Posted by Glenn Beierle on 09/07/2018 in Medical Marijuana
Updated on January 11, 2019. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Richard Koffler, MD, Board Certified Physiatrist
Few things are as luxurious as a long-needed massage. From sore athletes to stressed parents, all of us can benefit from the relaxing, pain-relieving and stress-reducing effects of a good massage.
Massage therapy and cannabis are a perfect match. Like a massage, medical cannabis has been proven to relax muscles, calm stress and alleviate pain. Marijuana-infused topicals are ideal for spa and massage therapy settings — cannabis enhances the natural relaxing and healing properties of massage, and helps therapists to work deeply and effectively.
What Is Massage Therapy?
Massage therapy is the practice of physically manipulating soft tissue to increase a patient’s health and reduce tension-related pain. There are two major categories of massage:
- Rehabilitative massage: These types of massage techniques focus on deep-tissue healing, and are often done in clinical settings such as hospitals and clinics.
- Relaxation massage: Also called Swedish massage, relaxation massages are common in recreational settings like resorts and spas.
For millennia, massage therapy has been practiced and enjoyed around the world, from ancient Rome to the European Renaissance. Benefits include pain and anxiety management, stress relief, muscle relaxation and general wellness.
What Is Marijuana?
Along with the more widely-used hemp plant, marijuana is a member of the Cannabis plant family. What sets marijuana apart is its high content of a chemical called tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is a special type of chemical compound found in cannabis plants — a cannabinoid. While examining the effects of marijuana, researchers discovered that the human body also produces cannabinoids. Known as endocannabinoids, these compounds are responsible for helping to regulate pain, sleep patterns, emotions, and appetite, and are part of the endocannabinoid system.
Marijuana is broadly categorized based on the amounts of two cannabinoids — THC and CBD. THC is more commonly associated with recreational use and gives the “high” sensation. CBD is used more frequently in medical contexts, and it provides the health benefits of marijuana without the stoned feeling.
What Type of Marijuana Is Used in Massages?
You can use medical marijuana in many different ways, from vaping to edibles. However, for massage therapy, the best method is through topicals. Marijuana topicals are products that are infused with cannabis extract, much like essential oils. As a category, topicals contain a wide range of products, but the most common include:
In a massage setting, you are most likely to encounter specialized cannabis-infused massage lotions and oils.
How Does It Work?
Topicals are powerful when used in massages. But if it’s not consumed, how does topical cannabis work?
It all goes back to the endocannabinoid system. Endocannabinoids have at least two receptors, CB1 and CB2. These receptors are found in every organ, including the skin. So far, studies have discovered endocannabinoid receptors on nerve and immune cells. In the skin, researchers have identified cannabinoid receptors on cells in sweat glands, sebaceous glands, hair follicles and nerve fiber bundles. Topical cannabis products are absorbed into the skin and are directly received by the endocannabinoid system without entering the bloodstream. This means that topicals won’t make you “high” — they will give you the positive benefits of marijuana without the psychogenic effects.
In the context of massage therapy, topical cannabis works to relax muscles and reduce inflammation. But the patient will feel nothing more than an especially calming and restorative session. The only “high” you’ll experience is the typical sense of relaxation and pleasure that comes after a good massage.
Choosing the Right Topical Cannabis
For many people, massages may be their first experience with cannabis. Because most cannabis-infused topicals contain only around 0.3 percent THC, it’s almost impossible to get a “high” from using them. This makes low-THC topicals widely appealing, especially when coupled with a professional massage.
If you visit a cannabis massage clinic, you will most likely see a range of CBD massage oils. These can range from hemp-infused lotions to salves made from marijuana strains with low-THC content. Many massage clinics use products derived from hemp in their topicals. Not only does hemp cannabis have high levels of CBD, it only has a minuscule amount of THC, making it well-suited for patients who are hesitant about marijuana.
However, topicals with small amounts of THC may be more beneficial than hemp alternatives because of its muscle relaxant effects. While it’s technically possible to get stoned from THC-infused topicals, it’s unlikely — the small amount is usually too low to raise blood levels enough to achieve a “high,” for either the patient or the therapist.
Look for topicals with high amounts of CBD and small quantities of THC for the best results. Avoid products labeled “transdermal” if you’re wanting to avoid a “high” — transdermal products pass through the skin and enter the bloodstream, creating the psychogenic effect associated with marijuana.
What Are the Benefits of a Cannabis Massage?
The health benefits of a good massage are almost uncountable. Some of the most common include relief from some kind of pain, whether it comes from a headache, tissue strain or muscle pain and tightness. A cannabis massage produces the same effects but at an even deeper level.
1. Relaxes Muscles
Marijuana has been proven to relax muscles, even in cases with severe spasming. In the context of a massage, this is incredibly helpful. It’s often difficult to let yourself fully relax on a massage therapist’s table, especially if it is your first appointment. Cannabis takes care of this for you — it helps your muscles loosen without conscious effort. Looser muscles also mean that your massage is more effective. A therapist can dig deeper into tissue, reaching buried knots and tensions faster and easier.
2. Relieves Pain
Patients suffering from intense, chronic pain can especially benefit from a cannabis massage. Topical marijuana products work to give localized relief centering around the area in pain. If you have arthritis or a sports injury, you can ask a massage therapist to focus the treatment on the affected areas. This will maximize the potency of the topical while providing immediate relief where you need it most.
3. Reduces Inflammation
Along with relieving pain, CBD has been proven to reduce inflammation. For inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, this element of a cannabis massage is especially beneficial. CBD-infused topicals can be applied directly to the affected muscles or joints to give quick and lasting relief.
CBD has been shown to accelerate the recovery time of damaged connective tissues, which reduces inflammation and soreness after the massage as well as during the appointment.
