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No matter how tough you may be, a painful back spasm can bring you to your knees and leave you searching for relief. And it might just make you curious about cannabidiol (CBD).

CBD is a chemical compound found in the cannabis plant. While it’s a close cousin to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), it doesn’t produce the same mind-altering effects. But it may have important pain-relieving qualities and help with different forms of chronic pain, including back spasms.

The bad news? There are a lot of CBD companies out there. And many of them are peddling inferior quality products. But when you’re dealing with back spasms, you probably don’t want to waste time wading through tons of subpar product options. That’s why we’ve created this guide to help make your CBD shopping experience a little easier.

Studies suggest that CBD can help with pain and inflammation.

When it comes to back pain specifically, one review from 2018 suggests that CBD may be beneficial for people with fibromyalgia and nerve-related pain. If either condition is the cause of your back spasms, CBD may help provide pain relief.

According to one estimate, about 14 percent of people with insurance who sought help for back pain ended up being prescribed opioids. But these drugs are potentially addictive. A 2019 study found that CBD helped participants reduce their opioid use for chronic pain.

Research involving people using topical CBD and THC in palliative care found that CBD helped reduce chronic pain levels. Although the study wasn’t specifically about back pain, it suggests that CBD shows promise in treating pain in general.

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
  • product potency
  • overall ingredients, including additional ingredients that may help with pain relief
  • indicators of user trust and brand reputation, such as:

Keep in mind that there isn’t a CBD product out there that will magically cause your back spasms to stop completely. The focus should be on choosing a high-quality product in general.

Topicals applied directly to the painful area are ideal for specific forms of pain, so we focused on creams and the like rather than gummies or capsules, which provide full-body effects.

Pricing guide

  • $ = under $20
  • $$ = $20–$35
  • $$$ = over $35

CBDMEDIC Massage Therapy Pain Relief Oil

  • Price: $$
  • CBD type: full-spectrum
  • CBD potency: 200 mg per 3.38-oz bottle
  • COA: available by request

Combine the benefits of massage and CBD with this CBD-infused massage oil. In addition to CBD, the oil also contains camphor and menthol, active ingredients well known for their role in relieving muscle pain. The travel-friendly bottle of CBD massage oil also contains moisturizing ingredients so you can soothe muscles and nourish the skin at the same time.

Reviews for this oil are generally positive. Some people even say that applying the oil helped them sleep better. However, a few reviewers note that the formula is a bit greasy.

Use code “HEALTH15” for 15% off.

CBDistillery CBD Relief Stick

  • Price: $$
  • CBD type: isolate
  • CBD potency: 500 mg per 2.5-oz stick
  • COA: available on product page

This CBD stick delivers a cooling sensation that may help with painful muscle spasms. It’s small enough that you can toss it into your purse or bag and use it anywhere you go. The formula also contains arnica and pleasant-smelling peppermint oil.

CBDistillery offers a 60-day money-back guarantee, which gives you plenty of time to try out the balm and see if it works for you. There are currently only four customer reviews of the product, but all of them are positive.

Use Code ‘healthline’ for 15% off.

Joy Organics Premium CBD Salve Stick

  • Price: $$
  • CBD type: broad-spectrum
  • CBD potency: 250 mg per 0.5-oz stick
  • COA: available online

This Joy Organics salve is easy to toss into your bag and apply directly to the area that’s paining you. The product is unscented, and in addition to the CBD, it contains a host of skin-soothing ingredients, including shea butter, organic jojoba oil, and organic sunflower seed oil.

There are only a handful of customer reviews for this CBD stick, but all of them are highly positive. Reviewers mention that they not only love the travel-ready salve, but they also received excellent customer service.

Joy Organics offers free carbon-neutral shipping and a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Use code ‘healthcbd’ for 15% off.

Plant People Soothe+ Restorative Body Balm

  • Price: $$$
  • CBD type: full-spectrum
  • CBD potency: 515 mg per 22-oz jar
  • COA: available via product page

This potent jar of CBD balm contains non-GMO and USDA Organic ingredients. Plant People recommends rubbing it into problem areas for targeted relief. Aside from CBD, the balm also contains arnica, California poppy, and Indian peppermint.

Customers are happy with the balm’s effectiveness and say it even helps soften the skin. People also say it smells great.

