Heated or Cooled Thermalball therapy
Whether helping relax, heal from an injury or decrease pain, thermalball therapy works. Massage works because you’re committed to continually learning and honing your skill in the modalities you practice. Taking continuing education, studying with therapists who have been in practice or who are especially adept at particular modalities, all combine to make you a better massage therapist.
And when dealing with your clients, knowledge is power—especially when using modalities that have the potential to harm. Following, you’ll learn more about how to safely practice with hot thermalballs. These are the same practices that you would follow with hot stones, but thermalballs are much safer. The insulated encasement keeps the heat (or cold) “in” and not at the surface of the ball. The interior is much hotter or colder than the “skin” of the ball. You know how much the thermalballs have improved your technique (even if only to reduce your hand pain due to acupressure and trigger point therapy as well as long strokes gliding over bony prominences.
As with all massage therapy treatments, many factors will guide you when determining how to incorporate hot thermalball techniques into a client’s session—if at all. For example, a thermalball session with a client who has multiple health problems will be necessarily different than a session where the client has no health concerns.
When using hot stones, too, you want to make sure that you don’t overdo it the first time you use the technique with your clients.
The thermalball modality, like most massage techniques, is meant to build over a period of weeks, and your clients should always leave the session feeling revived, energized, relaxed and supported. If a client feels sick or in pain—or the temperatures overworked their internal systems—they may rethink returning. Remember, your goal as their massage therapist is to help them realize the gentle benefits of receiving ongoing thermalball massages.
Thermalball therapy can be used with several massage modalities, including Swedish massage, as well as placed on the client’s body. When placing thermalballs, however, you DO NOT have to remember to use a sheet or towel or clothing between the client’s bare skin and the heated ball! You must remember to use a sheet, towel or clothing between the client’s bare skin and a hot stone!!! During thermalball placement, the heat takes 1 to 4 minutes—depending on the size of the thermalball —to fully penetrate before your client can accurately discern if the stones are too hot. (This average time varies, too, according to the internal temperature of thermalball, as well as the health of the client, and size and placement of balls.)
KNOW YOUR CLIENT. Especially with hot stone massage, ensuring your clients fill out a detailed intake form is necessary. Massage therapists need a full understanding of the client’s health to determine what temperature would be appropriate. Be sure you know if your client is suffering from any injuries, dealing with chronic tension, taking any medication or plan to have any other treatments (For example, if a client is receiving multiple treatments throughout the day at a spa, one heated treatment in a six-hour timeframe is an acceptable guideline to follow.)
Keep in mind that the client’s health not only dictates the temperature of the thermalballs, but also how long heated (or chilled) thermalballs can be offered to a client’s body.
PROPER HYDRATION. Hydration is vital when doing a heated thermalball massage, both internally and to the client’s skin. Without proper hydration, burns may not occur as they often do with hot stones, but checking if the client’s skin appears dry, applying some form of moisturizer, such as massage oil or lotion, is a must.
Keeping the client’s internal system hydrated is just as important, however. Have clients drink water prior to, during and after their thermalball session. Think about it like this: Adding temperature to Swedish massage, for example, demands the body respond not only to the modality, but also to the increase of blood flow encouraged by the temperatures. Again, proper hydration is a must.
HEAT THERMALBALLS PROPERLY. First, the fastest way to heat thermalballs is by microwaving them in a Kewler Krock with the balls submerged in water. Direct Microwaves, hot plates, slow cookers and ovens—to name only a few—are never appropriate places to heat thermalballs.
Also, the only safe way to heat thermalballs is in water, as you can accurately control the heat of the water, making sure the thermalballs don’t get too hot. You should invest in a calibrated thermometer, however, to test the temperature of the water instead of relying solely on the thermostat of the heating unit. Any heating unit you purchase should have a temperature control so you can adjust the temperature of the water as needed. Generally, water between 110–130 F will get your thermalballs to the proper temperature. If you haven’t purchased a Kewler Krock, a large microwaveable bowl filled with water, so that the thermalballs are completely submerged. You need to make sure the entire ball is covered. The reason for this is that if the non-toxic proprietary thermal fluid boils, the steam can reach high enough temperature to deform the encasement. If this happens, retire the thermalball to cold use only.
JUST RIGHT. How will you know if your thermalballs are a safe temperature for your clients? A good indication is if you can hold the balls comfortably in your hands. Squeeze or hold the stone in your hand for a count of five seconds: If the balls are too hot for you to hold then they are too hot for the client.
You also need to consider how the thermalball will be used during the session to gauge the proper temperature. For example, using thermalballs during a massage is different than placing a heated thermalballs on the spine, and you need to take this difference into consideration when heating your thermalballs. Massaging with heated thermalballs, for example, will improve the heat transfer, sometimes rapidly.
Conversely, thermalballs resting on a client’s body might hold their temperature for a longer period of time.
UNDERSTAND THE BODY’S REACTION. Applications of heated thermalballs (or chilled – icyball) produces a series of internal responses. Working with temperatures acts as a derivative—decreasing blood and lymph in one area by increasing blood and lymph in another.
Prolonged application of heated thermalballs to a reflex area causes dilation of the blood vessels of related organs. In other words, the use of heated stones on isolated areas pulls blood from the reflex organs to the tissue in those regions, resulting in warm, flushed skin. Often, this result opens the door for therapists to work even deeper on trigger points or really tight muscles.
The amount of time you use heated thermalballs on a client’s body is determined by how strong your client’s body is at the time of the massage therapy session. The stronger the constitution of your client, the more time you can introduce heat to the body; the weaker your client’s body, the less time you’re going to want to offer heated thermalballs. Remember above all else, however, that if you are in doubt about how a client can handle hot thermalball therapy, you should always error on the side of caution and limit the time you use heated thermalballs. If the client has been exposed to and enjoys hot stone massages, then they will be absolutely energized by a thorough thermalball or icyball massage.
Why Clients Get Burned with HOT Stones
When done properly, there is no reason for a client to get burned during a hot stone session. That’s not to say, however, that burns never happen. Many times, if not in all cases, a burn could have been prevented. The best way to prevent burns is to use thermalball products instead or in addition to hot stone therapy. The single most quoted reason for switching to thermalball only therapy is the reduced risk of “burns” from hot stones and the balls ability to glide over bony prominences as well as the bonus therapy they provide to your own hands!