If you have chronic pain, you'll probably notice a major difference.

By Kelsey Ogletree
December 15, 2018
Photo: Caiaimage / Trevor Adeline / Getty Images

The last year or so has seen an explosion in products containing CBD, touted as a miracle cure for pain, anxiety, stress, acne, and more. You can use it to help you sleep, to improve your skin, and possibly even to beat that 3 p.m. slump. (More: The Best Health and Wellness CBD Products)

One of the best ways to experience the effects of CBD, though, is through your skin-namely through an ahhh-inducing massage. If you're already getting regular massages (if you're not, here's why you should start), you might want to consider upgrading to a treatment that incorporates CBD products.

Though the technique is usually similar to any other massage, "the main premise [of a CBD massage] is that it reduces inflammation, which causes pain," says Maggy Dunphy, executive director at Loma de Vida Spa & Wellness at La Cantera Resort & Spa in San Antonio, TX, which offers CBD oil as a $20 enhancement to any massage on its menu. "It's becoming more popular, not because it's a trend, but because it really works," she adds. Though everyday spots like Massage Envy haven't jumped on the bandwagon (yet), many high-end spas, like those at St. Regis and The Ritz-Carlton hotels, are offering CBD as an upgrade.

To understand why, here's a quick refresher on CBD: It's a cannabinoid compound found in hemp and cannabis that responds to receptors found in the skin. Through those receptors, it sends messages through your nervous system that help bring the body back to equilibrium, mitigating imbalances. What might cause these imbalances in the first place? Stress, for one, along with getting older. (And BTW, here's the difference between CBD and THC-which can totally be confusing.)

"Through the process of aging, the systems in your body begin to break down," says Vanessa Marquez, CEO and founder of CBD Care Garden, a Denver-based company that produces CBD-infused skin-care products used in spas around the country. "Because of that, you may have an increase in inflammation and an imbalance of your endocannabinoid system, which is how the body receives CBD."

This endocannabinoid system is actually responsible for regulating various systems in the body, so that's where CBD comes in, says Marquez-helping to regulate your immune system, muscle tissue, and nervous system, as well as the skin. Overall, CBD massages are just another way to support your wellness lifestyle, she says.

However, not all CBD is created equal. If you're booking a CBD massage, don't be afraid to ask the therapist what he or she will be using. Products like lotions and oils made with CBD (BTW, don't miss this list of CBD gifts) can have different levels of effectiveness; anything labeled as "whole hemp extracted oil" (meaning it's extracted from the entire plant) will be more effective than a CBD isolate (which means that just the CBD molecule has been pulled out), explains Marquez.

Another thing to ask is whether the product contains trace amounts of THC. Currently, the federal limit for CBD products is 0.3 percent THC or less (to be classified as hemp), Yet beware that even that amount could show up on a drug test, says Chris Elawar, COO of CBD Care Garden, which uses state-licensed and verified lab tests to rule out any THC in the products.

Finally, be aware that more isn't always better when it comes to CBD. "If you're looking to get a massage and you see one product with 500 milligrams of CBD next to a product with 100 milligrams, it doesn't necessarily mean it's more potent," says Marquez. "It's going to be based on the genetics of the hemp [from which it was made], which will affect the potency."

The only way to really know the strength of a particular product is to have it tested, so the more practical route is to try out various products in a massage and figure out what works best on your body. "It's kind of like shampoo; you wash your hair and sometimes it's a great product, and sometimes it's not," notes Marquez.

If you're curious about how a CBD massage feels compared to a regular massage, the answer is really subjective. Someone might say they feel good, like they got a massage, but not notice an immediate difference. Someone else might say they feel an overall heightened sense of zen and well-being. (Related: Crystal Spa Treatments Are the Latest Beauty Trend You Need to Try)

Dunphy says you'll get the most out of it if you happen to be in less-than-stellar health that day. For example, if you're extra sore from a workout or even hungover, you'll notice the positive effects of CBD more than you would on a day when you're already feeling great. In that case, you don't necessarily need the added expense of CBD, she notes, but it certainly can't hurt if you're interested in giving it a whirl for the potential added relaxation benefits.

For others, it has the potential to be pretty transformative. People experiencing major pain or anxiety have even been brought to tears from a CBD massage, says Elawar. "[Clients have] come to us saying, 'now I know what my body is supposed to feel like,'" he says. (FYI, here's what experts have to say about swapping out your Tiger Balm for a CBD-infused sports cream.)

That said, DIYers can still address pain concerns through topical CBD products without a visit to the spa, says Marquez, though without the expert technique of a licensed massage therapist, you might not experience its full potential. She recommends applying products with whole hemp extracted oil to specific areas of discomfort or inflammation as an at-home remedy.