woman crouched down getting ready to runShare on Pinterest

We include products we think are useful for our readers. If you buy through links on this page, we may earn a small commission. Here’s our process.

Healthline has sole editorial control over this article. Potential uses for the products listed here are not health claims made by the manufacturers. The information in this article is intended to be general in nature. It’s not intended to be a substitute for medical advice from a healthcare professional. Healthline encourages you to make any treatment decisions with your healthcare professional.

Cannabidiol (CBD), the cannabis compound that’s been touted for its potential healing effects without getting you “high,” has gotten attention for alleviating aches and inflammation. Some athletes have even said it’s a part of their health routine for enhancing performance, particularly when they’re experiencing pain.

While research on CBD still needs to catch up to the demand for its benefits, it seems to offer promising results for helping with muscle soreness. So, it could be a good option for any post-workout pain.

To make sure you have all the information before you get in on the trend, here’s everything you need to know about CBD for athletes, plus the best salves and balms if you decide it’s right for you. We looked for the best brands offering safe, effective, high-quality products backed up by third-party testing and positive reviews from satisfied customers.

A 2020 review of the benefits of CBD for athletes says animal-focused and preliminary research suggests it may help reduce inflammation and pain, a good payoff for those looking for post-workout relief. The review also notes CBD may:

  • protect against gastrointestinal damage that’s linked to inflammation
  • promote the healing of skeletal injuries
  • help relieve stress and anxiety, which can boost mental performance during physical activity

However, scientists say more research is needed.

Most of the animal research on CBD supports its anti-inflammatory effects, while other research demonstrates that CBD may offer a solid third-line therapy for people with chronic, noncancer-related pain. Research into CBD and pain is ongoing.

The National Library of Medicine currently lists almost 90 clinical trials testing CBD on different types of pain.

CBD alone shouldn’t show up on a drug test. But there’s a catch: Most CBD products contain trace amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the intoxicating cannabis compound that does show up on drug tests.

If you’re going to get drug tested, it may be best to avoid CBD products altogether. If you’re not concerned about a positive result but still want to avoid THC, choose broad-spectrum or isolate CBD products, which, by definition, should contain no THC.

Pros

  • acts as an anti-inflammatory and may help with pain relief
  • may relieve stress and anxiety
  • easy to buy online or in stores
  • many types of products available

Cons

  • most CBD products contain trace levels of THC, which may appear on a drug test
  • more research is needed on CBD’s safety and efficacy

We follow specific criteria when choosing the best CBD products based on safety, quality, and transparency. Each product listed in this article:

  • is made by a company that provides proof of third-party testing by an ISO 17025-compliant lab
  • is made by a company that discloses the source of their hemp
  • contains no more than 0.3 percent THC, according to the certificate of analysis (COA)
  • passes tests for pesticides, heavy metals, and molds, according to the COA

When deciding what goes on the list, we also consider:

  • the company’s certifications and manufacturing processes
  • product potency
  • overall ingredients and whether the product contains any additional ingredients that may support pain relief
  • indicators of user trust and brand reputation, such as:
    • customer reviews
    • whether the company has been subject to a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warning letter
    • whether the company makes any unsupported health claims

Pricing guide

  • $ = under $40
  • $$ = $40–$60
  • $$$ = over $60

Best CBD balm stick for athletes

CBDMEDIC Active Sport Pain Relief Stick

  • Price: $
  • CBD type: isolate
  • CBD potency: 600 mg per 30-mg stick
  • COA: available by email request

Toss this stick in your bag for whenever you need a little pick-me-up while you’re on the move. The ingredient list includes THC-free CBD, menthol, and camphor for pain relief, as well as moisturizing ingredients like beeswax, shea butter, and a mix of other oils.

For a little pain relief, simply roll it on the areas causing discomfort. It’s also hypoallergenic, which makes it a good option for people with sensitive skin.

You can review the COA by sending the company an email.

Use code “HEALTH15” for 15% off.

