Each unique in its technique, the vast menu of massage treatments provides clients relief from a number of ailments. Whether the client's goal is relaxation and stress reduction, medical relief, pain management, reprieve from sore joints and muscles, injury recovery and rehabilitation, health and fitness, pampering, or even prenatal relief of aches and pains, each massage protocol will differ to provide the desired result.
Heated massage tools create one-of-a-kind experiences that are the perfect mix of warmth and relaxation. Warmed stones, shells, and bamboo allow therapists the ability to work the massage implement deep into stiff knots; the added benefit of heat helps to further promote relaxed muscles. Heated massage tools are often a preferred treatment among therapists since the heat has a penetrating effect on the muscles. The implement allows the therapist to deliver a relaxing, deep tissue massage without it being labor intensive. Therapists often see massage tools as an extension of their hands, thus reducing stress and strain to overworked fingers and wrists. Each tool possesses its own unique anatomy and function, creates an ease of use, and has the ability to offer a number of massage protocols based on the primary goal of the treatment.
Hot stones, bamboo, and shells all have smooth, gently rounded surfaces that transmit an excellent, uniform level of heat. These tools are ideal for long broad strokes, such as effleurage and petrissage, which is the most beneficial when massaging the major muscle groups, especially along the back, calves, thighs, and around the neck and shoulders. The rounded edges of the tools are ideal to stimulate pressure points or work deep into small, tight knots and problematic areas. The therapist should use this portion of stones and shells for the deepest, most penetrating bodywork.
For a therapeutic back massage, a number of massage techniques, including petrissage, effleurage, stripping, scraping, and trigger point release, can be used with heated tools. Utilizing warm stones and shells, the massage would be performed as is customary for the specific work requested and needed. It may be best to use the stones and shells to thoroughly warm and relax the muscles and then complete the back massage using hands/forearms/elbows, in order to satisfy the guest's need for human touch.
In general, massage is no longer seen as just pampering, but has gained more recognition in easing symptoms of medical conditions. "The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), part of the National Institutes of Health, reports that massage is one of the most popular complementary therapies used by Americans, with close to nine percent of adults using it. Until recently, little was known about why massage seemed to work, but recent research suggests that massage can affect the body's production of certain hormones linked to blood pressure, anxiety, heart rate and other key vital signs."3
For example, when performed on patients suffering from arthritis, massage can lead to a significant pain reduction. Tiffany Field, Ph.D., director of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine, has conducted a number of studies on the benefits of massage, including on people with arthritis. "In Field's research and other recent studies on the effects of massage for arthritis symptoms, regular use of the simple therapy led to improvements in pain, stiffness, range of motion, handgrip strength and overall function of the joints." 3
Heated massage tools can also be used during a prenatal/pregnancy massage in order to assist the client in relief from tight, inflamed muscles – such as a sore lower back and shoulders. However, this technique should only be combined with a standard prenatal massage protocol by a trained therapist, and for spot work only because it is important to keep the core temperature of a pregnant client at a healthy level. When using a heated implement for spot work, the therapist can place a chilled towel behind the client's neck or on her feet to keep the core temperature normal.
A dedicated anti-cellulite massage can also be performed using skillful and vigorous movements with a heated massage tool. A briskly paced deep tissue massage incorporating stokes such as kneading, knuckling (scraping), wringing, and petrissage can assist in eliminating waste by-products and breaking up fatty deposits. It is important to remember that the pressure of the strokes should always be in an upward movement from the extremities to encourage the elimination of freed deposits and toxins via the lymphatic system. The heat of the massage tool has a penetrating effect into the deeper layers of tissue, which not only reduces the appearance of existing cellulite, but also inhibits the formation of new cellulite. The combination of heat provided by the tool, along with brisk massage movements, aids in the fat burning process by increasing the client's metabolic rate.
Facials can also greatly benefit from heated massage. Strokes for the facial massage should be light pressure, small circular movements that begin at the neck/chin area, work upwards, and finish at the forehead. The heat will assist with opening the pores of the skin, allowing topical products to move into the subdermal and deep cellular levels. The mild heat will also increase blood circulation in the facial muscles, creating a healthy glow and encouraging lymphatic drainage.
When performing a reflexology treatment, warm massage tools can also be utilized. Using the rounded edges for trigger point release can be very effective in clearing the 10 energy zones on the feet. The rounded parts can also be used to perform small circles on the sole of the foot in the areas correlating to the different organs of the body. Finishing a reflexology treatment with the smooth stone/shell surface and applying steady pressure on the sole of the foot has a grounding effect for the client, which assists in rousing the client from a state of deep relaxation.
Heat can also be used as an add-on to a massage service. In order to heat and relax the muscles at the beginning of a massage, heated, damp towels can be placed on the client's back. With the muscles already relaxed, the therapist can work the muscles more effectively.
A rolled, warm, damp towel can also be placed behind the guest's neck. This towel can be used for support to warm the neck muscles or to apply traction and range of motion. The feet can also be wrapped with heated towels at the beginning of the massage service in order to help the guest relax. This add-on feature can also be done at the end of the service to remove any excess oil from the massage and to assist the client in returning from a deep state of relaxation.
In addition to new treatments, technology has improved over the last several years, allowing therapists the ability to add heat to their massage services without the use of electricity and/or heating roasters. Self-heating shells, stones, and battery-operated/rechargeable stones are some luxuries that massage therapists can now employ. These tools open up an entirely new type of massage menu for therapists, giving them the freedom to deliver decadent, heated massage services offsite, in-room, poolside, or even beachfront.
Not only are these add-on services a decadent addition to any massage, they are also very beneficial and therapeutic in nature. The guest receives the "wow" factor of these additions to their massage while also receiving the therapeutic benefits of heat.
Heated implements are both highly versatile and therapeutic in nature for massage. Quite literally, they can be used from head to toe and for many different styles and techniques.
1 Industry Fact Sheet, February 2016, American Massage Therapy Association, www.amtamassage.org
2 Industry Fact Sheet, Feburary 2016, American Massage Therapy Association, www.amtamassage.org
3 "Benefits of Massage," by Susan Bernstein, arthritus.org
As the Vice President of Sales, Marketing and Business Development of Spa Revolutions, Kristin Sartore brings forth over 10 years of experience in marketing, business and product development, graphic design, and sales. Sartore is responsible for all corporate identity, product branding, and promotional events for the company, and also plays an instrumental role in establishing the overall strategic direction of the business. Sartore's background has translated perfectly into Spa Revolutions' business model, particularly in the areas of concept and brand development where her ideas have contributed to numerous product launches and international marketing campaigns.
Vicky Karr, owner of Spa Success, LLC, worked in several boutique spas before joining the staff of Ritz Carlton Hotel and Spas in 1998. While with Ritz Carlton, she worked as a departmental trainer, spa manager, spa therapies manager, and corporate trainer and assisted in the pre-opening training of therapists at 12 Ritz Carlton spas. In late 2005, she started her own business, Spa Success, LLC. Karr is approved by the National Certification Board of Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork as a continuing education approved provider. She has achieved Master Certification Level in Reflexology and is currently licensed in Florida as a massage therapist and as a facial specialist.