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Cannabidiol, more commonly known as CBD, is a substance that comes from cannabis. This plant is teeming with cannabinoids. But CBD is one of the more buzzed-about, thanks to its potential health benefits, like improved sleep and decreased pain and anxiety.

CBD’s growing hype has sparked an overflowing market of CBD products: everything from lotions and salves to gummies and bath bombs. However, oil drops remain one of the popular mediums. In one 2020 study, 46 percent of CBD consumers who participated reported using drops, compared to only 26 percent who used topicals and 23 percent who used edibles.

Despite the seemingly endless selection of trendy CBD products, many people are simply looking for a reliable, no-frills CBD option for back pain. A high quality oil may be able to help.

While there isn’t necessarily research on CBD for back pain specifically, there are several promising studies on CBD for general pain.

A 2018 review evaluated CBD’s effectiveness in easing chronic pain. The researchers looked at studies performed between 1975 and March 2018 that investigated several forms of pain, including:

Researchers not only found that CBD was useful in overall pain management but also reported that it didn’t cause negative side effects.

A 2020 study noted a link between CBD use and decreased chronic pain. In fact, 94 percent of participants saw improvements in their quality of life.

Finally, a smaller 2020 trial on topical CBD suggested that CBD may be helpful in lessening severe pain, sharp pain, and even cold, itchy feelings.

Ingested CBD oil effects may differ from topical effects.

Topical products such as CBD creams allow you to apply the product directly to the desired area, but they can be a bit messy to apply and travel with.

While topicals are great for quick, concentrated relief to a specific area, oils taken under your tongue have a systemic effect. They take longer to kick in but may be more effective at managing pain than a topical.

If you’re still more interested in topical CBD for back pain, you may consider CBD patches, which are less messy than many other topical options. They also work well on the go.

It’s important to know there’s nothing about one particular CBD oil that makes it more helpful for back pain specifically.

Rather, any high quality CBD oil may have the potential to help alleviate pain.

That said, we chose these products based on criteria we think are good indicators of safety, quality, and transparency. Each product in this article:

  • is made by a company that provides proof of third-party testing by an ISO 17025-compliant lab
  • is made with hemp grown in the United States
  • 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

We also considered:

  • company certifications and manufacturing processes
  • product potency
  • overall ingredients
  • indicators of user trust and brand reputation, such as:

Pricing guide

  • $ = under $40
  • $$ = $40–$80
  • $$$ = $81–$120
  • $$$$ = over $120

Best oral and topical combo CBD oil

Lord Jones Royal Oil

  • CBD type: broad-spectrum
  • CBD potency: 1,000 mg per 30-mL bottle
  • COA: available online

Price: $$$

Lord Jones Royal Oil is made with broad-spectrum, hemp-derived CBD and pure grapeseed oil. It’s unique in that you can use it both topically and orally. If you only want to alleviate pain, you may want to take it orally.

However, if you want added benefits for your skin, you can try it topically. The oil is said to calm and hydrate the skin. If you go this route, you can apply it directly to your desired area or mix it into your favorite moisturizer.

Reviewers are happy overall. Many say they apply it topically after a bath as a nighttime ritual. Others say it’s too pricey, while some note that it’s too oily to apply to their skin.

This oil is vegan and free of sugar, gluten, alcohol, coloring, flavoring, and additives. Since there aren’t added fragrances, it has the earthy aroma the cannabis plant is known for.

Lord Jones offers a 20 percent discount to teachers, medical personnel, and U.S. active-duty military personnel, reservists, and veterans on all products from their website.

They also offer free shipping on all products.

Best flavored CBD oil

Charlotte’s Web CBD Oil

  • CBD type: full-spectrum
  • CBD potency: 510 mg per 30-mL bottle
  • COA: available online

Price: $$–$$$

This oil is the Charlotte’s Web pick for an everyday CBD oil, best for people who haven’t tried CBD yet.

It’s a full-spectrum oil, so it contains a slew of useful compounds, including phytocannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and essential fatty acids.

This oil is available in a range of flavors: mint chocolate, lemon twist, orange blossom, and olive oil. Reviewers are impressed with the quality and seem to love the different flavors.

Charlotte’s Web hemp is grown in Colorado. The company is also transparent about their practices, offering customers an outline of their planting and quality control processes.

Use code “HEALTH20” for 20% off.

Best CBD oil for those easing into a higher potency

Zion Medicinals Spagyric Hemp Oil

  • CBD type: full-spectrum
  • CBD potency: 250, 500, 750, or 1,500 mg per 30-mL bottle
  • COA: available online

Price: $$–$$$

Reviews for this oil from Zion Medicinals seem to be found only on the company’s website, but they reflect both satisfied and neutral feedback.

Some reviewers swear by the product, while others say they don’t notice an effect. For these customers, the company usually suggests increasing potency. Luckily, Zion offers a range of potencies that allow you to take it up one notch at a time until you find what’s most effective for you.

