When my mom started talking about trying CBD for pain relief, that was about the time I realized this trend had officially gone mainstream. Cannabidiol, or CBD, is a compound found in the cannabis plant, and has been shown in studies to work as an anti-inflammatory—but without that pesky psychoactive effect (or high) of THC. Fans have also said it helps with stress, depression, insomnia and even acne.
And while the fashionable oil is frequently ingested, with local places adding it to everything from coffee to honey to lollipops to juices (as we wrote about here), a growing number of massage therapists are using CBD oil for enhancing the relaxation and pain-relief benefits of bodywork.
“When we use the CBD topicals with massage, it’s [absorbed] throughout the whole system plus areas that are really tight, so you can go deeper for pain relief,” says Georgetown Massage and Bodywork founder Alison Alleva, who quietly introduced CBD massages to clients last summer. “It’s such a nice complement for some of the pain issues that we’re addressing with massage therapy, in addition to the stress relief and relaxation.”
As someone with chronic back issues, I was turned on to topical CBD when a friend let me try her Apothecanna Extra Strength Body Cream infused with cannabis, arnica, juniper and peppermint on my achy back. Twenty minutes later, my pain was gone, and the relief lasted for a few hours. Needless to say, I ordered some right away and have been really happy with it—and signed up for a CBD massage at Georgetown Massage and Bodywork the minute I found out about them.
So, how is a CBD massage different from a regular massage? To be honest, I didn’t notice a huge difference during the actual massage, except that my bodyworker Johanna is incredibly talented. It was toward the end of the massage that I started to feel the type of deep relaxation that makes you want to melt into the table, but without any kind of drugged feeling. I felt pretty great the rest of the day, but my aches and pains were back the next day.
Alleva confirms that people should manage their expectations of what can happen from one massage, since intense pain might require an application of CBD a few times a day, but she notes that her clients that suffer from joint pain and arthritis have had really good results. She has also noticed that her own hands have benefited from the CBD massages.
“As a massage therapist, I go through periods where my hands get crampy,” she says. “By using it, my hands have been less sore.”
And for those who are worried about the CBD oil interfering with a drug test—a real concern in the D.C. area, Alleva says—she tells us that because it’s absorbed through the skin and not ingested, it never hits the bloodstream and is “safer in that sense.”
Alleva sells three brands of CBD products at Georgetown Massage and Bodywork, and those who book a massage get to take home any oil that remains after the treatment. She says people can pour the leftover oil in their bath, use it as body oil and even smooth it on their faces at night, which is something she does.
Whether you end up feeling the benefits of CBD or not, you still get a killer massage out of the deal, which is never a bad thing in my book.
“People are spending too much time in the fight-or-flight mode with everyday stress,” Alleva says. “Your body needs to balance, and some people get stuck in that cycle. Massage, along with exercise and other self care, can help you get out of it.”
CBD-enhanced massages at Georgetown Massage and Bodywork cost $110–$175. Mention DC Refined when booking a CBD massage and get 10% off a service of 60 minutes or more. Cannot be combined with other offers and good for first-time customers only.