Legalization of recreational marijuana in Canada: how does it affect massage therapy?

Since 2001, Canadians have been able to use marijuana for medical purposes with a prescription.

This summer, possibly as early as July 1, 2018 and probably by September, 2018, Canadians will also be able legally to buy marijuana for recreational (non-medical) use.


What does this change for massage therapists, or massage clients?

Under current regulations, an RTM should not treat a client who can’t give true informed consent because of their use of medication or any type of substance.

Once marijuana is legal for recreational use, the same standards will apply, for the client’s protection.


What is informed consent?

Already, the Standards of Practice for massage therapists in Ontario require RMTs to get informed consent to treatment from a client at each visit.

And according to the Health Care Consent Act, 1996, a client can only give informed consent if they have the mental capacity to do so. Some drugs (including prescription drugs) or substances may affect the client’s ability to give consent.

  • If the client seems unable to understand the possible risks and benefits of treatment or of not having treatment, or isn’t able to respond appropriately to questions, then for the client’s safety the massage therapist must assume that the client cannot give informed consent at this time and the therapist should not go ahead with the treatment.

A drug or substance can also impair the client’s ability to perceive pain and pressure levels accurately, or to tolerate and recover from treatment.

  • If the RMT believes that is the case, they should adjust their application of  assessment and treatment to protect the client.

For example, if you’ve taken a muscle relaxant or a pain medication an hour or two before your massage, you may not be able fully to feel the sensations in the area being treated, so your RMT will want to use a lighter touch and not work as deeply, to protect you from injury. Marijuana may affect a person in a similar way, so RMTs will exercise professional caution in treatment.


Can I get a massage if I’ve taken a prescription or recreational substance?

Ontario massage therapy regulations say that an RMT should not treat a client who can’t give true informed consent because of the use of medication or any type of substance.

Also, the therapist should modify both assessment and treatment if the client’s awareness of pressure or pain may be diminished.

Once marijuana is legal for recreational use, the same standards will apply.

So it’s best to schedule your massage for a time when your pain perception and ability to give full consent to the treatment are at their most accurate.


If you have questions, feel free to chat with your RMT at your next visit!


Scar Rehabilitation: More Than Skin Deep

Emilie McKay, RMT - ottawa massage blog
By: Emilie McKay, RMT
Emilie is a registered massage therapist at Body Poets who specializes in scar rehabilitation.  Along with publishing an award-winning case study based on scar rehabilitation, Emilie has taught scar rehabilitation to students and RMTs.

A wounded body requires repair. The body has the ability to heal wounds and once the healing is complete, a scar remains. A scar can be as powerful as the force that created it. There are various ways scars are created: trauma, surgery, or burns. But they all leave a message behind.

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Beautiful Biceps

Muscle of the Month: Biceps brachii

Bicep- Ottawa massage blogBiceps are one of the most recognizable muscles. Long before the bulging biceps of Popeye, the bicep has been a symbol of strength.

Though not one of the major muscle groups of the upper body, the bicep still plays a role in elbow and shoulder movements. The bicep helps with lifting and pulling, which are essential motions for all of us.

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One’s Own Sense : A Guide to Proprioception Exercise

Proprioception is the sense that allows our body to organize itself based on how we are oriented in time and space. It is the sense that allows us to coordinate our movement. From multitasking in the kitchen, to a smooth stride when we hit the pavement for a run, proprioception protects us from enduring injuries, and improves our body’s functional efficiency.

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Turning your calves into cows

A Soleus - Ottawa massage blogstrong lower leg is a key component in a strong foundation. In fact, if one of your calf muscles – the soleus (pictured at right) – were not in constant contraction, you would fall forward! Not only that, strong calf muscles protect your ankle joint, improve your running and jumping ability, and help blood flow return upward to your heart.

As with most muscles, there are two parts to ensuring strong, healthy calf muscles: strengthening and stretching. This is especially true for the gastrocnemius (the large outer calf muscle – cut away in the diagram at right), which is prone to spasms. Finding the balance between adequate amounts of strengthening and stretching can lower the chance of spasms occurring.

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Your poor unfortunate soles

The weight of sleepiness that had kept your eyes shut begins to lift as the first signs of day begin. The morning sun caresses your face. The rhythmical melody of birds awakens your ears. You streeetccchhh yourself out of bed and place your feet onto the floor.


A sharp pain radiates through your foot. You can barely walk to the bathroom, let alone to the end of the bed. What is going on?

Sounds as if you may have plantar fasciitis.

