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Geothermal Therapy, Guest, LaStone

No one should ever experience a burn in a stone session by Mary Nelson

Following is part of an article Mary Nelson wrote about burns and stone massages. The original article is written for therapists and includes information about the body’s reaction to temperature, burns, how to treat them, treatment plans, stone heating etc. Below are parts of the article which I find relevant for the client to read.


By Mary Nelson, founder of LaStone®

Geo-Thermal Therapy
The Science of the Stones

My vision over the last sixteen years has been to develop LaStone into a post graduate training program that includes the ancient practice of stone healing and encompasses all areas of spiritual and scientific reasoning as it applies to alternating temperatures to the body. In the last seven years I have been involved as an expert witness in cases where burns have been inflicted on clients due to a therapist not understanding the full potential of offering heated stones to the human body. With each case it has been my observation that none of the burns should have occurred had the therapist understood a few simple and yet practical rules as they apply to temperature and the various systems of their client’s body. This article will focus on heated stones and briefly mention the use of chilled stones—chilled stones will not harm, but heated stones have the potential of harming if the therapist is not skilled and educated in the field of Geo-Thermal Therapy.

First and foremost the client is in control. A client should be informed at the beginning of the stone session that they are always in full control of the temperature of the stones and how that temperature is affecting/supporting their body. A client must feel confident that they can request the therapist to adjust the temperature of the stones to fit their comfort level at all times.

Second a complete and in-depth Client Information Form must always accompany any stone session. Without understanding the health and constitution of the client receiving a stone session a therapist cannot choose the correct temperatures and duration of time that temperature is offered to the body, nor can the therapist determine what modality to use during the stone session.

Third a therapist should check in with the client several times throughout the stone session to be sure that the client’s comfort level is being met and at no time should a therapist allow a client to sleep through any stone placement layouts without first checking in to make absolutely sure the stones are not too hot for the client in that particular area of their body.

The reaction of the body as it applies to hyperemia, an increase in blood flow when tissue is active, is determined by a several factors.

Hyperemia Vasodilatation is the widening of the blood vessels and occurs when the muscles in the walls of the vessels become relaxed leading to a decrease in blood pressure. Vasodilatation occurs when heated stones are applied to isolated areas of the body—this vasodilatation brings oxygenated blood to the periphery from the local blood flow in the area resulting in hyperemia. This reaction is evident within seconds of increasing tissue metabolism, which also increases blood flow to the isolated area of the body being treated with heated stones. This increased blood flow returns to normal when the metabolism is restored to normal (meaning the heated application of the stones has been stopped).

The level of hyperemia is determined by how much the metabolic activity was increased due to the following: the length of time the heated stones were applied to the local area, the condition of the client’s body, the client’s regular intake of water, the condition of their skin, their digestive system, circulatory system and lymphatic system, and any medication the client may be taking must also be considered in order to determine how much heat you can apply to isolated areas of the body in order to support the body without damaging tissue in the process.

Massaging with the heated stones in isolated areas bring about a chemical response from the local tissue and increases the client’s metabolism, which results in oxygenated blood to the epidermis and local muscles in the area.

Modality for Stone Sessions vary—not all stone sessions are applied with the use of Swedish techniques. Depending on the client’s health concerns and goals, the modality that accompanies a stone session will vary greatly from week to week and client to client.

Stone placement with either sheets or a towel or clothing between the client’s bare skin and the heated stones will offer warmth and support for their body. When placing/tucking hot stones under and on top of the client’s body it takes an average of three to four minutes for the heat to fully penetrate the layers of resistance/material before a client can discern if the hot/warm stones are adequate for their needs or can possibly cause harm to their epidermis. This time factor varies according to the thickness of the resistance/material being used, the health of the client, the temperature of the stones being used and the location of the stone placement, i.e., on/over bone, organ or muscle.

Length of time governs the exposure of temperature to the body either by stone placement or moving a stone such as in massage or point work. The duration of time a therapist offers temperature to an isolated area is important because the length of time the temperature is being offered to the body will determine the body’s response to the temperature. The only way to determine how long to offer stones to the body is to fully understand the client’s health concerns. (See charts in LaStone manual: Examples of Heated Stones on Isolated Areas and Examples of Chilled Stones on Isolated Areas.)

Hydration is vital for the success of any stone session. This applies to the internal constitution of the client’s body as well as to their epidermis. Without proper hydration burns can and will occur. The client’s skin must be moist when applying stones in the various massage modalities as well as in stone placement. If the client’s skin appears to be dry then some form of moisturizer must be applied, be that massage oil or lotions, even if the modality of choice is Shiatsu, Reflexology, or Energy Work where ‘massage strokes’ are not being applied.

Keeping the client’s internal system hydrated is just as important as hydrating the epidermis; therefore, we recommend that clients drink additional water prior to, during and after their stone session. If the client is not hydrated properly the detox process is slow to start. Also, in order to support the kidneys in releasing toxins that were released during the stone session, a client must be hydrated or tissue damage, weakness and sluggish feelings can occur.

Swedish massage alone begins the process of removal of toxins in the body; so, when massage is coupled with heated stones, the reactions are tenfold. If the kidneys and liver are in short supply of water, then the body’s filtration system will not be able to move out unwanted toxins. Adding temperature to a Swedish massage, such as we offer in a LaStone session, demands the body to respond not only to the modality (i.e., Swedish and Lomi Lomi massage), but also to the increase of blood flow encouraged by the temperatures. If the body is working overtime to process the information of the massage and the temperatures being applied, then the kidneys, liver and all systems of the body are in desperate need of hydration. The only real way to hydrate the body is with pure water. It is important that the water is of high quality; therefore, it may be necessary for you to offer filtered bottled water to your clients.

Some Reasons Why Clients Have Been Burned

  • The therapist neglected to empower the client—encouraging the client to have full control over the temperature of the stones and to let the therapist know if the stones are too hot.
  • The client did not inform the therapist of a contraindication that involves temperature sensitivities.
  • The stones were heated with something other than water.
  • The heating unit’s water is too hot.
  • The therapist did not monitor the temperature of the stones.
  • The therapist did not use enough resistance/material between the client’s bare skin and the hot stones in stone placements.
  • The therapist tucked hot stones on the bare skin not warm stones.
  • The client fell asleep on the Spinal Layout Stones, hot belly stone or tucked stones.

About Pia Poulsen

Pia Poulsen is educated as a wellness massage therapist at Institut FIGARI in Paris, from where she passed her certification exam in January 2008. Since then she has expanded her skills to become the first Advanced LaStone® practitioner in France as well as a certified LaStone® instructor.


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