To make this product, Zion Medicinals uses an ​ethanol extraction method, which the company says pulls out more cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and oils than CO2 extraction.

Best CBD oil if you prefer natural flavor

Papa & Barkley Releaf Drops

  • CBD type: full-spectrum
  • CBD potency: 450 mg per 15-mL bottle or 900 mg per 30-mL bottle
  • COA: available on product page

Price: $–$$

Papa & Barkley, a California-based company, grows their hemp on farms in California, Oregon, and Vermont. They’re a pretty transparent company that offers a thorough account of their process.

This CBD product has only two ingredients: medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil and hemp-derived CBD.

MCT oil (fractionated coconut oil) is a known carrier oil that’s metabolized rapidly, so it’s a good choice for faster absorption.

Many reviewers point out the oil’s natural and earthy flavors. Even those who mention the rough taste still seem to enjoy the product. If you prefer the natural earthy taste of CBD oil, this may be a good option.

It’s also available in a lemongrass ginger flavor that may help ease the intensity if you don’t like the earthiness.

Best CBD oil in a syringe

Lazarus Naturals RSO CBD Oil

  • CBD type: full-spectrum
  • CBD potency: 1,000 or 5,000 mg per syringe
  • COA: available on product page

Price: $–$$$

“RSO,” short for “Rick Simpson oil,” is named for the medical cannabis activist who initially created it.

While RSO usually has high THC levels, this product has full-spectrum hemp that has just 2.2 mg of THC per 1 mL.

This oil is considered a high potency CBD oil, at 100 mg of CBD per 1 mL.

According to Lazarus Naturals, you can take this oil under your tongue or use it to make your own edibles.

Lazarus Naturals is based in Portland, with the bulk of their hemp coming from a company-owned farm in Oregon.

The company offers 60 percent off to veterans, those on long-term disability, and those from low income households.

Best isolate CBD oil

Kanibi Isolate CBD Oil Tincture

  • CBD type: isolate
  • CBD potency: 750 or 1,500 mg per 30-mL bottle
  • COA: available on product page

Price: $$–$$$

This oil boasts just two ingredients: MCT oil and natural flavors. This means it’s free of artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives.

Isolate CBD products are formulated to contain zero THC, flavonoids, or terpenes. So if you prefer a CBD oil with any of those ingredients, you may want to opt for another on this list.

The company’s website has only a handful of reviews for this oil right now, but they are all positive.

This pick is available in three flavors: unflavored, cinnamon, and Skittles.

Best broad-spectrum CBD oil

Zatural Broad Spectrum CBD Oil Drops

  • CBD type: broad-spectrum
  • CBD potency: 300, 600, or 1,200 mg per 30-mL bottle
  • COA: available on product page

Price: $–$$$

This broad-spectrum CBD oil is made with only two ingredients: CBD oil and hempseed oil.

It’s available in a natural flavor or a slew of others, such as natural sweet, coffee, lemon-lime, cinnamon, spearmint, and peppermint. The flavors come from stevia and essential oils.

This product has hundreds of reviews on the company website, with many happy customers saying it helps them manage their pain.

Zatural offers discounts for military personnel and older adults. Use code “healthline20” for 20 percent off. One use per customer.

Best high potency CBD oil

Spruce Lab-Grade CBD Oil

  • CBD type: full-spectrum
  • CBD potency: 2,400 mg per 30-mL bottle
  • COA: available online

Price: $$$$

Spruce CBD is made in the USA and is a family business. The full-spectrum oil contains only two ingredients: organic hemp seed oil and full-spectrum CBD. It’s vegan with no artificial flavors, preservatives, or sweeteners.

It’s a high potency oil, containing 80 mg per 1-mL dropper.

Reviews on the brand’s website are overwhelmingly positive, but some critics say it has a less-than-enjoyable taste. The brand is unlikely to change that because, in their words, adding flavor would dilute the potency and could impact effectiveness for those who know they need strong CBD to see results.

Best high potency CBD oil for bulk buying

Nuleaf Full Spectrum CBD Oil

  • CBD type: full-spectrum
  • CBD potency: 300, 900, 1800, 3,000 or 6,000 mg per bottle
  • COA: available on product page (scroll to the bottom)

Price: $–$$$$

Nuleaf’s full-spectrum CBD oil is made with two ingredients: full-spectrum hemp extract and organic virgin hemp seed oil.

They offer a variety of potency options, all the way up to 6,000 mg per bottle. It doesn’t come cheap at that level, but if you try it and find it effective for your back pain, you can save a hefty amount by buying in bulk (up to six bottles at once).

Nuleaf uses organic ingredients grown in the USA.