Pros

  • easy to apply
  • provides immediate relief
  • hypoallergenic formula contains beeswax, hemp extract, and jojoba seed oil

Cons

  • leaves a sticky, greasy residue
  • some people find the scent unpleasant
  • smell may irritate eyes

Best hydrating CBD balm for athletes

CBDistillery CBDol Topical — CBD Balm

  • Price: $$
  • CBD type: full-spectrum
  • CBD potency: 500 mg per 1-oz. container
  • COA: available on product page

Have a sore back, leg, or arm? Massage a generous amount of this CBDistillery salve right on the spot that’s bothering you, and you’re likely to find relief.

It not only contains CBD, but it also has a mix of oils (like coconut, olive, apricot, and sunflower), plus essential oils such as lavender, peppermint, and eucalyptus. Made of all-natural ingredients, its thick consistency can provide soothing hydration without the grease.

You can review the COA from the product page in the image carousel.

Use code “healthline” for 20% off sitewide or choose the subscription option for 20% off the first 2 subscription orders and 25% off the 3rd order.

Pros

  • mild scent
  • rich, thick moisturizing formula
  • contains shea butter, coconut oil, and hemp seed oil

Cons

  • may harden in cool temperatures
  • leaves residue on skin, which may transfer to clothing
  • no option to sort or filter website reviews

Best roll-on CBD balm for athletes

Level Select CBD Roll-Ons

  • Price: $–$$
  • CBD type: broad-spectrum
  • CBD potency: 900, 1,200, or 1,800 mg per roll-on
  • COA: available online

This product comes in three different levels — 900 mg, 1,200 mg, or 1,8000 mg of CBD — based on how much relief you need for your muscles. Thanks to the menthol, each one provides a cool mint scent that can bring a refreshing, ache-alleviating feel.

This roll-on is great for traveling and using hands-free. Simply shake the bottle, then roll the blend right onto your trouble spot. If you don’t love it within 30 days, you get your money back.

Use code “HEALTH40” for 40% off.

Pros

  • soothing, cooling sensation
  • three CBD levels available
  • alleviates pain and tension

Cons

  • scent is too strong for some people
  • one customer says it caused skin irritation

Best cooling CBD balm for athletes

Therabody Revive CBD Body Balm

  • Price: $$$
  • CBD type: full-spectrum
  • CBD potency: 500 mg per 1-oz. container
  • COA: available online

Thanks to the menthol in this body balm, you can find cooling pain relief with just a pea-sized scoop. Roll the balm between your fingers first to soften it, then apply directly to the desired area (keeping away from your eyes) and reapply as needed.

This product is also USDA certified organic. As an additional anti-inflammatory, it contains turmeric essential oil.

Given the balm’s unique blend of ingredients, your skin will also get a cool, moisturizing effect in addition to the benefits of CBD.

Pros

  • USDA certified organic
  • contains turmeric oil, arnica oil, and MCT coconut oil
  • 30-day money-back guarantee

Cons

  • scent is too strong for some people
  • no reviews on website product page

Best lower potency CBD balm for athletes

PlusCBD CBD Balm

  • Price: $
  • CBD type: full-spectrum
  • CBD potency: 100 mg per 1.3-oz. container
  • COA: available on product page

Although this CBD balm only contains 100 mg per container, the rest of the ingredients come packed with their own healing benefits. This includes almond oil for its antioxidant properties, beeswax for moisturizing, and willow bark extract for soothing irritated skin.

This product is also free of fragrances, dyes, sulfates, pesticides, phthalates, PEGs, and parabens.

Pros

  • non-GMO ingredients
  • subtle relaxing scent
  • hydrating glyceryl stearate, glycerin, and green tea leaf extract

Cons

  • thick, sticky consistency
  • ineffective for some people

Best soothing CBD balm for athletes

CBDfx CBD Cream For Muscle & Joint

  • Price: $$$
  • CBD type: broad-spectrum
  • CBD potency: 1,000 mg per 1.7-oz. container
  • COA: available online

This cream from CBDfx is formulated to soothe stiff, sore muscles and joints. The broad-spectrum CBD cream contains menthol, caffeine, and white willow bark to help naturally relieve pain. Plus, it’s vegan and cruelty-free.

The cream is also available in 500 mg CBD and 3,000 mg CBD potencies.

