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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 comes from the cannabis plant — yes, the same plant that produces tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Unlike THC, CBD doesn’t produce a “high” effect. But it does show promise for relieving inflammation and 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.
Unfortunately, because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t regulate CBD products in the same way as they do prescription medications, 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.
When choosing CBD products, we keep the same general criteria in mind. Our team independently vets each brand and product using the same medical and business stands. Each product featured:
- is made by a company that provides proof of third-party testing by an ISO 17025-compliant lab
- is made by a brand 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, 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:
- customer reviews
- whether the company has been subject to an
FDA warning letter
- whether the company makes any unsupported health claims
No product will magically eliminate back pain. However, CBD cream may help alleviate back pain when you apply it topically to the affected area.
|Product||CBD type||Price||CBD potency|
|CBDfx Muscle and Joint Cream, Cooling Formula||broad-spectrum||$79.99–$129.99||1,000 or 3,000 mg|
|Medterra Pain Relief Cream||isolate||$39.99–$59.99||500 or 1,000 mg|
|Aspen Green Relief Cooling Cream||full-spectrum||$84.99||1,000 mg|
|FAB CBD Topical Cream||full-spectrum||$49||600 mg|
|Joy Organics Premium CBD Sports Cream||broad-spectrum||$49.95||1,000 mg|
|FOCL CBD Relief Cream||broad-spectrum||$39||1,000 or 2,000 mg|
- May help reduce inflammation and pain: Keep in mind that research is ongoing, and CBD might not affect everyone the same.
- No risk of addiction: Unlike opioids, which are sometimes prescribed for back pain, CBD does not cause physical dependence.
- Often contains other beneficial ingredients: Many CBD creams contain additional ingredients like arnica and menthol that also work to help reduce pain levels.
- Not ideal for full-body effects: Topicals provide targeted relief, so they may be less useful for full-body pain that results from conditions like fibromyalgia.
- Might not work for everyone: Some people claim to have great success with CBD topicals for back pain. But that does not mean this alternative treatment will necessarily work for you.
Additionally, some animal
CBD works on the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS).
Your skin, like other parts of your body, contains endocannabinoid receptors. Your body also naturally produces endocannabinoids, which interact with the ECS to produce effects such as pain relief — depending on the receptor in question.
Because cannabinoids, like CBD, are similar to naturally produced endocannabinoids, they may also produce similar effects, such as pain relief and anti-inflammation.
However, much of the
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.
Isolates don’t contain THC or cannabinoids other than CBD. They’re ideal if you want to avoid THC altogether.
Broad-spectrum products don’t contain THC, but they 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 a small amount of THC. There’s evidence that CBD and THC work better together, an interaction dubbed the entourage effect.
CBD and drug testing
Even though broad-spectrum CBD and CBD isolate are “THC-free,” any type of CBD product may contain trace amounts of THC.
If you get drug tested, it may be best to avoid CBD products altogether.
Always go with CBD creams made from U.S.-grown hemp. Better yet, opt for those made 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. These include essential oils, arnica, and menthol.
Check the ingredients list to make sure you’re not allergic to anything.
If you’re new to CBD, starting off with a low potency product might be best. However, some people with chronic pain might need a more potent topical to feel any noticeable effects.
At the moment, the FDA doesn’t guarantee the quality or safety of CBD products. The FDA can take action against CBD companies making wild health claims or 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. While you should always follow the directions on the packaging, you’ll generally apply it directly to the affected area.
However, be sure not to apply it to broken skin, and avoid mucous membranes and sensitive areas like your eyes.
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 of a low potency product.
CBD topicals may cause mild side effects, like:
- changes in weight
- changes in appetite
Don’t try to ingest topicals. Unless otherwise noted, they’re meant for external use only.
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 products 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.
While mild back pain often goes away on its own, if you’re experiencing chronic, moderate to severe pain that’s interfering with your life, it may be time to make an appointment with a doctor or other healthcare professional.
It might also be time to talk with a doctor if you:
- have pain that gets progressively worse
- experience weakness in your legs
- feel numbness in your lower extremities
- have sciatica after an injury
- don’t find relief with rest or home remedies
What CBD products help with back pain?
Any CBD product has the potential to help with back pain. However, some CBD topicals contain added ingredients like menthol or arnica. These produce warming or cooling sensations and have pain-relieving qualities of their own.
How much CBD cream should you use for back pain?
Start with a small amount, about the same amount you would use for a non-CBD topical. Most manufacturers will provide dosage recommendations that you can follow.
Do doctors recommend CBD cream for back pain?
While research suggests that topical CBD may help with pain, including back pain. It’s a good idea to work with a doctor or other healthcare professional to find the best treatment option for you. Many doctors wouldn’t recommend treating the symptom without addressing the underlying cause.
How long does it take for CBD cream to help with back pain?
Typically, topicals take about 10-20 minutes to take effect. But timing varies from person to person. Many people find they have to reapply frequently to experience continued relief.
More research is needed to know if 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. However, carefully weigh the pros and cons of each product, and choose one based on your individual needs.
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% THC legal at the federal level. However, CBD products containing more than 0.3% THC still fall under the legal definition of marijuana, making them illegal at the federal level. Some states have legalized CBD, so 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.
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.