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Cannabidiol (CBD) has gained popularity as a promising complementary remedy for various health issues, including anxiety, epilepsy, and pain management.

CBD is one of several cannabinoids naturally present in the cannabis plant. There is a vast range of CBD products, including oils, tinctures, balms, and candy, all of which may help people experiencing physical pain.

This article discusses how CBD products may help relieve chronic pain. It also provides a list of potentially effective CBD products that have undergone extensive third-party testing for safety.

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.

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CBD is one of the many cannabinoids present in the cannabis plant. The term cannabinoid refers to substances within the plant, with CBD and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) being two notable examples. THC is the compound responsible for the “high” that people may associate with cannabis. CBD is a different cannabinoid that, on its own, will not cause a person to feel high.

The human body contains a complex network of neurotransmitters and cannabinoid receptors known as the endocannabinoid receptor system (ECS). Research suggests that cannabinoids, such as CBD, and the ECS may play a role in many bodily processes, such as pain regulation.

There are endogenous and exogenous cannabinoids. Endogenous cannabinoids are naturally occurring lipids that the body produces. Two of the most well-known endogenous cannabinoids are anandamide (AEA) and 2-arachidonoylglycerol.

The body does not produce exogenous cannabinoids — these compounds are part of the cannabis plant. Examples of exogenous cannabinoids include:

  • CBD
  • THC
  • cannabichromene
  • cannabigerol

Cannabinoids, both endogenous and exogenous, bind to endocannabinoid receptors attached to cells. These include cannabinoid 1 and cannabinoid 2 receptors. This binding action stimulates different cell responses that influence pain signaling pathways.

CBD does not bind very well to endocannabinoid receptors. However, one study on mice found that it may interact with neurological receptors in the spinal cord that suppress chronic inflammatory pain. CBD may also strengthen the effects of AEA, an endogenous cannabinoid that reduces pain.

According to a small 2018 study, researchers evaluated CBD’s pain-relieving effects in seven people who experienced chronic pain after having kidney transplants. Six of the seven participants reported improvements in pain. One of the participants experienced more pain at higher CBD doses but achieved the best pain control at lower CBD doses.

In a 2015 animal study, researchers found that topical CBD reduced arthritis-related joint swelling and pain in mice. According to the authors, effective doses ranged from 6.2 to 62 milligrams (mg) per day.

While more research, such as large-scale, high-quality clinical trials, is still necessary, these preliminary studies suggest CBD may help manage pain. A 2021 study also notes that participants in the research have positive attitudes toward CBD treatment options and report positive outcomes when using the substance for pain-related conditions.

CBD comes in several different forms, including:

  • oils and tinctures
  • gummies
  • oral capsules or pills
  • creams, balms, and salves
  • topical patches

CBD gummies and capsules are for oral ingestion. On the other hand, topical CBD products are for external use only. People can apply these products to specific areas of the body, such as sore muscles or aching joints.

CBD oils and tinctures are more versatile than other forms and usually come in tinted glass bottles with a dropper. People can either add a few drops of CBD oil to food or beverages or place a few drops under their tongue, where they can hold the oil for up to 1 minute before swallowing.

Individuals should follow the directions and dosage information on the CBD product label.

Learn more about CBD dosages.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) only regulates one CBD-containing drug, called Epidiolex, for treating rare forms of epilepsy in children aged 2 years and older.

This means that the FDA does not regulate commercially-available CBD products. People should look for high-quality products from reputable manufacturers and retailers when shopping for CBD. These companies test every batch of their products via an independent third-party lab for purity, showing that the product does not contain harmful levels of metals or toxins.

High-quality products undergo third-party testing by laboratories without affiliations to the manufacturer. They test CBD products for:

  • pesticides
  • heavy metals
  • microbes
  • harmful chemicals

Products that undergo third-party testing will have a certificate of analysis, a document that contains information about the product’s CBD potency, the presence of THC and other cannabinoids, and safety test results.

