As a massage therapist, there are decisions that need to be made about which topicals to use. Here are four FAQs about massage topicals and their answers.

When you’re trying to run a thriving massage therapy practice, it’s important to make the right decisions for your business.

Sometimes these decisions are based on the clientele you want to treat, like deciding which types of massage you’ll offer or how to market your services in a way that is more appealing to your target market.

Others are based on your brand or the environment you’d like to create, which includes figuring out the colors you want to use, your lighting design, and how you plan to set up your therapy rooms.

As a massage therapist, there are also decisions that need to be made about which topicals to use.

So, if you have questions about which ones are best for your practice or how to best use these types of products, here are four of the most common questions, as well as their answers.

#1: What’s the best way to try a new (or new-to-me) topical?

Making a product switch can be nerve wracking, especially if you’ve used a particular one for a long time. However, sometimes trying a new topical is necessary, whether it’s because you’re no longer happy with the one you typically use or you simply want to expand your client offerings.

In either case, one simple way to try a new topical is to request sample packets. This method not only enables you to try the product before making a full-blown purchase, but it also gives you the opportunity to test it out on your clients to see what they think of it.

If you’re not only looking to switch products, but to change entire brands, some topical manufacturers offer the option of purchasing entire sample kits, or kits that contain samples of a variety of different topicals.

For instance, Sombra Professional Therapy Products offers a free sample kit (you just pay shipping) that contains warm therapy and cool therapy gel samples, as well all samples of their natural massage creme and lotion. This kit allows you to try a few different ones out before making your decision.

#2: Are CBD topicals legal or not?

This issue is one that is still heavily debated as there is significant confusion over when it is okay to use CBD (cannabidiol) products and when the law prohibits you from doing so.

On May 22, 2018, the U.S. Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) released an internal directive on cannabinoids specifically, which states, in part:

“Products and materials that are made from the cannabis plant and which fall outside the CSA definition of marijuana (such as sterilized seeds, oil or cake made from the seeds, and mature stalks) are not controlled under the CSA. Such products may accordingly be sold and otherwise distributed throughout the United States without restriction under the CSA or its implementing regulations. The mere presence of cannabinoids is not itself dispositive as to whether a substance is within the scope of the CSA; the dispositive question is whether the substance falls within the CSA definition of marijuana.”

In short, the DEA says it will only enforce laws relative to substances controlled under the CSA (Controlled Substances Act) and products that fall outside this category are not subject to legal enforcement. So, which category does CBD fall into? The answer is still somewhat unclear.

CBD Origin says that, while hemp-derived CBD is legal in all 50 states because it has no psychoactive properties, marijuana-derived CBD is not necessarily afforded this same right because it is a marijuana byproduct that contains THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the compound responsible for creating a high effect.

Thus, each state has different laws regarding this particular CBD derivative and whether it is legal.

Yet, one Forbes contributing writer and cannabis expert shares that CBD is not actually legal in all states as the laws are not being interpreted correctly. The author does go on to say that the DEA has indicated that they aren’t necessarily prosecuting CBD oil cases either.

In the end, the obligation falls back on individual massage therapists to determine whether it is legal or illegal to use CBD products in their local geographic region.

#3: What types of therapies should NOT be used in conjunction with heating or cooling topicals?

If a client is experiencing issues related to pain and/or inflammation, it’s normal to want to do all you can to provide relief. However, there are certain types of therapeutic interventions that should not be combined with heating or cooling topicals.

For instance, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) indicates that, once a heating or cooling topical has been applied, the areas it is applied to should not be covered with bandages.

Heat and cold-producing topicals should also not be used in conjunction with other heat therapy products—such as heating pads, hot water bottles, or lamps—according to the FDA, as these can increase burn risk.

#4: What additional therapies are okay to use with topicals that cool?

One therapy option that research has found to work well when combined with cooling topicals is ice. In spring of 2013, the Journal of Athletic Training published a study involving 19 subjects, all of whom received either menthol gel treatment, ice, menthol and ice, or no treatment whatsoever, the last group serving as a control.

After engaging in 20-minute sessions on four different days, the subjects were assessed, and researchers discovered that, while both menthol and ice were effective at decreasing radial artery blood flow, the group that received menthol gel and ice together received the greatest effects.

It’s often said that the only stupid question is the question left unasked. Therefore, getting your answers to these types of questions can help you make the best decisions possible when it comes to the topicals you choose to use at your massage practice, making you a smarter health care professional as a result.