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Cannabidiol (CBD) is in all sorts of products, such as oils, lotions, and even food. CBD oil has gained plenty of popularity in the area of massage therapy, too. This is because of health benefits it claims, such as reduced pain and inflammation.

If you’re thinking about trying a CBD massage, you may have questions. How does a CBD massage work? What do we know about how well CBD works? What about side effects? And is CBD effective for pain relief? Find out what you need to know about CBD massage.

What Is Cannabidiol (CBD)?

CBD is one of the active chemicals found in the Cannabis sativa plant. Marijuana also comes from the Cannabis sativa plant. CBD has 0.3% or less of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive chemical found in marijuana that creates a “high.” CBD by itself doesn’t cause intoxication, but it can make some people sleepy. Even though CBD doesn’t give you a high, it can still affect your brain and your body.

CBD is usually used as oil that’s rubbed into your skin or swallowed. But CBD can also be vaped or taken by mouth in an extract or capsule. There are many other products that contain CBD, too, such as cosmetics, edibles, and drinks.

How Effective Is CBD?

CBD has been found to be effective for treating rare seizure disorders. In fact, purified CBD is the main active ingredient in Epidiolex, a medication approved by the FDA for this purpose.

Scientists are still researching how effective CBD is for many other conditions, including anxiety, chronic pain, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s disease. They’re also looking more closely at how CBD affects the body. Unfortunately, there are limited facts to answer these questions right now.

Does CBD Help Relieve Pain?

Animal studies have shown that CBD may help ease pain and inflammation. But there hasn’t been enough quality research in humans yet. More research is also needed to learn what amounts of CBD are safe and effective for treating pain.

Some small studies seem to show that CBD could help with chronic pain. For example:

  • A 2018 study of 2,409 CBD users found that the most common reason for using CBD was for pain relief. Survey respondents who used CBD for chronic pain or arthritis/joint pain were the most likely to report that CBD by itself treated their pain “very well” or “moderately well.”
  • A 2020 study showed that treating peripheral neuropathy pain in the legs, ankles, and feet with topical CBD oil significantly reduced pain.
  • In a 2021 online survey of 878 people with fibromyalgia who were currently using CBD, researchers found that many of them substituted CBD for pain medications, especially opioids and NSAIDs. Most of those who responded said that using CBD allowed them to decrease or even stop using other medications for pain.
  • A 2023 study looked at how effective topical CBD was for treating pain in 20 former professional athletes. Of the 70% who completed the study, all reported significant improvement in their pain levels over time.

Keep in mind that these studies are all based on personal observations. And as with any other pain reliever, some people have little or no pain relief when they take CBD.

What Is CBD Massage?

A CBD massage is simply a traditional massage using CBD oil or cream. In a regular massage, a massage therapist rubs and kneads your muscles with different amounts of pressure. 

Massage therapy has shown multiple benefits, including:

  • Helping you feel relaxed
  • Lowering your stress
  • Reducing pain and soreness
  • Boosting your immune system
  • Reducing joint inflammation
  • Stimulating your circulation
  • Improving your sleep
  • Decreasing anxiety
  • Enhancing mood

In a CBD massage, CBD oil or cream is put on your skin. The massage therapist then starts your massage, targeting the specific areas you tell them need attention.

What Are the Benefits of CBD Massage?

A CBD massage can give you all the benefits of a traditional massage (mentioned above). That said, there isn’t much research on topical CBD use. We do know that massage stimulates your circulation, so adding CBD oil may increase the potential for pain relief. And because CBD oil is absorbed into your body through your skin, it may reduce inflammation. This may help with sore muscles and joints.

What Are the Side Effects of CBD?

CBD is usually tolerated well. But it can cause some side effects, such as:

  • Dry mouth
  • Drowsiness
  • Decreased appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Mood changes, such as crankiness or agitation

Are There Other Risks?

There are some other potential risks to consider before you get a CBD massage, including:

  • Except for Epidiolex, products containing CBD aren’t FDA-approved. So they don’t have any standards to follow. This means they might have more or less CBD than the label says or they could have other ingredients, such as THC.
  • CBD can change how other medications you’re taking work. This can lead to serious side effects.
  • If you regularly use THC, adding CBD can cause brain impairment or psychotic effects. 
  • CBD use has been linked to liver damage and damage to male fertility.
  • It’s unknown how CBD may affect fetuses, so using CBD while you’re pregnant is not recommended.
  • Using CBD while you’re breastfeeding is also not recommended.
  • As with many over-the-counter medications, CBD use can cause abnormal results on liver function tests. Be sure to tell your health care provider if you use CBD regularly.
  • Experts still don’t know what the most effective CBD dosage is for pain or any other condition. More research needs to be done to figure this out.
  • CBD products can have enough THC in them that it shows up in your urine. This could cause problems if your employer gives drug tests.

The bottom line: While you may find CBD massage helpful for pain relief, it’s smart to talk to your health care provider before you get one. This is especially true if you have a chronic medical condition or you’re taking other medications.

Show Sources

Photo Credit: Image Source / Getty Images


CDC: “CBD: What You Need to Know.”

Arthritis Foundation: “CBD for Arthritis Pain: What You Should Know.”

FDA: “What the FDA is Doing to Protect Consumers from Cannabidiol (CBD) in Foods,” “What You Need to Know (And What We’re Working to Find Out) About Products Containing Cannabis or Cannabis-derived Compounds, Including CBD.”

Mayo Clinic: “What are the benefits of CBD – and is it safe to use?” “Massage therapy,” “Benefits of massage therapy.”

Harvard Health Publishing: “Cannabidiol (CBD): What we know and what we don’t.”

Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research: “A Cross-Sectional Study of Cannabidiol Users.”

Current Pharmaceutical Biotechnology: “The Effectiveness of Topical Cannabidiol Oil in Symptomatic Relief of Peripheral Neuropathy of the Lower Extremities.”

The Journal of Pain: “Substituting Cannabidiol for Opioids and Pain Medications Among Individuals with Fibromyalgia: a Large Online Survey.”

Journal of Cannabis Research: “Topical cannabidiol is well tolerated in individuals with a history of elite physical performance and chronic lower extremity pain.”

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: “Cannabis (Marijuana) and Cannabinoids: What You Need to Know.”

Get Smart About Drugs (A DEA Resource): “CBD Use Linked to Male Reproductive Harm.”