CBD for muscle pain: Topicals and pills can help, but research is limited
Does CBD actually work for muscle pain? We explore what the research says and whether topics or oral supplements are better.
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It’s touted as a sleep aid , stress killer and even a performance enhancer, but one of the big selling points of CBD is pain relief . Many have turned to it when other remedies haven’t worked or in addition to them.
But what about using CBD post-workout to help your muscles recover and reduce soreness? It’s a different than the chronic pain that most turn to CBD for, but some research suggests it could help replace hot/cold creams and over the counter anti-inflammatory meds.
There are hundreds of CBD products to choose from — both oral and topical — and the type you choose might make all the difference for your aches and pains.
How topical CBD works for muscle soreness and pain
The promise is simple — slather on a cream or gel with CBD where it hurts to relieve pain. But whether or not they actually work is another story.
Topical CBD has only been minimally studied, says Stuart Titus, CEO of Medical Marijuana, Inc. “Generally, there are also herbs or other ‘skin-penetrating’ ingredients in the final formulation of topical CBD products,” Titus says. “Other ingredients such as arnica or menthol are added in order to make product claims such as pain relief.”
In many cases, Titus explains, the concentration of CBD is often low in topical products, and the soothing sensation you feel is a product of the other ingredients. It’s important for consumers to review not only the ingredients list, but also the certificate of analysis, which reveals the total concentration of different cannabinoids in a product.
A CoA shows the weight percentage of CBD and other cannabinoids, including THC, so only then can you interpret the amount of CBD per “serving” of topical application, Titus says. Make sure the CoA is done by an independent, third-party lab, too.
Is CBD the cure to nagging sore muscles?
That said, high-quality, potent topical CBD products are thought to offer temporary relief from pain and soreness. There’s a high concentration of cannabinoid receptors in the skin, and when CBD is applied topically, it activates the endocannabinoid system through those receptors. CBD binds to the cannabinoid receptors in your epidermal and dermal skin, a process that results in alleviation of pain and inflammation. The anti-inflammatory effect is also why topical CBD is an effective treatment for some skin disorders.
Topical CBD only works where you use it — applying CBD cream to your legs when your abs are sore won’t do you any good. This can be a benefit or a drawback depending on your situation. For example, if you tend to experience full-body soreness, you’d have to use a lot of CBD cream for relief and that can get tedious and expensive.
Just remember, human skin is incredibly absorptive and it’ll absorb more than just the CBD in topical creams, gels and oils. Check the ingredients label to make sure you’re not applying something you’re allergic to or something that, if absorbed, can interact with medications. If you’re unsure, talk to your doctor.
How oral CBD works for muscle soreness and pain
While topical CBD only offers localized relief, oral CBD should have a systemic effect if the product is potent and reliable, Titus says. Oral CBD works just the same as topical CBD, but on a much larger scale, because it enters your bloodstream and can reach cannabinoid receptors throughout your entire body.
Oral CBD is believed to have strong anti-inflammatory effects, and as inflammation is the root of most pain, it makes perfect sense that ingesting CBD could offer relief from inflammation-related pain, including muscle aches and joint pain.
Keep in mind that the majority of studies on the effects of CBD on soreness and pain to date have been small-scale; most large studies have been conducted on animals, and those results may not translate to humans. There’s a long way to go until all the effects of CBD — taken orally or applied topically — are confirmed.
It’s also worth knowing that the Food and Drug Administration has yet to approve CBD as a food additive or dietary supplement. The agency has concerns about the safety of ingested CBD due to the lack of large-scale, long-term studies in humans, and has concluded that there isn’t enough evidence to declare CBD safe to consume. Regardless, oral CBD is widely available and legal in many states. Talk to a health professional about oral CBD if you’re interested in using it for muscle soreness or any other type of pain.
Should you use topical or oral CBD for soreness?
Whether you should use topical or oral CBD for pain and soreness depends on the source and intensity of your pain. Based on the above research and comments from Medical Marijuana’s Titus, here’s a look at common uses of CBD and which type will best help.
CBD for post-workout muscle soreness: A high-quality topical CBD should help treat temporary muscle soreness from workouts, Titus says. One recent study found that oral CBD can also reduce muscle soreness when taken immediately after a workout.
