any preservatives and should not produce an oily feeling unless you use too much product.

I have seen students and new LMTs who have been using lotions switch to gels because the viscosity is between an oil and lotion but, not knowing they have gone from the least amount of glide to the greatest, they have not adjusted the amount of product used. This most often will have a negative effect on your body-mechanics and produce that greasy feeling your clients may complain about. It will not only affect your client’s experience, but you are wasting product and money. We have all heard clients comment they do not like oil because they feel greasy after the treatment. Most often, this is not because you are using oil, but because oil was overused. We need to become more aware of the glide that products produce and control the amount used.

When choosing an oil you should take into consideration a few key factors. When working with straight oils, the most pure form of lubrication we can use on the body might have some drawbacks. If you prefer nut oils such as sweet almond and grape seeds oils, you must take into consideration allergies clients may have and the possibility of these products staining your linens. I find fractionated coconut oil a great option because it contains a natural dispersing agent. You may find blended oils that are also formulated with a dispersing agent. It is important to read labels and ask questions of the manufacturers to learn what we are absorbing into our body and what we are exposing our clients to. I choose not to use product that condone animal testing or use animal by-products. In addition I try to stay away from mineral oil and parabens preservatives.

July 24, 2014 by Bruce Baltz

Safety In Stone Massage

Stone massage as we know it today has gone through many changes as its popularity has grown, from spa sessions to injury treatments. Today, massage therapists have many choices in stone work education. There are almost as many stone work classes as there are modalities in massage. They range from home study classes to several day workshops, from Reiki with stones to deep tissue.

With therapists and businesses trying to keep up with the public’s demands for stone massage, the industry has run into legal setbacks which are not acceptable.

In my opinion, the blame cannot be put on any one party. Therapists must be held responsible for their actions as well as a business that offers any type of service. This means the providing parties need to seek out the proper knowledge so all necessary steps are taken to provide the best treatment possible.

The two elements all these workshops have in common are the use of heat and that a stone is applied to the body whether it is through a drape or directly to the skin.

For this work to be done within a safe range for the therapist and the client, there are several steps that must be taken into consideration:

The ability of the therapist to handle a hot stone
When you take a stone out of the hot water, make sure the temperature of that stone is within your tolerance. If it is too HOT, your ability to apply that stone with confidence, whether through a drape or on the skin, will be greatly hindered. Your client will feel your lack of confidence.

Your client’s tolerance to accept heat
Now that you have a stone you are confident you can handle, we must consider your client’s tolerance for heat. We must take all precautions to assure your client will have the best treatment you can provide. If a hot stone is being placed on the body through a drape, it should be done through a towel, not a sheet. The sheet will often be too thin. It is essential that you check with your client to see how the temperature feels to him. There are some techniques done by laying on stones. The chances of your client being burned by laying stones is greater but can be done with proper training. I tell all my clients that they are in control of the session, which also includes temperature, hot or cold, and pressure. If you do not give your client this permission, he could say to himself, “You are the professional and I guess this is the way it should feel.” We cannot afford to have this thought cross his mind. If your intention is to apply a stone directly to the skin, you need to make sure the heat stays within the client’s tolerance. If the maximum level is 10, and we do not want to be there, we are looking for the 7 to 8 range for deep tissue work. You will also have to acknowledge that the 7 to 8 range could be different on each of your clients, with hot, cold and pressure, and this must be respected. If these steps are taken by the properly trained therapist, it will greatly reduce the chance of injury to the client.

Day Spas, Resorts, and Medical Offices
To add stone massage as a modality for you to assist in the healing process you need to be aware of the learning curve to apply this technique safely. I refer to Deep Tissue Healing, the deep tissue work I teach. When therapists come to me for training with the use of hot and cold stones, I ask the therapist to take a stone in his hand and work with it as though it is part of his hand. It does not matter how long one has been a therapist, the stone will be an equalizer in class because the student therapist has to massage with that stone as though it is an extension of his hand. This process will take time before the stone can be one with the therapist’s hand. The therapist will need time to adapt the stone into the flow of his work. When this time is not taken, the therapist will not develop the technique properly. Thus, the therapist will not feel comfortable and the client will pick up on this feeling and not want the treatment again. This will reflect on all stone massage therapists, which will perpetuate a negative feeling for stone massage.

