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If you’re looking for a pain relief cream to help your achy back, you may be interested in one that contains cannabidiol (CBD).

This chemical compound originally comes from the cannabis plant — yes, the same plant that produces tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Unlike THC, CBD doesn’t produce any mind-altering effects. But it does show promise for relieving inflammation and pain, including back pain.

Unfortunately, despite the potential for pain relief, there are many CBD products on the market that aren’t up to par. To help you wade through them, we’re highlighting some of the best options available. We’ll also give you some pointers on what to look for when shopping for CBD and how to use it for back pain.

Keep in mind that while research suggests CBD may help with pain in general, one product isn’t necessarily better than the rest for managing back pain specifically. The ideal strategy is to pick a quality CBD product.

When choosing CBD products, we keep the same general criteria in mind. Each product featured:

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

When making our selections, we also consider:

  • company certification and manufacturing processes
  • CBD potency
  • whether products contain quality ingredients, including additional ingredients that may help with pain relief
  • indicators of user trust and brand reputation, such as:

No one product will magically eliminate back pain. However, CBD cream may help alleviate back pain when you apply it topically to the affected area.

Pricing guide

  • $ = under $45
  • $$ = $45–$65
  • $$$ = over $65

CBDfx Muscle & Joint CBD Hemp Cream

Use code “HEALTHLINE” for 20% off.

  • CBD type: Broad-spectrum
  • CBD potency: 500 mg, 1,000 mg, or 3,000 mg per 50-mL container
  • COA: Available on product page

Price: $–$$$

This cream from CBDfx is made with a cooling formula that contains menthol. It also has naturally pain-relieving white willow bark and caffeine.

The formula is suitable for vegans. Since it’s made with broad-spectrum CBD, it’s also a good option for those looking to avoid THC. However, it’s good to keep in mind that any CBD product — regardless of the type of CBD it’s made with — may contain trace amounts of THC.

Aspen Green Muscle Relief Cooling Cream

Use code “HEALTHLINE” for 20% off.

  • CBD type: Full-spectrum
  • CBD potency: 1,000 mg per 60-mL container
  • COA: Available on product page

Price: $$$

This muscle relief cream from Aspen Green has a cooling effect to help ease discomfort.

The cream also contains a variety of terpenes, which are aromatic compounds naturally found in cannabis. These include eucalyptol and bisabolol. According to research from 2014, bisabolol may help reduce inflammation.

In addition to CBD, the cream contains arnica, calendula, and tea tree oil.

To help make this cream more accessible, Aspen Green has several assistance programs for military personnel, medical professionals, teachers, students, and low-income households.

FAB CBD Topical Cream

Use code “HEALTHLINE” for 20% off your first purchase

  • CBD type: Full-spectrum
  • CBD potency: 600 mg per 56-g container
  • COA: Available online

Price: $$

The FAB CBD Topical CBD Cream has a pleasant blood orange scent that reviewers seem to love. The COA shows that it’s high in the terpene d-limonene, which has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.

It contains hydrating ingredients like coconut oil, cocoa butter, and aloe vera.

CBDistillery CBD Warming Cream

Use code “healthline” for 15% off sitewide or choose the subscription option for 20% off the first 2 subscription orders and 25% off the 3rd order.

  • CBD type: Broad-spectrum
  • CBD potency: 300 mg per 50-mL container, 2 mg CBD per pump
  • COA: Available on product page in the image slideshow

Price: $

CBDistillery also offers a cooling CBD cream, but if cooling isn’t a sensation you’re into, this warming cream might do the trick. Each pump delivers 2 mg of CBD and produces a gentle warming sensation on the skin. It’s also free of fragrances, so it’s ideal if you’re sensitive to strong smells.

Veterans get a discount on CBDistillery products, and the company also offers a refer-a-friend program and a loyalty program.

Joy Organics Premium CBD Sports Cream

Use code “healthcbd” for 15% off.

  • CBD type: Broad-spectrum
  • CBD potency: 400 mg per 118-mL container
  • COA: Available on product page

Price: $

This cooling cream from Joy Organics is made with many organic ingredients. For additional pain relief, the formula contains both menthol and camphor.

The company says people should feel the effects of the cream within about 15 to 20 minutes of use.

Joy Organics offers a rewards program and discounts for veterans, first responders, teachers, medical personnel, and anyone else who may need financial assistance.

Naternal Rescue CBD Muscle Cream

  • CBD type: Full-spectrum
  • CBD potency: 1,000 mg per 96-g container
  • COA: Available online

Price: $

Naternal’s full-spectrum CBD Muscle Cream comes in a convenient pump-style dispenser. With a shea butter base, reviewers report that it doesn’t feel sticky like some creams.

Aside from CBD, it also contains other well-known pain relief and soothing ingredients, including arnica, menthol, camphor, and eucalyptus.

Naternal offers discounts to military personnel, first responders, and teachers.

Papa & Barkley Releaf Repair Cream

  • CBD type: Full-spectrum
  • CBD potency: 450 mg per 30-mL container
  • COA: Available on product page

Price: $$

Papa & Barkley’s Releaf Repair Cream comes in an easy-to-dispense pump container. While the CBD may help relieve pain, it’s also made with moisturizing, skin-soothing ingredients, like squalane and jojoba oil.