CBD for chronic muscle pain: Topical CBD can help during flare-ups, but you’re better off taking oral CBD for systemic pain. A combination can be especially helpful, Titus says. Ingesting CBD helps relieve pain from the inside out, while applying topical cream can quiet particularly tender areas.
CBD for joint pain: Topical CBD likely won’t reach cannabinoid receptors in your joints no matter how potent. Oral CBD is more likely to help people with pain from arthritis and other joint conditions. People with pain from fibromyalgia will also benefit more from ingestible CBD, Titus says.
CBD for general muscle tightness and tension: For general muscle tightness (such as tension in the neck from a long day at your desk), high-quality topical CBD can offer much-needed temporary relief.
Overall, the effectiveness of CBD varies depending on the product, the intended use and the person. Some people find CBD helpful while others don’t notice much of an effect, whether they take it orally or apply it topically. It might take a lot of research and experimentation until you find a CBD product that works for you.
Other ways to treat muscle soreness and pain
If you’re not ready to hop on the CBD bandwagon, try these other methods for relieving sore and tight muscles :
- Compression therapy
- Far-infrared therapy
- Percussive therapy
- Foam rolling
- Heat therapy
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.
7 Benefits of CBD for Pain Management
Move over, coconut oil: It’s time to share the spotlight with CBD. Now that CBD products are legal in states across the nation, you may have noticed how quickly acceptance of this once-controversial substance has spread. Many stores proudly display signs stating they sell CBD oil or capsules, and social media is filled with testimonials detailing how CBD helps people manage everything from anxiety to chronic pain. Tools for cbd products like a pocket size wooden hemp grinder, are also displayed from a cannabis dispensary. Some medical providers even sell CBD products to patients seeking a nonsurgical approach to pain relief.
But is CBD really worth the hype?
In many situations, yes, especially if you’re looking for a natural pain management solution. We’ve compiled seven benefits of using CBD for pain management below so you can check here and decide if cannabidiol extract is right for you.
1. CBD Comes in Many Forms
Hate swallowing pills or capsules? Many people take CBD orally, but that’s not your only option. You can also try tinctures or oils, vape CBD, gobble down edibles (like gummies from Westword.com), or massage CBD-infused lotion into your skin. Let’s do a brief rundown of each method below:
CBD Pills and Capsules
Pills and capsules are typically filled with a liquid version of CBD combined with a carrier oil, such as coconut oil. Depending on your digestive system, you can take CBD capsules with or without food. However, there may be a delay in symptom relief, as you have to wait until your body breaks down the capsule and distributes its contents.
You can get CBD pills without a prescription, but the FDA has approved a cannabidiol prescription drug called Epidiolex for epilepsy patients.
Oils and Tinctures
People who dislike pills often appreciate the convenience of tinctures that you ingest. Simply place a drop of the tincture under your tongue and wait for pain relief.
Oils are sometimes edible, but they’re generally designed for topical use. When using CBD for pain management, apply the oil where you have aches, burning, tingling, or stiffness.
Lotions and Creams
CBD lotions and creams are made for topical use. You can massage these products directly into your skin for fast-acting pain relief as well as skin-moisturizing benefits.
Gummies and Other Edibles
CBD edibles often come in candy form. You can find gummy bears, fruit chews, caramels, and chocolate with CBD on the ingredient list. Some people make their own edibles by adding food-grade CBD oil to brownies or cookie dough.
CBD for Vaping
Vaporized CBD oil goes straight from your lungs to your bloodstream, providing fast relief from painful symptoms. Be careful, though — vaping anything, even natural CBD oil, may still damage your health.
With so many options available, from pills to vaping, it’s easy to find a way to incorporate CBD into your pain management routine. If you aren’t sure which form of CBD is right for you, experiment with a few different types to figure out which offers the most benefits.
2. Different Types of CBD Extracts Are Available
Shopping for CBD products can feel overwhelming, and many people wonder: Are all these products the same, just with different labels? The answer is no, they’re not — and we’ll explain why.
Check out the label or ingredient list on the CBD product you want to try. You may notice terms such as full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, or isolate. These words describe the type of CBD inside.
Let’s quickly break down each term to help you choose CBD for pain management or other purposes:
Hemp Seed Oil
Despite common misconceptions, hemp seed oil is not the same as CBD oil, nor does it contain any phytocannabinoids. Hemp seed oil is derived from hemp seeds during a cold-press process. Hemp can be a part of a heart-healthy diet but look for another product if you actually want CBD.