I do not recommend one therapist be sent to ANY workshop and come back to their place of business and train the rest of the staff in what they have learned. This could be a formula for disaster for the client, therapist, and owner. This could result in a client’s being injured and legal actions could be taken. I do want to thank the businesses that support continuing education for their massage therapists, but I will ask you to allow your therapists the time to perfect their modality whatever it may be. The end result will benefit all involved.

January 06, 2011 by Bruce Baltz

How Important are Cool/Cold Stones?

Cooler temperatures are finally starting to appear in more stone services throughout the country but we are finding that our ability to explain the application is affecting our ability to provide the service. There are several factors involved in bringing cool stones into your service.

Clients’ mind set; How do they feel about cooler temperatures?

I have found that most people’s fear of cool stones is based on their feeling of being cold, which no one likes. Working with cooler temperatures is about receiving cool not about being cold. If the room is warm, your client should not get cold from this treatment. Therefore we have to educate the spa going population on the benefits of cooler temperatures and its power to assist the body in its healing process.

I believe that cool temperatures are the most important temperatures we work with. The body starts its healing process by influencing changes. We do massage to bring heat to contracted muscles which initiate a change. We workout to improve the shape of our body and improve our quality of life; we break down some muscle tissue which recovers and therefore becomes stronger. But like anything else, this can be overdone and can damage the muscle. Hydrotherapy is usually done in short duration and repeated which allows the body to accept the contrasts in a gentle way. Using cool temperatures in short durations will take the body out of its norm and it will recover from the experience which will assist in helping the systems in our body become stronger. In order to move forward, our body needs change on all levels; emotional, physical and spiritual.

It is our responsibility to reach our clients on the emotional and    physical level and using temperature is a significant tool.

The types of stone massages; Deep Tissue, Swedish, Aroma Therapy….

The application of working with stones will vary depending upon the modality you are practicing. With Deep tissue; you will be able to work with a greater range of temperature due to the firmer pressure and pace of the application. With Swedish;  it is generally applied with lighter pressure which means you will be applying stones that are not carrying as much heat as Deep Tissue applications.  In either application, cool stones will be applied with firm pressure and slow pace allowing the nerves to adjust to the change of temperature.   The warm and cool application will be decreased, dictated by tolerance, pressure and pace. In most instances, when working with cool stones, the pace will be firm and slow and when working with hot, it will be firm and fast and as the temperature decreases the pace will slow down. The stones must be dried off before application and only a small amount of oil should be used. When the stones are first applied, press them firmly into the body and do not move them until the client gets accustomed to the change in temperature. You also need to be aware that some places on the body are more sensitive to cooler temperatures then others such as the back. For those clients that have an apprehension of cool make sure the stones are not to cold. Remember it is about changing their impression of cool stones not about shocking them.

Your ability to manipulate the stones and understanding of transfer of temperature to the body

Like in most modalities, education, practice and passion produce the best results. Stones are no exception except without education and practice this could be a formula for disaster, for you and/or your client. We all need to work within our own abilities. Those who are stronger and have greater dexterity with the stones will be able to work with greater temperature ranges. But strength and dexterity in itself are not the most important factors. The most important aspects of this work are the hydro principles and how they affect the body. The body will exurb as much heat that we will give it and then produce a great deal of circulation. In some instances, your client over a longer session could get off the table and feel nauseous. The cool stones will bring the body back into balance. The body does not take in cold it pushes out heat. I believe the cooler temperatures are the most important ones I work with because the body heals by change and I can generate heat with my hands.

We can change the perception of cool stones in our treatments for the massage and spa going population with our commitment to continuing education. This will enhance our ability to communicate with our clients and allow us to reach higher levels of expertise.

January 06, 2011 by Bruce Baltz

How To Introduce Cool/Cold Stones Into Your Session

In the first news letter I shared with you, I covered the importance of working with cooler temps and how it helps the body heal. There are several factors involved with chilled marble stones

  • Being able to explain to your client the importance of cool/cold stones
  • Speaking with conviction
  • Knowing the proper application
  • Being aware of which part of the body is most sensitive to cold

I work with cold/cool stones in every session I do with hot stones unless medically contraindicated. This means if a client says “I hate cold” that is not good enough for me. This means it is up to you to explain the benefits in a manner they will understand. As body-workers, we need to stand by what we know is right; remember we are the professionals. Over the past 11 years of doing stone massage, I have not had one person turn down a session with cool stones if medically appropriate.

