As a massage therapist, there are many things you can do to help ease clients’ pain and improve their mental health, just two of the benefits of engaging in massage therapy according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.
However, one additional way to help clients get the most from their massages involves knowing how to get the most from the topicals you choose use. Most fall into one of three categories: warming topicals, topicals which create cooling effects, and basic massage topicals.
Warming topical considerations
One ingredient commonly found in warming topicals is camphor. Healthline explains that camphor comes from the wood of camphor trees and can help with pain and irritation, as well as itching and inflammation. Additionally, the skin absorbs it easily and, as long as it is used correctly and not in too-high doses, it is safe for the average client.
Camphor-containing massage topicals can help a variety of pain-based conditions, For example, one study in the IOSR Journal of Nursing and Health Sciences found that using camphor oil combined with warm mustard oil was more effective at relieving knee joint pain in women than warm mustard oil alone. Other pieces of research indicate that warming topicals can also oftentimes provide relief if arthritis is present.
The one thing to keep in mind when using warming topicals is that these types of products should not be combined with other warming agents and devices.
Use of cooling topicals
Cooling topicals enable massage therapists to provide pain relief without risk of freezing or irritating the affected area, and many such topicals contain the ingredient menthol. The Encyclopedia Britannica indicates that menthol can be synthetically produced or obtained from peppermint oil. Either way, it produces a cooling sensation that research has found to help ease pain.
One such study was published in the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies and involved 20 adult females who struggled with hand arthritis. Part of the subjects received massage therapy and the rest engaged in massage therapy with a menthol topical. The group which engaged in massage with the menthol topical reported more improvement in hand function, greater grip strength, and reduced hand pain than the non-menthol group. They also noted more improvements in their mood and sleep.
Additional massage topical best use practices
Regardless of what type of topicals you choose to offer your clients, there are a few additional best use practices which, when followed, can help you get the most from them.
One is to not use topicals on wounds or damaged skin. Additionally, if the topical contains an analgesic, do not bandage the area tightly and take precautions to ensure that the product does not get into the eyes.
If you sell topicals to your clients, it also helps to share with them how to get the most out of the oil, gel, lotion, or crème they’ve purchased from you. This includes sharing that they should not use it more than four times a day, it needs to be rubbed in thoroughly until it is absorbed, and not using it on children or pregnant women without a doctor’s approval. Also share the precautions, such as discontinuing use if their condition worsens, if they experience symptoms for more than a week, or if symptoms disappear and reappear within a few days.
There are quite a few topical options for massage therapists and getting the most from each one involves learning what type of conditions they treat and how to use them to get the best results. That makes them as beneficial to you, the practitioner, as they are for your clients.