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
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