Choosing and Using
Massage Stones:
A Primer

By Dwayne Crandall, LMT
Licensed Massage Therapist and Owner of

Many massage therapists look for black basalt stones. I have personally tested riverstones for heat retention against other black basalt sets. I found very little difference, if any at all. Any stones that you use need to be given time to heat thoroughly. If you place stones in hot water and immediately pull them out they will feel warm. The warmth will go away quickly because the stones only had time to warm on the surface and will cool quickly. This is true of any type of stone available. You have to let stones heat for several minutes in order for the heat to reach the core of the stones. Then and only then will the stones stay warm for a longer period of time.

Definition from merriam-webster online

Pronunciation: b&-'solt, 'bA-"
Function: noun
Etymology: Latin basaltes, manuscript variant of basanites touchstone, from Greek basanitEs (lithos), from basanos touchstone, from Egyptian bhnw : a dark gray to black dense to fine-grained igneous rock that consists of basic plagioclase, augite, and usually magnetite

riverstone - There is not a definition available in merriam-webster for riverstone. Although we did find several websites that state that riverstone is a jasper related stone and comes in a variety of colors, including pink, beige, blue and tan. There are also white, black, green and other colors that appear in some of the sets we use in our clinic. If you are into crystal healing many of these sites state that riverstone is thought to be helpful in alleviating anxiety, speed up metabolism and promote physical energy.

Heating Methods & Insurance Concerns

I'm sure you have seen many places offering stone warmers with or without stones for extremely high prices. These warmers are very heavy and cost several dollars to ship them. Many of them are nothing more than an electric roaster with a sticker on them, that deems it as an official stone warmer. Insurance companies usually require that you let them know if you are using hot stones for massage in your practice. Most of them require that you do not heat them above 120 degrees Fahrenheit. You can save yourself money by going to a local department store and purchasing a crock pot or electric roaster. If you use a crock pot, use it on a low setting and check the stones frequently to feel how warm they are before placing them on a client. I personally use this method. Sometimes I need to let the stones cool a minute before placing them on someone. Generally if you can check them on your wrist like when you check a baby's bottle then you should be fine. If using an electric roaster, then you will want to try to get one that you can set the temperature at or below 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

Polished Stones Verses Unpolished Stones

When using unpolished stones it is said they have more energy. We have yet to personally test the energy levels of any stones. I would guess that the energy is going to be about the same whether a stone is polished or not. I would also assume that most of the energy comes from actually heating the stones and not based on if the stone is polished or not. Some therapists express concerns that polished stones may contain chemicals. My mother uses the same riverstones we use in our clinic in her fish tank at home. She washed the stones to use in her fish tank and has had the same 8 goldfish in the bowl with our stones for over two years. The fish do not appear to have grown any extra eyes, fins or even gotten ill from the stones being in the tank. In fact they seem to be as happy as a fish can be. If the fish could speak I would ask them if their anxiety levels have decreased any since they have been living among polished riverstones.

I have noticed when using unpolished basalt stones that when rubbing them over the skin they tend to get a build up of dead skin cells and dirt in the pores of the unpolished basalt. I prefer to use polished riverstones because any pores are sealed so that they will not get this ugly build up in the pores. They also clean up much easier and are more sanitary because of the fact that the riverstones we use are polished.

Size Difference

The largest stones in most riverstone sets average about 2-3 inches in diameter. Some basalt sets include larger stones up to 5-6 inches in diameter. I personally have never encountered any trigger points within the muscles that I have massaged that have had any trigger points exceeding 2-3 inches in size. In fact most trigger points are about 1/4 inch to 1 inch. If I find an area of the body that is sore all over, I just place a few more riverstones on that particular area. I really don't know why anyone would need a stone that would be over 2-3 inches in diameter. A large stone can be nice for the sacrum, but our riverstones just do not come that large in size. That is why I place 4 stones in that area. One to each side of the sacrum and one or two just above it. That is where the soft tissues are going to get the most benefit from a hot stone near the sacrum.

This article was written by Dwayne Crandall, LMT. He and his wife run a massage therapy product and supply company online at and ebay store at

Dwayne says: "We felt this information would be useful to anyone working with or considering purchasing massage stones in the near future. The information is based on our own personal tests and opinions when working with stones. We devote our site to saving therapists and massage lovers from spending too much money on products and supplies. We try to get the best supplies and products possible and have them available for lower prices than you can find almost anywhere else. We hope this information is helpful to you and we invite you to visit one of our sites in the near future. We have newsletters, a massage message center and free business listings for therapists and massage lovers. These features are all available on our website."

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