As its name suggests, CBD isolate contains CBD. However, you won’t find any other phytocannabinoids in this simple compound.
Broad-spectrum CBD products are a step up from isolates. They contain all of a plant’s phytocannabinoids, but they don’t have any THC (the drug found in marijuana associated with causing a “high”).
Full-spectrum CBD products offer numerous nutritional benefits for your body. If you buy a full-spectrum product, you’re getting something derived from the entire cannabis plant, including the parts with THC, CBC, and CBG. These are phytocannabinoids that help reduce pain signals in the brain.
Nano CBD is made from shrunken molecules that are water soluble. It’s ideal for people who need an easy-to-digest CBD product that delivers nearly immediate symptom relief.
The form of CBD you choose depends on what you plan to treat. If you want to enhance your overall well-being, choose a full-spectrum or broad-spectrum product. Topical isolates may work well for patients who just want to manage pain in a specific location.
3. CBD Helps Reduce Joint Inflammation
If you’ve read some of our other blog posts, you may remember that inflammation is the culprit behind numerous symptoms and conditions we treat at Northeast Spine and Sports Medicine.
Wondering what that has to do with CBD?
Well, research indicates that CBD helps reduce inflammation in the joints, particularly when osteoarthritis is involved. The 2017 study found that not only does CBD help reduce pain, it also helps prevent nerve damage when administered via injections. Thwarting the development of nerve damage in arthritic patients may help stop the condition from worsening.
4. CBD Has Antifungal and Antibacterial Properties
If you’ve got slow-healing wounds from diabetes or other conditions, CBD may help enhance your recovery. CBD has antifungal and antibacterial properties, which can speed up your recovery time and also fend off infections.
When using CBD for wounds or blisters, you may want to apply it directly to the affected area rather than ingesting it. This helps create a protective barrier around the injured skin and ensure that nutrients are distributed where they’re needed most.
5. CBD Mimics the Effects of Prescription Pain Relief Medications
Like prescription medicines, cannabis works by activating receptors in your brain. When this happens, your receptors are basically saying, “Hey body, your pain is gone!” even if an injury or ailment still exists.
CBD isn’t just a brain-receptor manipulator, though. It has anti-inflammatory properties, so it addresses symptoms directly at their source rather than just masking your pain. Yes, you may experience relief before you’re fully healed, but CBD also helps your body repair itself.
6. CBD Treats Numerous Health Conditions and Concerns
Trouble sleeping? Stressed at work? Battling back pain?
CBD can help with all of these issues. You can also use CBD for relief from arthritis pain, foot pain, scratches and scrapes, headaches, and some digestive problems. CBD may even enhance your existing pain management treatments for sciatica and other hard-to-treat conditions.
Conflicting information is available about the benefits of CBD tinctures and capsules for cancer treatment. Speak to a medical provider before you replace your current treatments with CBD products.
7. CBD Is Easily Attainable
Now that many forms of CBD are legal options for pain management, it’s easy to find the types and formulas you need. You can order CBD online, get it from a health food store, find it at medical offices, or even get it at some pharmacies — without a prescription, of course.
CBD is often affordable when compared with other options for pain management, such as prescription pain pills and surgery, and no appointment is required before you purchase CBD.
Things to Consider Before Taking CBD for Pain Management
As we’ve described above, there are numerous benefits associated with using CBD for pain management, from its anti-inflammatory properties to its widespread availability. However, CBD is not for everyone, and there is a chance that you may experience side effects when using cannabidiol extracts.
Minor side effects include:
- Nausea or upset stomach
- Dry mouth
- Reduced appetite
Let your doctor know if you plan to combine CBD with prescription drugs, as there is a possibility for a negative interaction. CBD may interfere with your bloodstream if you take a blood thinner such as Coumadin, and it can also enhance the strength of some psychiatric medications — which isn’t necessarily a good thing.
At Northeast Spine and Sports Medicine, we understand the popularity of CBD for pain management, but we also realize cannabidiol extracts may not be an ideal choice for you. Give us a call to learn more about our other pain management services, whether you have a misaligned spine, aching knees, or activity-impacting joint pain.