A person can also consider the following when buying a CBD product for pain management:

  • Strength: CBD products come in a range of strengths. People who have not used CBD products before should start with a low-strength product and build up until they get the needed effects.
  • THC content: Hemp products with less than 0.3% THC are legal on a federal level. A person should check the THC content before making a purchase.
  • Hemp source: A person can consider CBD products from companies that source their hemp responsibly. Many companies use hemp that is grown in the U.S.
  • Form: CBD products can come in oils, ointments, creams, patches, or gels. A person can consider how convenient their chosen product will be to apply, whether it is suitable for different skin types, and how long the product will last.
  • Cost: Some CBD products can be expensive. People should consider how often they will need to use their CBD product and choose a product that will fit their budget and be cost-effective.
  • Unproven medical claims: A person should research the medical claims made by CBD manufacturers. The FDATrusted Source has only approved one CBD prescription drug for medical use. The FDA states that people who buy CBD products claiming to treat serious conditions such as cancer, mental health conditions, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease should not delay receiving care from a healthcare professional.
  • COA: A person should consider products from companies that provide a certificate of analysis (COA) detailing the ingredients in their CBD products. A person can find COAs on a brand’s website or by contacting the brand directly.

Read our complete buyer’s guide to CBD.

For more information and resources on CBD and CBD products, please visit our dedicated hub.

Side effects of CBD include:

  • tiredness
  • diarrhea
  • changes in appetite
  • weight changes

More severe side effects include:

  • liver damage
  • fertility problems in males
  • potentially severe interactions with alcohol and certain medications

Medical News Today chooses products that meet the following criteria:

  • Ingredients: Products contain safe and high-quality ingredients, and their labels state all ingredients clearly. They should also confirm they are free from pesticides, heavy metals, and mold.
  • Dosage: Products contain or recommend a serving size of a safe CBD dosage. The label also clearly states the dosage.
  • Third-party labs: Products undergo third-party testing for contaminants by an ISO 17025-compliant laboratory.
  • Available certificate of analysis: The company demonstrates transparency and shares a product’s certificate of analysis (COA) following lab results.

Please note that the writer of this article has not tried these products. All information presented is purely research-based and correct at the time of publication.

Medical News Today follows a strict product selection and vetting process. Learn more here.

The following CBD products may be effective in aiding pain management.

Best for muscles and joints: CBDfx CBD Cream For Muscle & Joint

Price: $39.99–129.99

CBDfx offers a broad-spectrum CBD cream that contains either 500 mg, 1,000 mg or 3,000 mg of CBD per container.

The cream contains cannabinoids, caffeine, and white willow bark, which reportedly helps ease aches and pain. The company claims it uses pure, organic CBD.

The cream also contains menthol for a cooling effect.

This product is vegan and cruelty-free. The company says it uses clean carbon dioxide (CO2) oil extraction, which means buyers will not find solvent residue in its products.

Best for arthritis: Charlotte’s Web Arthritis Aches and Pain Relief Ointment

Price: $29.99

This CBD-infused ointment contains hemp-extracted, THC-free CBD.

According to the product website, this ointment supports healthy joints by easing joint pain and stiffness.

One tube contains 600 mg of CBD.

This product can be a suitable option for those with arthritis. The manufacturer says it can ease arthritis pain. Aside from peppermint, which can provide a cooling feel, it also contains shea butter, beeswax, and a blend of oils to suit the body.

The essential oils in the product will not be a fit for people with fragrance allergies. Additionally, it is unsuitable for people following vegan lifestyles due to the beeswax.

Use code “HEALTH20” for 20% off.

Best for cooling effect: Charlotte’s Web Hemp-Infused Cooling Gel with CBD

Price: $39.99

Charlotte’s Web also manufactures topical CBD products.

This cooling gel contains full-spectrum CBD, menthol, and arnica.

The manufacturer says this gel is free from several major allergens, parabens, and synthetic fragrances. Yet, this product contains a wide variety of fruit extracts, oils, and essential oils. These have fragrance compounds, and fragrance is one of the top allergens, especially for those who find it sensitizing.

However, the company writes that it is gluten-free, cruelty-free, and vegan.

Each 1.7-ounce bottle contains about 510 mg of CBD and comes with an airless pump dispenser.

Use code “HEALTH20” for 20% off.

Best for minor aches: CBDMedic Massage Therapy Pain Relief Oil

Price: $29.99

This THC-free massage oil contains menthol, camphor, and natural oils that may help relieve minor aches and pains.

The manufacturer states it is hypoallergenic and has undergone third-party testing.

A single 103-milliliter bottle contains about 200 mg of hemp-extracted CBD.

The company says this product may help with backache, minor arthritis, strains, bruises, and sprains. However, this product contains essential oils such as frankincense oil, which may irritate the skin in some people.

Best for reducing tension: Vertly Relief Lotion

Price: $48

This relief lotion contains full-spectrum CBD extract, arnica flowers, shea butter, magnesium, and essential oils, such as lavender oil.

