A massage therapist using massage topicals on a client

As a massage therapist, there are many things you can do to help ease clients’ pain and improve their mental health.

These are just two of the benefits of engaging in massage therapy according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.

Part of easing pain effectively involves choosing the technique that is most likely to offer your clients the best results.

For instance, research published in the North American Journal of Sports Physical Therapy shares that sports massage provides pre-event benefits such as reduced blood pressure and improved mood, while also helping athletes post-event by reducing delayed onset muscle soreness and treating any injuries that may occur.

Deep tissue massage, on the other hand, is best suited for clients with pain-based conditions or difficulties with range of motion.

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.

Most fall into one of three categories: warming topicals, topicals that 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 isn’t used in 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 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. This includes ultrasound equipment, heat therapy, and other warming gels according to Sombra Professional Therapy Products.

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 that 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.

Again, when using cooling topicals, Sombra advises avoiding the use of ultrasound equipment or heat therapy on the patient.

Basic Massage Topical Options

A third topical option is to use basic massage cremes and lotions that aren’t heating or cooling. These types of products are great for use on clients who engage in massage therapy to help them relax or to release minor stresses and myofascial “knots” versus trying to obtain relief for a physical health condition.

Some of these non-heating and non-cooling topicals do contain other ingredients though, which potentially makes them better options for certain sets of clients.

For instance, many topical manufacturers are now offering CBD oil products. CBD stands for cannabidiol, a component of the marijuana or hemp plant known for its medicinal purposes without creating the high typically associated with THC (tetrahydrocannabinol).

Medical News Today reports that CBD can help reduce pain and inflammation while also causing a relaxation response. That makes a topical containing this ingredient beneficial for individuals who struggle with anxiety or a chronic pain condition.

However, it’s also important to know your local laws and whether they allow you to use CBD products in your massage therapy practice as Medical News Today indicates that each state has different opinions regarding its legality and use.

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, Sombra recommends not bandaging the area tightly and taking precautions to ensure that the product does not get into the eyes.

If you sell topicals to your clients, it also helps to let them know how they can get the most out of the oil, gel, lotion, or creme they 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.

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