However, a few reviewers complain that the formula has changed since their last purchase, and the balm is now more difficult to spread.

TheraOne by Theragun Revive CBD Body Balm

  • Price: $$$
  • CBD type: full-spectrum
  • CBD potency: 835 mg per 1.67-oz stick
  • COA: available online

Known for its muscle-kneading massager, Theragun has now entered the world of CBD with a line of muscle-soothing balms and lotions.

This body balm comes in an easy-to-use stick format. It contains a mix of USDA Certified Organic ingredients, including turmeric, shea butter, and menthol.

It’s a relatively new product, so it only has a few reviews, but people seem to only have good things to say. One person did mention, though, that the balm leaves a greasy residue after application.

Social CBD Infused Patch

  • Price: $–$$
  • CBD type: isolate
  • CBD potency: 20, 60, or 100 mg per patch
  • COA: available online

If you don’t like the feel of creams and lotions, try this CBD-infused patch from Social CBD. You can apply it right to the spot where you’re experiencing back spasms. The patch slowly releases CBD over 24 hours to provide long-lasting relief. It’s also sweat- and water-resistant.

Reviewers like the patches but complain that they’re pretty expensive, since each one only offers a single-use application. Some people also say they had issues with the patches falling off before 24 hours had elapsed.

Here’s how to sort through the various topical CBD products available on the market.

CBD type

Different types of CBD (isolate, full-spectrum, and broad-spectrum) offer different benefits.

  • CBD isolate products are THC-free and ideal if you want to avoid THC completely.
  • Broad-spectrum products are also free of THC, but they contain other cannabis-derived compounds.
  • Full-spectrum CBD products contain terpenes, flavonoids, and cannabinoids, including THC. However, the amount of THC is usually small.

Full-spectrum products may have greater benefits than isolate or broad-spectrum products. This is because of the entourage effect, a theory that THC and CBD work better together than solo.

Ingredients

Opt for topicals made from U.S.-grown hemp. Ideally, go with products that contain natural, organic ingredients.

Most topicals contain moisturizing ingredients to help soothe the skin, but check the ingredient label to ensure a product doesn’t contain anything you’re allergic to.

If you’re looking for added pain relief, you may also want to keep an eye out for pain-relieving ingredients like arnica and menthol.

Potency

A low-potency product is probably a good idea if you’re brand new to CBD. But if you have chronic pain, you may need a more potent product to find relief.

Third-party testing

This is a must. The FDA doesn’t regulate CBD products in the same way as they do prescription drugs. While they can send CBD companies warning letters for making misleading claims, it’s up to you to do your research and carefully read labels before checking out.

Not sure what to look for? Here’s a quick checklist you can follow:

  • Does the potency listed on the COA match the info listed on the product page or label?
  • Does the COA include testing results for contaminants like molds, heavy metals, and pesticides?
  • Does the COA come from a third-party lab?
  • Is the COA relatively recent (ideally less than a year old)?

Topical CBD products are pretty easy to use. First, apply the product to the area where you’re experiencing pain. You may also want to massage the site if you’re using massage oil.

Hold on, though. Before you apply anything to a large area, do a patch test to see if any irritation occurs. Stop using the product if you experience any kind of reaction.

If you’re new to using CBD, start with a minimal amount and work your way up. If you don’t feel any effects within 20 minutes or so, you can re-apply.

CBD is generally considered safe, but there’s always a risk for skin irritation or allergies as with any kind of topical product.

Other mild side effects can occur, like:

  • diarrhea
  • changes in appetite
  • weight changes
  • sleepiness

Topicals are less likely to cause full-body effects than ingested CBD. However, it’s still a good idea to talk with your doctor if you plan on using CBD products — especially if you’re taking any medications because interactions can occur.

CBD might provide some relief, but it’s unlikely to get rid of your back spasms completely. Here are a few other options for treating back spasms:

If your back spasms are severe, a doctor may also suggest muscle relaxers. It’s important to visit a doctor if you’re experiencing pain that isn’t going away with home treatment.

Thankfully, muscle spasms aren’t usually a chronic issue. But they can still be painful. If you have chronic back pain along with spasms, combining topical CBD with other treatments may provide maximum pain relief.

If spasms and back pain impact your day-to-day activities, talk with a doctor to find the root cause and discuss other treatment options.


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.