Plantar Fasciitis - ottawa massage blogPlantar fasciitis is the inflammation of the connective tissue along the bottom of the foot (primarily in the heel area), also known as the plantar fascia. Increased trauma to the foot causes micro tearing of the fascia, which promotes an inflammatory response ending in pain. Pain is generally seen after long periods of rest, which is why it is most common to have pain with the first steps you take in the morning.

What can cause plantar fasciitis?  Here are a few contributing factors:

  • Weak foot muscles
  • Tight calf muscles
  • Inwardly rotated feet (tendency to walk on the inside edge of your foot)inversion - ottawa massage blog
  • Being overweight
  • Shoes that don’t fit well or are worn out
  • Improper shoes for a sports or other activity
  • Walking, standing or running for extended periods of time
  • High arches or flat feet

High arch - ottawa massage blogFlat feet - ottawa massage blog
There are many different treatments available to help those who suffer from plantar fasciitis. Here are a few options that we’ve known to have worked.

  • Rub your feet – Before hopping out of bed and putting your body weight on coldtissues, causing micro-tears, rub and stretch your legs and feet first to increase blood flow.
  • Ice your feet – Freeze a water bottle and use it to roll the bottom of your feet when pain occurs.Ice feet - ottawa massage blog
  • Stretch your calves – Wear supportive shoes while doing calf stretches to ensure the plantar fascia isn’t over stretched, but the Achilles and calf are stretched.
  • Avoid long periods of running/standing – If this was the cause of the plantar fasciitis, taking time off to rest the feet will help stop the inflammation.
  • Exercise your feet – Doing strength exercises for the foot muscles helps take the strain off the plantar fascia. Picking up a pencil with your toes or scrunching a towel along the floor with your toes are two examples.Towel Scrunch - Ottawa massage blog
  • Get supportive shoes/orthotics – Proper foot wear will be important in maintaining a proper arch. Wearing the shoes as often as possible is also important.
  • Go barefoot – Some experts recommend going without shoes at home to increase foot muscle strength.
  • Massage – Getting the calves massaged helps release the tightness causing the plantar fasciitis.
  • Acupuncture – Needling the plantar fascia at its insertion to the heel and also needling the Achilles and calves helps release the tension too.

Your RMT can help you find the best strategy to address your plantar fasciitis, as each case may vary. If being barefoot is painful, feel free to bring a pair of indoor shoes to switch into at the clinic so you can keep the foot supported during your visit.

Variety is the spice of life

Many clients wonder what they will do if their massage therapist takes a leave of absence. Pregnancies, family illnesses, and jet-setter vacations can take your regular RMT out of the office for a time.

This is why we encourage all of our clients to see different therapists every now and then.

I know, I know – some of you are reading this in shock and disbelief. The thought of leaving your RMT for another? You wouldn’t consider it. But hear us out. We aren’t saying you should get up and go to another therapist’s table for good. But there are benefits to subbing in a massage here and there with another therapist. Here is why:

You have a substitute therapist when your RMT is sick.

Drink water - Ottawa massage blog

Remember substitute teachers as a kid? There was that one you loved, who had you wishing your teacher was always sick. And then there was the one you didn’t love so much, who had you wishing YOU were sick! Get advice from your RMT on who they recommend, to make sure you know which substitute RMT you are getting when the time comes.

Each RMT has a unique style. 

RMT Acupunture - Ottawa massageEach and every massage therapist has their own way of treating. What works for their regular clients, may not work for you. Experiment with other RMTs before your therapist goes on leave, that way you don’t have to do the guess work at the eleventh hour. Or you might even find something better suited for you, as many RMTs have different tools they use to treat the same conditions.

You might be missing out on the expert.

Pregnancy massage - ottawa massage blog

Yes, your RMT is the best thing since sliced bread. But, contrary to what you may believe, they don’t know how to treat everything the most efficiently. Which extra courses a massage therapist takes, and what they see regularly in the clinic, will dictate what the therapist knows how to treat most effectively. If you find yourself in a new situation, and your therapist isn’t confident they can help your specific condition, ask them to refer you to a colleague, as they will most likely know someone who is well versed in that area of treatment.

Don’t hesitate to see other massage therapists.

All of us at Body Poets love working in a collaborative environment, as we are all aiming for the same goal: the best possible care for you. Your body and health are constantly changing, as will your therapist’s approach to treatment. From time to time, why not try a different approach, to make sure you feel that your needs are being met. If you like what you discover, let your therapist know, and see if they can incorporate it into your treatments. Your RMT should periodically check in with you about whether any of your preferences have changed, and make shifts as necessary.

This collaboration and evolution is part of stepping into the circle of care when you come to Body Poets.