Pros

  • may provide instant pain relief
  • helps reduce tightness and tension
  • mild pleasant scent

Cons

  • pricier option
  • no option to sort or filter website reviews

Here’s a quick look at how our picks compare:

The best way to shop for CBD products is to look for companies that clearly state how they grow their hemp and how they produce their products, including extraction techniques. You should be able to find this info on the website, but if not, send an email.

Because the FDA doesn’t guarantee the safety, effectiveness, or quality of over-the-counter CBD products, you’ll also want to look for a product that has an up-to-date COA from a third-party lab.

Check the COA to ensure the product contains as much THC and CBD as the company says it does. Also, check for contaminant testing results, including heavy metals, pesticides, and molds.

As with any topical product, it’s best to test out a small amount of these salves and balms in a limited area before using more broadly on your skin. If you don’t have a negative reaction — like redness or irritation — and want to use more, go for it.

Most products will offer dosage suggestions, but you can usually use them as you would other topical products that don’t contain CBD. If you’re new to CBD, start low and slow with a lower dose topical to evaluate what’s right for you and to prevent unwanted side effects.

There aren’t any evidence-based dosing recommendations for topical CBD products. Most known dosing recommendations for CBD products are for prescription medications like Epidiolex, a seizure medication approved by the FDA.

More studies are needed to understand the proper dosing and therapeutic range of CBD for a number of medical conditions.

According to research from 2017, CBD is generally considered safe and has few side effects. Some people might experience issues like:

  • fatigue
  • diarrhea
  • changes in appetite
  • changes in weight

Don’t use topical products on broken skin.

Since CBD can interact with some medications, it’s important to talk with a doctor or pharmacist before trying any CBD product.

Don’t use CBD if you’re breastfeeding or pregnant.

Talk with a doctor before using any new CBD product, especially if you take medications or have any health conditions. CBD can interact with certain medications.

Also talk with a doctor or other healthcare professional if you experience long lasting or severe muscle pain and stiffness that doesn’t improve with home treatments, including CBD balms.

Seek immediate medical care if you have muscle pain and stiffness in addition to any of the following symptoms:

  • high fever and stiff neck
  • muscle weakness
  • difficult moving the affected area
  • redness, pain, and swelling in the affected area
  • symptoms that started after taking a new medication
  • severe muscle pain with no clear cause

How much CBD do athletes need?

Currently, there aren’t any recommended CBD dosages for athletes.

However, many products come with suggestions on the labels.

It’s best to begin with a small area of unbroken skin to see how your body reacts to the CBD before treating large areas, increasing the dosage, or reapplying.

When should athletes take CBD?

For athletes, the best time to apply topical CBD is after your workout. This is because CBD may help ease any soreness or inflammation you may be experiencing.

Is CBD good for muscle recovery?

Yes, CBD may be able to assist with muscle recovery due to its anti-inflammatory properties.

Exercising and weightlifting cause the breakdown and regrowth of muscles. However, too much inflammation caused by strenuous exercise can delay recovery. Topical CBD can help with inflammation and muscle soreness, allowing your muscles to recover faster.

Will CBD show up on a drug test?

Although CBD doesn’t appear on drug tests, trace amounts of THC will. Trace amounts of THC may be found in any CBD product, even if it’s labeled broad-spectrum or isolate.

If you have to take drug tests and get a negative result, it’s best to avoid CBD products entirely.

If you’re looking for a product to help alleviate post-workout soreness or common muscle aches, CBD salves and balms may provide the relief you need.

Look for a product that comes with an up-to-date, comprehensive COA. If you want to avoid THC, choose a broad-spectrum or isolate product. However, be aware that trace levels of THC may still show on a drug test.

Is CBD legal?The 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp from the legal definition of marijuana in the Controlled Substances Act. This made some hemp-derived CBD products with less than 0.3 percent THC federally legal. However, CBD products containing more than 0.3 percent THC still fall under the legal definition of marijuana, making them federally illegal but legal under some state laws. Be sure to check state laws, especially when traveling. Also, keep in mind that the FDA has not approved nonprescription CBD products, and some products may be inaccurately labeled.