Many reviewers comment that it has helped them with pain management. One specifically claims it was effective for 6 to 8 hours during their shift as a physical therapist. Another says they use it for fibromyalgia relief (something you should always discuss with your doctor).

Before reaching into your wallet, keep in mind that not all CBD is created equal.

It’s always best to look for a product that comes with an up-to-date, comprehensive COA from a reputable third-party lab.

Here’s what to check the COA for:

  • Consistency. Check out the potency of CBD and THC. Does the information match what’s on the product page and label? While a little variation is typical, if what you’re seeing is off by more than 10 to 20 percent, it may be best to move on to another brand.
  • Currency. Is the COA up to date, preferably within the last year?
  • Contaminants. Has the CBD item undergone testing for molds, heavy metals, and pesticides?

It’s also a good idea to shop only from companies with a positive brand reputation. A reliable and trustworthy brand is transparent about where they grow their hemp and how their products are made.

A quick online search can usually show you whether the brand has been involved in any lawsuits or received a warning letter from the FDA.

Online reviews can also be a good indicator of quality and customer service. However, keep in mind that reviews on the company’s website may be filtered to display only happy customers, so dig around on third-party sites, too, if you can.

If you’re taking CBD under your tongue, here’s what to do:

  • Shake it. Give the bottle a good shake before using it. That way, you’ll get the best consistency.
  • Place it. Using the dropper (most oils come with one), place the proper dose under your tongue. Try to keep the dropper from touching your mouth. This will help keep bacterial contamination at bay and maintain the oil’s quality.
  • Hold it. For the strongest absorption, keep the oil under your tongue for anywhere from 30 seconds to a few minutes before ingesting it.

If you don’t like the taste of CBD oil under your tongue, consider mixing it into food or drinks, although this may affect absorption rates.

Keep your CBD oils stored safely (with the cap closed tightly) in a dry, cool place, away from direct heat and sunlight.

It’s always a good idea to start out with a small dose and increase it over time until you find what works best for you.

If you’re not sure where to start, check the label or talk with a healthcare professional or knowledgeable cannabis clinician.

Suitable serving sizes for CBD vary widely depending on individual factors such as:

  • body weight
  • body chemistry
  • intended use
  • metabolism

Generally, doses can be taken at any time of day, at least 4 to 6 hours apart.

Effects typically happen within 30 to 90 minutes, but long-term results may take a number of weeks to occur.

While CBD is generally considered safe, some people may experience side effects, including:

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

It’s a good idea to talk with your doctor before trying CBD, especially if you’re taking any medications. CBD may interact with some medications.

Use caution when consuming CBD products by mouth alongside high fat meals. High fat meals can dramatically increase CBD blood concentrations, which can increase the risk of side effects.

Does CBD oil actually make back pain better?

Research is limited on the effects of CBD oils on back pain, but a handful of studies have shown a positive relationship between chronic pain in general and CBD use. We discussed them in more detail earlier in this article.

Additionally, anecdotal evidence suggests that CBD oil has been an effective solution for those who have used it to treat pain.

A 2021 survey published in the International Journal of Spine Surgery included 300 patients of 9 different surgeons. Of those, 64 percent had used CBD oil compared to other formulations, and 46 percent of all respondents reported pain relief from CBD.

For long-term use, CBD oil is thought to have an accumulative effect and help decrease inflammation and therefore decrease pain over time. However, more research is needed to confirm this.

How long does it take for CBD oil to decrease back pain?

Unfortunately, research is limited on how long it takes for CBD to help with pain relief. Age, weight, what you eat with it, whether you have an empty stomach, and other factors can impact how well and how quickly your body absorbs CBD.

The results can also vary based on the dose, quality of CBD product, severity of pain, and root cause of the back pain.

Why is CBD oil beneficial for back pain?

There’s still a lot to learn as more research is done on CBD. However, what we do know is that our bodies have an endocannabinoid system, which naturally produces endocannabinoids as it needs them.

This system is thought to support a variety of cognitive and physiological processes. It works when the endocannabinoids bind to the receptors (called CB1 and CB2 receptors).

Taking CBD oil introduces phytocannabinoids (cannabinoids that come from plants instead of those that naturally occur in the body) and may help further support our bodies by interacting with our endocannabinoid receptors to reduce inflammation.

We’re essentially giving our bodies more cannabinoids that can bind to more receptors to support the endocannabinoid system, which plays a role in how we handle stress, combat inflammation, digest food, and much more.

CBD products such as oils are celebrated for a slew of therapeutic benefits, including helping to manage conditions like back pain.

CBD oils are generally administered by using the dropper to place the dose under your tongue or by mixing an oil into your food or drink.

Remember to pay attention to the labeling, dosing, and quality of the brands you shop from. Always talk with your doctor before trying CBD.

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.

Breanna Mona is a writer based in Cleveland, OH. She holds a master’s degree in media and journalism and writes about health, lifestyle, and entertainment.