When starting with a new client or trying to make the transition with marble stones, the introduction has to be gradual in order to build confidence. If someone has been saying for many years that they hate cold, well guess what; they will not like it. I suggest you start off with a pillow stone because even if you are not doing a stone session a cool stone at the base of the neck will feel great. When clients have a strong resistance to cooler temps, makes sure the stones are not too cold. Taking marble out of the freezer is about as cold as a stone will get which is not good for a hesitant client. Most often you will be taking the marble out of a cooler and if need be you should take them out a few minutes before using them. There is a direct correlation between the amount of heat and the amount of cool; if the stones are not that cold, the basalt stones will not be that hot. It is important to bring in balance since it is what our body needs and deserves. When speaking to your client about the marble, you will get a much better response by using the word cool as opposed to cold.

Three additional points when applying cool stones

  • Your client should be exhaling when you first apply the cool stones;
  • When the stones first make contact, press firmly and do not move them until the client has adjusted to the temperature change;
  • Pressure must be firm and slow and only lighter and maybe faster if your client likes cool stones.
January 06, 2011 by Bruce Baltz

Is Stone Massage a Modality?

I have been a stone massage therapist for over 10 years and teaching it since 1998. The technique of stone massage has changed a great deal for the massage and spa environment since its conception in 1993.

Over the past several years, we have seen many traditional massage techniques incorporate stones; from deep tissue to Rieki and anything in between. So is stone massage a modality?

I have seen many interpretations of stone massage over the years, some great and some not so great. With a well trained therapist, the difference between great and not so great is very often tied to the description of the service your client thinks they will be receiving. The general population and some times even massage therapists only think of stone massage being stone placements and gentle massage strokes. The problem with this is that there are many body-workers, to their credit, that have brought their own twist into the stone massage world. When you work in a spa and have a client that has experienced stone massage before and your menu has a similar description they think it will be somewhat the same and when that does not happen we have an unhappy patron. Therefore, I believe the description of the treatment has to be more specific.

In my opinion, stone massage is not a modality but rather an add-on to whatever you offer whether it be Deep Tissue, Swedish, Rieki or Thai. If we were to present it that way, I believe our clients would be more apt to receive what they were expecting.

As we keep on reaching for the next level as stone therapists, our first concern is safety. The application with hot and cold stones and how the body will receive the heat or cold will change with each modality. There are many therapists and clients that have been injured by stone massage which is not acceptable. One should seek out proper training because there are no short cuts when it comes down to safety.

As our craft of stone massage goes through its changes, we need to make things more concise and easier to understand and this must start at the front desk. Although most employees that work at the front desk have a basic knowledge of the treatments and massage in general, we can better serve their efforts by giving them simplified and pinpointed treatment descriptions.

This hard working and often least appreciated team helps keep our rooms full so let’s try to support them which will in turn help all involved.

January 06, 2011 by Bruce Baltz

Healing Comes From Within

As massage therapists, our role is to initiate the natural healing process which lives within each one of us. But, due to life’s circumstances our body is not always our best friend. We are trained at a very young age to hold in emotions and to not express our feelings. As we get older most of us don’t even recognize the turmoil that we have created inside our own bodies. As adults we have become quite proficient at masking our feelings which makes our day-to-day lives seem quite healthy.

However, if we look at our lives a little closer we will find that a great deal of our imbalances is based on our reaction to fear. Most of us are taught if we don’t act in a certain way, or live up to certain expectations, there will be consequences. So as you can see a pattern is being developed that does not necessarily work to our advantage.

First, we need to acknowledge that we are carrying emotional baggage that can be the root cause of many of our physical imbalances. We then have to look at the systems of the body and how they are affected unconsciously. Studies have shown that the autonomic nervous system holds the key to many of our physical discomforts/problems. Stress and fear are two of the most notable causes that have been directly correlated to the dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system, better known as dysautonomia.

The chain of communication starting with the hypothalamus communicates with the pituitary gland and then the adrenal gland. These three glands produce many of the hormones that we need to keep our body in balance. But, through stress and fear we tend to overload our system to the point of losing touch with our overall well being.

The autonomic nervous system is broken into three parts, sympathetic [flight or fight] parasympathetic [rest and digest], and the enteric brain [digestive brain].

