A hemp leaf, a bag of hemp seeds, a spoonful of hemp powder and three glass bottles containing hemp oil illustrate the concept of CBD massage.

The inclusion of CBD from hemp in a wide variety of products and services has grown in recent years as more states legalize the use of cannabis for both medical and recreational uses.

Topicals containing hemp, for example, are marketed as reducing pain and inflammation.

Pain Relief

Massage therapist Eldon Rowe had torn cartilage in one of his knees. Two years ago, he had the surgery to repair his knee injury. About a year post-op, he was still feeling pain, so he began incorporating hemp with massage. “It helps to diminish the pain,” he said.

Being holistic wellness service providers, massage therapists, too, have begun offering their clients massage work that includes the use of products that contain hemp.

Should you? Before they jump on the hemp bandwagon, massage therapists first, need to know the laws in their state, said Rowe, but then must consider whether offering hemp-infused massage makes sense and fits in to what they do.

What do you need to know about hemp-infused massage? Here’s a primer that can help you incorporate this up-and-coming service.

What is Hemp?

Hemp is a non-woody plant of the cannabis family. It is very similar to marijuana, also a member of the cannabis family, but it contains 0.3% or less of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the mind-altering component of cannabis plants (the chemical that gets people high).

While today many people know hemp as a wellness or medicinal product, it’s history is long and varied. For centuries it has been used as a source of food; to create textiles such as clothing and rope; as a body care ingredient for products such as soaps, cosmetics and lotions; as a building material and as fuel; and as a paper product, including cardboard and other types of packaging.

It was, and is still, also used by ancient and modern peoples in the treatment of nausea, pain, gout, malaria, inflammation, epileptic conditions, broken bones, overworked muscles, rheumatism, muscle and tissue injuries, and even some mental illnesses.

As he has discovered, when used in conjunction with massage, said Rowe, who is a regional director of massage therapy for Massage Heights, hemp-infused massage oil can help alleviate tension, discomfort and pain for clients.

Massage Heights, a family-owned therapeutic massage and facial services franchise company based in San Antonio, Texas.

Because hemp-infused massage oil can have relaxing effects, it is also a tool, of sorts, that aids the massage therapist in being able to work a tight or sore area of a client’s body without causing the body to tense up, Rowe noted. “It helps to assist the body by diminishing sensation,” he said.

It doesn’t numb the body, Rowe said, but rather works with the body’s endocannabinoid system, which has receptors throughout the central and peripheral nervous systems.

According to the National Institutes of Health, while research continues to further the understanding of the role of the endocannabinoid system, it is believed that it helps to modulate pain and inflammation.

Become Educated about CBD Massage

There are many products on the market of varying degrees of quality that contain hemp, so it is important for massage therapists to diligently do their research before buying and using any hemp-infused product, said Brooke Riley, LMT, an operations specialist for Massage Heights.

“There are a lot of things that go into making sure that they’re putting the right product onto their client or their guest,” she said.

Therapists need to educate themselves on the source of the products that they’re getting, Riley said, including knowing where the product is coming from and where the ingredients are coming from.

She also recommends that massage therapists pay attention to a product’s certificate of analysis, which is a lab report of the chemical contents of the product, and that the product manufacturer uses a third party to test that the products have no pesticides or parasites and that the level of THC is under 0.3%.

It’s also important to get educated about what hemp is and what it does and doesn’t do – namely, get people high, said Rowe. “You’re going to want to be able to answer (client) questions and not just go, ‘Well, it works,’” he said.

Talk to Clients about CBD Massage

And clients will have questions and concerns, Riley and Rowe both noted. “A lot of guests aren’t educated (about hemp),” Riley said. “All they know is that this word – THC – this chemical, causes a high.” So, they worry they will get high or feel “funny” if a massage therapist uses a hemp-infused oil on their bodies.

Massage therapists should take the time to understand the concerns their clients have about using a hemp-infused product, said Rowe, and figure out what their clients’ understanding of hemp is.

Massage therapists can share the information they have on the product and about hemp, and can direct their clients to research materials so they can inform themselves on their own time, he said.

For clients who may be reluctant to try a hemp-infused product for the first time during a massage, said Riley, therapists can suggest they try the product at home first, by selling them the product that would be used during the massage.

“Clients may feel concerned about getting high on the table and losing control, so they feel safer trying it at home first,” Riley said. Once they know how they will react to a hemp-infused product, they may be more comfortable incorporating it during their massage therapy sessions.

Because hemp is added to a base massage oil, such as coconut oil, it works the same way other massage oils do, Rowe said, so no special handling by therapists is required.

Effects of CBD Massage

Therapists who use hemp-infused massage oils on their clients will feel some of the same effects their clients do, he noted, so they may not have muscle soreness after a day of massaging clients, for example.

Rowe and Riley said they know of no research indicating that massage therapists can absorb too much THC by using hemp-infused products on clients.

Keeping themselves, as well as their clients, safe, is best achieved, they both said, by doing the research to inform themselves about the products they’re using.

About the Author

Stephanie Bouchard is a freelance writer and editor based on the coast of Maine. She frequently reports news and features for MASSAGE Magazine.