Hot stone massage therapy is a popular spa treatment, and many devotees may want to replicate this soothing experience at home. While the microwave oven is a great tool in the kitchen, it's best to avoid heating massage stones in a microwave not only for safety's sake, but also for the comfort of the person being treated. A consistent temperature, water-based warming and safe heating procedures are important for heating massage stones. For best results, it's advisable to receive your hot stone treatment from a certified professional at a licensed spa.
If you've ever heated a frozen burrito in the microwave, you know how inconsistent that cooking method can be: the ends may be as hot as molten lava to your tongue, while there are still ice crystals inside. This uneven heating isn't suited for massage stones, because all the stones for use in a session must be warmed to the same consistent temperature. Also, it's very difficult to gauge the exact temperature inside the microwave, so you don't know how hot the stones will be until you test each one. Home practitioners can burn their hands or the recipient's skin by misjudging the temperature of hot stones.
Moist Heat vs. Dry Heat
The heat produced in a microwave is very dry. Massage stones are natural stones buffed by man or nature, and exposure to such high temperatures without moisture can cause them to crack or even explode if an improper type of stone is used. Not only is moist heat safer, it produces better results for the client. "We use stones heated with water, because moist heat penetrates the muscles better," said Kimberly Owens, licensed massage therapist and spa director at the New Moon Spa located at the Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. She added that moist heat also warms stones more consistently throughout.
There are several ways to avoid the microwave and achieve a moist heat with your massage stones. Large slow cookers or electric skillets have been used with success by therapists, as long as you add water before you add the stones. Owens stated that her facility uses a turkey roaster, which has a compartment in the bottom for water and gives the stones a thorough warming without making them too hot, and which gives the therapist control of the heat with a temperature gauge. There are commercial stone heaters available on the professional market as well, although these can be expensive. For inexperienced massage enthusiasts, the best way to learn about heating massage stones is to take a seminar in hot stone massage from a professional therapist.