While hot stone therapy seems to be on the menu of spas everywhere, its lesser-known chilly counterpart is an equally effective technique for promoting relaxation and relieving discomfort. Cold stone massage, whether it’s performed with only cold stones or in conjunction with hot stones, helps lower stress, improve circulation and soothe inflammation to treat a variety of maladies. Cold stone massages are generally well tolerated, although you may need to consult a doctor if you have certain conditions that may contraindicate massage.
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How It Works
When cold stones are placed on your skin, it triggers vasoconstriction -- the narrowing of blood vessels. After the cold stones are removed, the blood vessels dilate again, supplying the affected areas with fresh blood and oxygen. This process increases circulation. There are two main types of stones used for this type of massage -- marine sedimentary stones and marble -- both of which stay cold for longer periods than other stones.
Cold Stone Massage Benefits
Some obvious benefits include cooling your body and relieving discomfort associated with hot temperatures or hot flashes. Beyond that, cold stones offer therapeutic effects on a range of conditions ranging from easing arthritis pain and muscle injuries to alleviating sinus congestion. Additionally, cold stone therapy can reduce swelling, relax muscle spasms, decrease menstrual pain and restore energy levels. Alternating hot and cold stones -- a technique known as thermal contrasting -- can also help stimulate organ reflexes and blood vessels, increase blood flow to areas with inadequate circulation, help remove impurities and give skin a firmer texture.
Cold Stone Massage Techniques
A few massage applications are particularly well-suited for cold stones. Some examples include eye balancing, which is characterized by applying flat stones to the eyes to reduce redness and inflammation. Cryofacial balancing involves smoothing the cold stones over the face to cool and soothe irritated skin. The same technique can be used elsewhere on the body to relieve redness or irritation from a chemical peel or waxing. If you're treating muscle pain or joint inflammation, surrounding the affected area with cold stones -- a technique called cocooning -- offers significant relief from discomfort.
Inform your masseuse if you have any open wounds, fractures or tumors so that these areas can be avoided or treated with the correct amount of pressure. Cold stone massages have benefits, but aren’t appropriate for everyone. Avoid undergoing any massage without consulting a doctor if you're pregnant. Likewise, check with your physician before having a massage if you've recently undergone radiation or chemotherapy, or if you have heart disease, metal implants, high blood pressure, Parkinson's disease, circulatory problems, blood-clotting disorder, extreme obesity or diabetic peripheral neuropathy.