When it comes to alternative therapies Massage is probably the best known and most trusted. This hands-on form of healing dates back many thousands of years and can be found in just about every culture.
There are several different types of massage, ranging from Swedish and Relaxation Massage to Remedial, Deep Tissue, Aromatherapy, Lymphatic Drainage and Reflexology. Every culture has had its own speciality, such as Lomi Lomi Massage in Hawaii.
One form of massage that is becoming increasingly popular again now is Hot Stone Massage. It's not unusual to combine massage with thermotherapy (heat) and the hot stones are one way of doing this. It's likely the origins of hot stone massage came from the Chinese and Native Americans. However, hot stones are also used in Ayurvedic medicine.
Some say it was the Arabic people of the Middle East who first used hot stones for therapeutic purposes and who passed on the technique to the Chinese.
These days the hot stones are used not only for their healing benefits but also for relaxation. Traditionally, the stones were used by Native Americans to relieve cramps in the lower abdomen. In Hawaii, the stones were wrapped in therapeutic leaves and used to soothe sore muscles.
Interestingly, it was in the US that this form of massage was re-discovered in the early 1990s. Today it is sometimes referred to as Hot Rocks Massage and is available in most good spas and massage centres.
The stones come in all shapes and sizes and are usually volcanic in origin, containing basalt, ferromagnesian and other rich minerals known to be thermostatically conductive. Different therapists have their own techniques but generally, the stones will be placed on key areas, such as chakras or pressure points.
They may also be applied to problem areas, such as sore muscles in the lower back. Some therapists believe that one stroke with a hot rock offers the benefits of 10 regular massage strokes.
This is how it works. These special stones can absorb, retain and release heat - that's the Thermotherapy bit. So when you place them on the body the heat will deeply penetrate the muscle. This serves several purposes.
The heat will relax the muscles quicker, enabling the therapist to get deeper into the problem areas. It will also boost the circulation and draw blood to the surface.
If you're worried about tolerating the heat, don't be. Your therapist will find the right temperature for you and will most likely place a towel between the rocks and your skin. Hot Stone Massage really is a treatment you want to make time for, ideally 60-90 minutes.
There are so many benefits to this therapy. It not only speeds up recovery from muscle pain and injury but will also accelerate general healing and rehabilitation. By detoxifying your system and boosting blood and lymph circulation, it will also strengthen your immune system.
Most of all hot stone massage will induce the deepest feelings of relaxation. Yes, most forms of massage therapy are relaxing but we're talking uber chillaxing here. Tension and pain will melt away and you'll enjoy the best night's sleep ever.
Studies have found that massage is a great alternative to sleeping pills for adults who suffer from insomnia. A back massage seems to be the most effective. Not only does massage help you fall asleep quicker, but it induces a more restorative sleep so that you wake feeling more alert and active.
Hot stone massage may also help with autoimmune diseases such as fibromyalgia. At the very least it will relieve the chronic pain associated with this condition. No surprise then that it's also great for treating arthritis.
Here's where it gets really interesting. Hot stone massage is believed to help decrease cancer symptoms. In a far-reaching three-year study, cancer patients who received massage reported less pain, stress, nausea, anxiety and depression.