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Have you heard about hot stone massage? If you have never experienced this unique indulgence, you owe yourself this exquisite treatment.

Thermo-therapy - the application of heat - relieves sore muscles, helping to alleviate the stiffness brought on by too many hours at a desk and the stress of everyday life. This therapy is becoming widely known for its deeply relaxing benefits. It employs a technique that uses smooth, heated basalt stones, which are placed on specific acupressure points on the body to melt away knots, tension and stress. It can be applied as a relaxation technique by adding hot essential oils. The hot stone experience relieves pain, promotes harmony, balance and peace.

Hot stone massage is perfect for those wanting a deep tissue massage as it helps stubborn muscles release and relax, allowing manipulation of a greater intensity than with regular massage. The technique seems to reach deeper into the tired or aching muscles without having to apply more pressure, since the stone does the work that the hands often have to do. Clients also leave feeling the beneficial effects of a deep massage, without any soreness that may come with a deep massage session.

While many consider this to be a newly discovered form of therapy, according to aromatherapist Francoise Rapp, this is an age-old therapy dating back 3,000 years to India and China. The Native Americans are said to have used stones warmed in hot springs for centuries as a means of applying uniform heat to the body.

Ayurvedic medicine, a proven and ancient system for healing, has many techniques that involve hot stones applied to the body. The energy called "prana" is the breath of life, which moves through all forms to give them life. Rapp states that Yogi's work with this energy with breathing techniques, meditation, physical exercise and massage produced altered states of consciousness, healing and longevity. They would not only use their hands for manipulation and healing, but also utilize "tools" the earth would provide such as herbs, flowers, crystals and stones. Stone massage therapy came from the healers using rocks from the riverbeds and warming them either in hot coals or hot water.

By placing the hot stones on cloth on the body and arranging them along the energy centers of the body, a healing process would occur. The hot stones have a tendency to relax the muscles and "draw out" muscle pain and discomfort.

You may also experience a deeper relaxation from the continuous heat therapy, and improved detoxification.

There are some precautions to consider before receiving a hot stone massage. Children, pregnant and menopausal women, and the elderly should be treated more gently and with less extreme temperatures in a stone massage.

People with skin conditions such as eczema, rashes, acne and psoriasis should avoid the heat. People with numb skin due to skin grafting or neuropathy should be extra cautious. Anyone on medication that causes skin hypersensitivity (i.e., antibiotics) should wait until they are off the medication.

People who are extremely obese, perspire profusely, or have a fever or swollen glands should avoid thermo-therapy.

Be sure to tell your therapist if you have varicose veins, open wounds or areas with infected skin conditions.

In our too-fast, too-stressed out world, it's nice to know that we can come back to our roots and center ourselves with something as simple as stone.

Take the time to pamper yourself with this wonder therapy today!

Cleveland is a licensed massage therapist located in Elbridge

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