4. Provides Antioxidants
Protecting against dangerous free radicals, cannabis produces a host of antioxidants that fight toxicity and a wide range of oxidative stress. CBD provides antioxidants that battle a vast array of degenerative and age-related diseases. Just a few of the illnesses include Alzheimer’s disease, retinal degeneration, chronic kidney disease, lupus, and stroke.
5. Lessens Stress
Stress hits us all, and we all deal with it differently. For many people, stress manifests as anxiety and physical tension. CBD oils are excellent at targeting and soothing both neurological and physical stress. Massages are naturally stress-reducing — when paired with the calming effects of cannabis, they work to eliminate even the deepest stress. A recent study showed that cannabis can even help those struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder find relief and peace.
6. Combats Aging
As the skin ages, it loses elasticity and collagen fibers. Oil glands stop producing, leading to dry and flaky skin. CBD oil fights the effects of aging by encouraging oil excretion, fighting inflammation and promoting antioxidants. A cannabis massage will do more than relax your muscles — it will help keep aging at bay.
7. Decreases Anxiety
Anxiety causes disruptions in the endocannabinoid system. Cannabis helps the condition by attaching to chemical receptors that regulate fear and anxiety-related behaviors. While smoking and edibles provide more direct relief, topicals applied during massage will also reduce symptoms and feelings of anxiety.
People dealing with anxiety can find it difficult to sleep. After your massage, the benefits of cannabis oil will linger and help to calm your body and encourage deep, healing sleep.
8. Helps Therapists
Massage is rough on therapists. From joint pain to neck and shoulder injury, therapists are at risk for a wide variety of injuries. A massage therapist works in a physically demanding field. However, using cannabis-infused massage oils can help more than just the patient — it can heal the therapist, too. Working CBD topicals into a patient’s skin, the therapist’s hands also absorb some of the cannabis. This gives relief from the pain and post-massage inflammation common in therapists.
How Is a CBD-Infused Massage Topical Applied?
Typically, a massage therapist will use a CBD and THC-infused lotion, cream or oil. During the massage, the therapist will rub the topical into the skin, focusing on the areas experiencing the most pain or pressure.
The muscle-relaxing effects of cannabis will help your muscles and connective tissues loosen, allowing the therapist to go deeper and access hard-to-reach knots and tension.
What’s the Duration of a Marijuana Massage?
The length of a cannabis-infused massage depends on the therapist. Since a marijuana massage is a normal massage with cannabis-infused oils, lotions or salves, it will follow the same pattern as most massages. Typical durations for a massage are 30, 60, 90 and 120 minutes.
If you haven’t received a massage before, begin with a 30- or 60-minute session. This will help you gauge your body’s response to the massage and the CBD oil.
Are There Any Restrictions?
As long as marijuana use is legal in your state and you’re an appropriate age, cannabis massages are appropriate for everyone. Because cannabis massages don’t carry the risk of a “high,” they’re suitable for all ages, lifestyles and massage needs, not just medical marijuana patients. From sore skiers to cannabis skeptics, anyone can enjoy and benefit from a marijuana massage.
While cannabis massages can benefit a wide range of people, if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, we recommend doing research before consuming cannabis in any form. Read our article on marijuana use during pregnancy to get an overview of both sides of the argument so you can make an informed and safe decision.
What Disorders Especially Benefit from Cannabis Massages?
A wide range of ailments is helped by marijuana massages. However, disorders that result in pain and inflammation are specifically helped by both massages and topical cannabis products. Here are some of the most common conditions that can find relief and healing through marijuana massage.
- Arthritis: Arthritis involves inflammation of the joints. Because marijuana is a powerful anti-inflammatory agent, it can specifically target the sore joints of arthritis patients.
- Fibromyalgia: Patients with fibromyalgia live with long-term pain throughout their body. Because very little is known about the condition, no cure has been discovered, and conventional treatment is often insufficient. Topical marijuana, applied through massage, is an effective, pain-relieving option for fibromyalgia patients.
- Multiple Sclerosis (MS): MS is an autoimmune disease — the body attacks its own central nervous system. Muscle spasms and pain are common symptoms of MS, and both can be effectively treated with topical CBD massage oils.
- Migraines: As anyone who suffers from them knows, migraines are more than just headaches. Cannabis topicals applied around the neck and scalp can help reduce the pain of chronic migraines.
- Chronic Back Pain: Back pain affects around 31 million adults in the United States. Whether caused by injury or other factors like poor posture, back pain can be debilitating and reduce your mobility and quality of life. CBD oil is an effective treatment for chronic back pain, and when applied topically through a massage can give immediate and deep relief.
Many more conditions benefit from cannabis massages, including sports injuries and skin cancer.
Marijuana Massages Will Attract Business
“Going Green” is a powerful trend, and it doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere.
Consumers are increasingly drawn to businesses with environmentally friendly, ethical products and practices. The spa and massage industry is no exception. The market trend has even led to the development of the trendy “eco-spa.” Most conventional lotions and creams are filled with harmful, synthetic chemicals. Alternatively, topical CBD-infused products are often made with organic, natural ingredients. These types of products appeal to the growing environmental awareness of the market and draw a new customer base to your business.
Possible Side Effects of CBD Oil
Cannabis topicals have few side effects, particularly when compared to smoked or edible marijuana. However, it’s wise to be aware of these possible symptoms:
Marijuana affects each person differently. Consult with a medical professional before beginning treatment to make sure you’re choosing the right product and method of application for your needs.
Experience the Relief of a Cannabis Massage
A cannabis massage can bring relief to anyone, from stressed professionals to injured athletes. In only 30 minutes, you could become looser, calmer and healthier. To learn more about the benefits of marijuana massages, contact us to talk with an expert, or search our directory of medical marijuana doctors to find a professional near you.