It’s not suitable for those with a nut allergy because it’s processed in a facility that also processes nuts.

You can save a bit of money by opting into the subscription option when buying Papa & Barkley products.

Medterra Pain Cream

Use code “health15” for 15% off

  • CBD type: Isolate
  • CBD potency: 500 mg or 1,000 mg per 482-g container
  • COA: Available online

Price: $–$$

Medterra’s Pain Cream is made with CBD isolate. That means it contains only CBD and no other parts of the cannabis plant.

In addition to this pure form of CBD, the cream is made with pain-relief ingredients like arnica and menthol. It also contains soothing essential oils like peppermint and jojoba to help hydrate skin.

Medterra has a rewards program for loyal customers and allows you to bundle products to save money. They also have several assistance programs that make their products more affordable for military veterans, active military duty personnel, and people with disabilities.

Research suggests that CBD can help reduce pain and inflammation.

One 2018 review, which looked at both CBD specifically, and cannabis in general, concludes that CBD is an effective pain reliever with very few side effects. The review suggests that it may help with fibromyalgia and nerve-related pain — both of which might affect the back.

Although not specific to back pain, recent research also suggests that topical CBD products are beneficial for reducing pain in people who are in palliative care.

Opioids

Many people in the United States report having lower back pain. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), almost 14 percent of people with insurance end up with an opioid prescription after seeing a doctor for low back pain. However, there’s little evidence that opioids help treat this type of pain. Opioids also carry with them a risk for addiction.

One 2019 study that looked at CBD for chronic pain found that taking CBD allowed participants to drastically reduce their opioid use. Additionally, almost every participant who took CBD reported having a higher quality of life.

The study concludes that there’s reason to believe that CBD is a viable alternative to opioids for chronic pain management.

However, note that if you currently take opioids, don’t stop taking them abruptly and without talking with your doctor first.

CBD might help relieve your back pain, but you’ll have to sort through products to weed out the bad ones. Here’s what to consider when shopping for a topical CBD product:

CBD source

There are different types of CBD, including isolate, broad-spectrum, and full-spectrum. Isolates don’t contain any THC or cannabinoids other than CBD. They’re ideal if you want to avoid THC altogether. Broad-spectrum products don’t contain THC but have most cannabis plant compounds, including terpenes.

Full-spectrum CBD products contain all parts of the cannabis plant, like terpenes, flavonoids, and cannabinoids. This includes THC, but in tiny amounts. There’s evidence that CBD and THC work better together than alone — an interaction dubbed the entourage effect.

Ingredients

Always go with CBD creams made from U.S.-grown hemp. Better yet, opt for options with natural, organic ingredients since you’ll be applying the stuff to your skin.

Many CBD topicals contain added ingredients to help soothe skin and boost pain relief effects, like essential oils, arnica, and menthol. Check the ingredients list to make sure you’re not allergic to anything.

Potency

If you’re new to CBD, starting off with a lower potency product might be best. However, some people with chronic pain might need a more potent topical to feel any noticeable effects.

Third-party testing

At the moment, the FDA doesn’t guarantee the quality or safety of CBD products. They can take action against CBD companies peddling wild health claims or making false promises, but it’s really up to you to carefully read labels before entering your credit card info.

The easiest way to check whether a product contains what it says it does is to look at the COA. A COA should be up-to-date and come from a reputable third-party lab. Information on the COA should match the product label.

In addition to potency information, a comprehensive COA will have results for pesticide, mold, and heavy metal testing.

Using a CBD cream is fairly simple. Just apply it topically, directly to the affected area.

It’s important to patch test the cream by applying a small dab to the inside of your wrist or forearm. If you experience any irritation, don’t use it elsewhere.

Some CBD creams come in a dispenser, and each pump delivers a specific amount of CBD. Even with a semi-accurate pump mechanism, it can be tough to figure out how much CBD is in a dollop of cream.

If you’re new to CBD, start with a small amount. If you don’t feel any pain relief after 20 minutes, apply more.

Research shows that CBD is generally safe to use.

Don’t try to ingest topicals. They’re typically meant for external use only. Avoid applying cream to fresh cuts or wounds.

CBD topicals won’t cause any mind-altering effects, but they can cause mild side effects like:

  • changes in weight
  • changes in appetite
  • sleepiness
  • diarrhea

It’s not likely that a topical will enter your bloodstream and produce full-body effects. However, you should still talk with your doctor before using CBD to prevent potential drug interactions.

Finally, don’t forget to do a patch test. Even natural products can cause reactions in people with sensitive skin.

More research is needed to make a definitive judgment on whether CBD can help with back pain, especially chronic, severe forms of back pain. However, anecdotally, people seem to have a lot of success with topical CBD products for all kinds of pain.

To increase your chances of success with CBD, pick a high-potency, full-spectrum product with quality, organic ingredients.

Is CBD Legal? Hemp-derived CBD products (with less than 0.3 percent THC) are legal on the federal level, but are still illegal under some state laws. Marijuana-derived CBD products are illegal on the federal level, but are legal under some state laws. Check your state’s laws and those of anywhere you travel. Keep in mind that nonprescription CBD products are not FDA-approved, and may be inaccurately labeled.


Steph Coelho is a freelance writer with chronic migraine who has a particular interest in health and wellness. When she’s not click-clacking away on her keyboard, she’s probably nose-deep in a good book.