Dr. Paul Canali of Evolutionary Healing center in South Florida has been a pioneer in the search for therapies that positively affect the autonomic nervous system. According to Dr. Canali, “the Autonomic nervous system was always thought to be just that, automatic, motor like, reflex like in natural. It doesn’t matter if a car suddenly cuts you off on the freeway, or your boss tells you you arer fired, your autonomic system reacts the same way. Muscles contract, blood pressure goes up, digestion stops, your heart is racing, these are but a few of the many reactions activated in the body’s autonomic nervous system survival mode. The good news is that the autonomic nervous system also has a built in healing network that can override years of painful stress and trauma.

This part of the system allows for the deepest of human emotion, feeling of safety, love, and hope to be activated. These are what I call autonomic afferents, and they can receive information by specific sensory stimulation to free the nervous system that is stuck in a desperate survival mode. As much as 85% of modern disease may be due to the stress of being stuck in autonomic survival mode.

One of the most important steps in the healing process is to have our bodies recognize that there is a problem in the way our autonomic nervous system function. One of the ways to accomplish this is to bring attention to the system, which is already overloaded. Bringing awareness into different areas of our body can do this, by touch. The work can be done through contact to cervical, thoracic, lumbar, and sacral regions of the spine and their surrounding tissues. Dr. Paul Canali the developer of the Enteric Brain Technique has also found that working with specific visceral stimulation with cognitive support will affect the enteric brain portion of the autonomic nervous system. The Enteric brain is literally our second body brain, it controls and produces dozens of healing chemicals. 95% of the body’s serotonin, the anti depression, ecstasy molecule is stored here. According to Dr. Canali, ” The enteric brain is the gateway to the Parasympatic system’s most influential nerve the vagus nerve, which when given the proper support can send a powerful message to the brain, that is to Slow down, rest, digest and most importantly to heal.” Dr. Paul Canali and I are experimenting with the use of temperature with both hot and cold stonework and a massage table produced by Golden Ratio called the Mermaid (this is a table that has a heated water bladder instead of a foam pad), to see what the effects may be on the autonomic nervous system. One of the things the autonomic nervous system controls is body temperature; vasoconstriction or vasodilatation of blood vessels. Interestingly, this same reaction is part of the fear or stress response when the nervous system senses danger it contracts the surface blood vessels and muscles and shunts the blood to the deeper more powerful survival muscles. Unfortunately we can become stuck in this contracted survival mode. The use of hot and cold therapy seems to be one of the ways to turn off this survival reflex. We both believe in the healing powers of hydrotherapy and are very optimistic on the direct correlation temperature will have on the systems in the body.

Lets look at a common scenario. A client comes in with an acute injury and after a certain duration of time it will become chronic. Depending upon the response your client has, the treatment and what they’re willing to do to help themselves, this chronic stage could turn into adaptation. When we adapt to a condition, our body compensates for imbalances. At this time, we become our worst enemy. Our internal systems start to change, our physical function is affected and pain is the most likely outcome. One of the last phases of adaptation is disease, which often results in depression/frustration. It’s much easier to work within this framework sooner instead of later. We as human beings have to take responsibility for our internal well being and recognize our body’s natural healing powers.

We are looking to open the communication system that exists within us all to better serve us in order to maintain optimal health. Overstimulation on almost every level means that our body no longer has that “rest to digest” stage. The stress from our everyday lives, (jobs, society, relationships) all contribute to this, overloading our systems which cause imbalance/disease.

In order to be of greater benefit to our clients, our approach must be multidimensional. The physical bodywork is only one piece of the puzzle. When we look at the physical there is also a nutritional component that needs to be addressed. Without the proper Nutrients our bodies will not be able to produce the essential chemical reactions that are necessary to maintain optimal function. Then there is the emotional/spiritual side. There are as many ways of tapping into this realm as our physical modalities for the body. It is imperative that whatever modality is utilized, the client MUST also resonate
with it. The doctor or therapist must have the proper training and education to back up their protocol of treatments.

As massage therapists we have the ability to initiate communication with the autonomic nervous system in profound way. First we must gain the trust of our clients on an emotional and physical level. Once this is done, our bodies will do the rest.

January 06, 2011 by Bruce Baltz

Transition of Stone Massage

Stone work has been used for centuries as a healing practice by most indigenous people. Over the past ten years, stone work has entered the spa industry on many different levels. The use of Reiki/Energy Work, Swedish Massage, and Deep Tissue Therapy are just a few techniques that have been represented in this modality. The least recognized in this group is the use of ‘hot and cold stones’ for deep tissue application.

I have been involved with the body work related industry for the past twenty-three years as a personal trainer and a massage therapist since 1993. My focus as a massage therapist has been working with various facets of the medical community and athletes. This back ground assisted me in the development of Deep Tissue Healing ‘The Art of Stone Massage its application.