According to the product website, it helps relieve muscle pain, inflammation, and tightness while repairing and moisturizing the skin. The hemp and lavender oil aim to reduce tension.

The company states this product is organic, vegan, and comes in biodegradable packaging.

However, lavender may not be suitable for people with sensitive skin.

According to the company, one bottle of relief lotion contains about 155.67 mg of CBD.

Best for patch relief: PureKana CBD Transdermal Patches

Price: $17.99

PureKana offers waterproof transdermal patches that contain 60 mg of CBD.

People can wear these patches for up to 4 days.

PureKana recommends that individuals place the patch on a flat, dry area, such as the stomach or lower back.

This product might be most suitable for those who wish to apply the product to small areas or target specific muscles.

The company says this product is non-GMO, THC-free, and hypoallergenic.

The table below compares each of the CBD products in this article.

CBDfx CBD Cream For Muscle & JointCharlotte’s Web Arthritis Aches and Pain Relief OintmentCharlotte’s Web Hemp-Infused Cooling Gel with CBDCBDMedic Massage Therapy Pain Relief OilVertly Relief LotionPureKana CBD Transdermal Patches
Best formuscle and jointsarthritisa cooling effectminor achesreducing tensionpatch relief
Formcreamcreamgeloillotionpatch
Typebroad-spectrumTHC-free hemp oilfull-spectrumTHC-free hemp oilfull-spectrumfull-spectrum THC-free
Strength500 mg, 1000 mg, 3000 mg600 mg510 mg200 mg155.67 mg60 mg
Price$39.99–129.99$29.99$39.99$29.99$48$17.99

There are various advantages and disadvantages of using CBD products for pain relief.

Pros

  • They may provide pain relief.
  • They are available in many forms to help treat different types of pain.
  • Different dosages are available to suit a person’s needs.
  • It can include ingredients that soothe the skin or provide heating or cooling effects.

Cons

  • More research is still necessary to confirm the effectiveness of CBD for pain relief.
  • There can be potential side effects of CBD such as gastrointestinal distress or liver injury.
  • CBD products may vary in quality and safety.

Manufacturers of CBD products say they may help relieve muscle, joint, and nerve pain. However, there is limited scientific evidence to confirm these claims.

Some alternative treatments for pain include:

  • a warm or cold compress for stiff, aching muscles
  • light physical activity for joint pain
  • corticosteroid injections for nerve pain and inflammation
  • over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and acetaminophen
  • topical pain relievers that contain NSAIDs, capsaicin, or menthol
  • therapeutic massage
  • acupuncture

People who experience persistent or worsening pain despite trying OTC and at-home treatments may wish to discuss alternative treatment options with a doctor.

A person should see a doctor to understand their pain and get advice on how to manage it.

A doctor can help pinpoint the reason behind the pain and suggest workouts, strengthening exercises, or prescribe medication that can help minimize or eliminate the pain.

While there is supporting research that CBD can help with pain, scientists need more evidence to understand its long-term effects and the appropriate dosages a person should take.

A person should not use CBD products to replace support from a doctor, especially if they have health conditions that cause pain.

If a person reacts to topical CBD products or experiences side effects, they should stop using the product and talk to a medical professional for advice.

Below are answers to the top frequently asked questions about CBD for pain management.

Can CBD help with pain?

While more research is still necessary to confirm the effectiveness of CBD for pain management, current research suggests it may be a beneficial and suitable option for some individuals.

How quickly can it provide pain relief?

Many variables, such as the underlying health condition, CBD product, and dosage, can affect how quickly CBD may provide pain relief. For example, the American Arthritis Foundation suggests that a person may feel the effects of a CBD spray or tincture in 15–45 minutes.

What type of CBD products are best for pain relief?

The most suitable CBD product will depend on the condition and an individual’s personal preference. As these products are available in many forms, such as oils, creams, gels, and patches, people can try which works best for them. A person can also consider discussing options with their doctor.

What conditions can CBD help with?

Ongoing research is still investigating what conditions CBD can help. Some health issues that CBD may help with include:

While preliminary clinical studies and animal studies suggest CBD may help relieve pain, more research is necessary to evaluate these findings.

CBD is generally safe, but it can lead to side effects, such as tiredness and appetite changes.

People who are currently receiving treatment for pain conditions may wish to discuss the potential benefits and risks of adding CBD to their treatment plan with their doctor.