Stone massage is in a transitional stage, with the general public and most massage therapists thinking of stone work as a gentle relaxing treatment designed for spas primarily using hot stones only. Over the past five years, my focus has been on the education and development of deep tissue stone work with both hot and cold stones. In the practice of this modality the stones are used as an extension of my hand with direct contact to the body with the use of Prossage Heat (oil/ointment). The strokes that are used will be very familiar to all deep tissue massage therapists from effleurage to myofascial release and trigger point work to mention a few. With a solid foundation and understanding of stone massage a therapist can use that knowledge and utilize it for almost any modality.

The benefits of hydrotherapy are well recognized and supported by the medical community for its therapeutic properties. Stone work should now be added to that list because of its effectiveness in applying contrasting temperatures to the body. When working on an ischemic area, our goal is to increase blood flow to initiate the healing process. The severity of the injury will determine the amount of time that you will spend applying hot or cold stones. When a hot stone is presented into the treatment, the hyperemia will happen faster than with the use of hands alone. Your client’s muscle will relax sooner, which in turn will enable you to work deeper staying within the comfort level of your client.

If chronic pain has to be addressed in the treatment, it is essential that cold stones be applied. The more sensitive the injury the shorter the duration of heat that will be used. Increased blood flow in chronic pain situations can become an irritation if sustained for too long. In this situation cold stones will be used for a longer period of time than hot to reduce that inflammation. It is important to use cold stones in every treatment. The duration will depend on how much heat was used and the condition of the muscle tissue you are working on.

In Deep Tissue Healing basalt/ lava stones are primarily used to transfer heat, where as the hand carved white marble stones are used for the cold application. It has been found that basalt/lava will hold heat longer than other stones, and white marble stones will maintain a cooler temperature more efficiently. Shapes and sizes of stones vary depending upon the treatment area and the size of your client. As your stone work becomes more medical in nature the shapes and sizes are more important. With proper selection, you will be able to engage the affected muscle, tendon or ligament with more accuracy. For example, when accessing subscapularis you will use a stone that is oblong yet flat with a length of approximately five to six inches, depending upon the size of your hand. When the proper stone is chosen, you will find accessing hard to reach areas to be much more effective. During this deeper application the smoothness of the stone and the warmth will relax the affected tissue with little to no discomfort experienced by your client.

The basalt/lava stones are heated in water not in microwaves, crock pots, hot caddies for towels, or electric skillets, because the temperature is harder to control. When stone massage first entered the spa treatment realm we were using ‘turkey roasters’, 18 quarts or larger, yes a kitchen appliance to heat the stones. But now there is NESCO, which manufacture a heater called “Spa Pro.” This heater is better suited for stone massage because of its professional appearance and better quality of components. The cold stones can be made cool in three different ways: (1) refrigerator, (2) cooler with ice, and (3) the freezer. The choice on how to cool the stones is entirely yours along with the client’s tolerance to accept this change in temperature. For those clients who adapt well to the change in temperature, then cooling the stones in the freezer would be ideal. Whenever working with temperature (be it hot or cold) we must keep in mind less is more. As stone massage therapists there are two rules that must not be broken first do not bring a hot or cold stone to the table that you do not feel confident to handle. Then you will have to consider the tolerance your client has for heat or cold being applied directly to their skin. If this is not respected, a contraction to resist your work could occur. We want to avoid this contraction so that the client will obtain the maximum benefit from the treatment.

The preparation and understanding of working to work with stones safely must incorporate proper body mechanics. When I am working with a stone as an extinction of my hand, I take away the ability to work with the back of my hand and the use of my forearm. In this position, the end result is that my wrist could be in a hyper-extended position for most of the session. I can tell you, from experience this is not a good thing. The stones might save your fingers but in exchange you have done damage to your wrist. Using both hands equally and changing the angle of your wrist will help increase your longevity as a stone massage therapist. If you are able to combine this with pinning the stone to the body instead of holding it in your fingers your ability to feel through the stone will be greatly increased.

Stone Massage is still in its infancy, and I am committed to bringing this modality to a higher level in pain management.

Bruce Baltz is an internationally recognized educator with over twenty years experience in the fitness and bodywork industry. Bruce is a licensed massage therapist in New York and Florida and is the founder of SpiriPhysical Inc.

January 06, 2011 by Bruce Baltz