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People may use topical medications, such as creams, to alleviate back pain. Some companies now include cannabidiol (CBD) as an ingredient in these products, as evidence suggests it may help treat pain and inflammation.

A quick look at some of the best CBD creams for back pain

CBD cream is a topical product that contains CBD oil alongside other ingredients.

CBD comes from the Cannabis sativa (C. sativa) plant. Companies may infuse CBD into a range of products, including:

THC is the compound, or cannabinoid, responsible for the “high” that people associate with cannabis. Some CBD products may contain up to 0.3% of THC in dry weight. Producers can isolate CBD from the THC compound so that CBD cream will not cause a person to feel high.

Medical News Today chooses products that meet the following criteria:

  • Ingredients: MNT chooses products containing safe and high quality, clearly labeled ingredients. They should also confirm they are free from pesticides, heavy metals, and mold.
  • Dosage: MNT chooses products that clearly state the CBD dosage and THC content.
  • Serving size: MNT selects products in which manufacturers recommend a dosage and how to take it.
  • Third-party labs: MNT chooses products that must undergo third-party testing for contaminants by an ISO 17025-compliant laboratory.
  • Available certificate of analysis: MNT chooses companies that demonstrate transparency and share a product’s certificate of analysis (COA) after receiving its third-party 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.

Best overall: CBDfx Muscle and Joint Cream

  • Price: $79.99-129.99
  • Type of CBD: Broad-spectrum
  • Strength: 1,000-3,000 milligrams (mg)
  • Size: 50 milliliters (ml)
  • Pros: This product is vegan and reportedly fast-acting.
  • Cons: Some reviewers note the pain relief is short-term.

According to CBDfx, this cream soothes aches and pains in a person’s deep tissues and joints.

Learn about the best CBD products for joint pain here.

This cream contains two anti-inflammatory ingredients for pain relief, white willow bark and caffeine. Additionally, it features menthol for a cooling effect.

The company uses United States-grown hemp. The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) organization has certified that this product is cruelty-free and vegan-friendly.

The cream also undergoes testing at a third-party laboratory. The company displays its certificate of analysis (COA) on its website.

Read our review of CBDfx here.

Use code “MNT20″ for 20% off.

Best for warming: CBDistillery CBD Warming Cream

  • Price: $35
  • Type of CBD: CBD isolate
  • Strength: 500 mg
  • Size: 1.7-fl oz
  • Pros: This product uses non-GMO ingredients.
  • Cons: Some reviewers state it only starts to have a warming effect after 15 minutes.

This warming cream contains 500 mg of CBD isolate per bottle. Alongside CBD, it also features camphor for an additional warming sensation.

The company states that the hemp it uses is free from genetically modified organisms and is grown in the U.S. using natural farming processes.

CBDistillery has certification with the U.S. Hemp Authority. All its products undergo third-party testing, and a person can view laboratory results on the company’s website.

Read our review of CBDistillery here.

Use code “MNT20” for 20% off.

Best for cooling: Aspen Green Muscle Relief Cooling Cream

  • Price: $84.99
  • Type of CBD: Full-spectrum
  • Strength: 1,000 mg
  • Size: 60 ml
  • Pros: This product is water-based and reportedly absorbable.
  • Cons: This product is one of the more expensive items on this list.

This physician-formulated cooling cream contains 1,000 mg of full-spectrum CBD per container.

It is water-based and contains organic hemp. The company recommends rubbing this product on non-sensitive parts of the body where a person is experiencing discomfort, such as the back, legs, or shoulders.

Aspen Green states that this product is third-party tested. People can view the company’s COA on its website.

Read our review of Aspen Green here.

Best gel: Lazarus Naturals Muscle Gel

  • Price: $1230
  • Type of CBD: full-spectrum
  • Strength: 600-2,000 mg
  • Size: 60-100 ml
  • Pros: This product is Leaping Bunny certified.
  • Cons: Not as moisturizing as a cream.

This gel contains full-spectrum hemp extract. This means it contains all the cannabinoids that occur naturally in the hemp plant, including trace amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

Alongside CBD, this product contains menthol, camphor, and capsaicin. Research shows menthol has pain-relieving properties.

Learn about capsaicin creams here.

This gel contains full-spectrum hemp extract. This means it contains all the cannabinoids that occur naturally in the hemp plant, including trace amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

The product’s manufacturer says that people who have been advised to avoid eating grapefruit should consult a healthcare professional before using this product.

Lazarus Naturals Full-Spectrum balms are Leaping Bunny certified.

Read our review of Lazarus Naturals here.

Best organic: Joy Organics Premium CBD Sports Cream

  • Price: $49.95
  • Type of CBD: Broad-spectrum
  • Strength: 1,000 mg
  • Size: 118 ml
  • Pros: The company claims this product is fast-acting.
  • Cons: Some reviewers say the pain-relieving effect may wear off quickly.

This vegan and non-GMO product contains 1,000 mg of broad-spectrum CBD per bottle. The company states that this cream is free of THC.

Other ingredients include camphor and menthol, which may help relieve aching muscles. The company recommends applying this product before, during, or after physical activity.

Joy Organics states that this cream undergoes third-party testing. People can view this cream’s COA on the company’s website.

Read our review of Joy Organics here.

Use code “healthcbd” for 20% off.

Best for neck pain: PlusCBD Pain Relief Muscle Cream

  • Price: $34.99
  • Type of CBD: Full-spectrum
  • Strength: 500 mg
  • Size: 4 oz tub
  • Pros: The product is vegan, unfragranced, and free from gluten
  • Cons: According to reviews, it may not provide relief on the feet.

PlusCBD offers this vegan and gluten-free pain relief muscle cream that contains 500 mg of full-spectrum CBD. It is also free of GMOs, pesticides, and sulfates.

In addition to CBD, the cream contains menthol that provides a cooling effect and camphor that produces a warming effect on the skin.

The manufacturer states that people can apply a thin layer of this cream to the skin area they want to treat.

PlusCBD states that this cream undergoes third-party testing. People can view this cream’s COA on the company’s website.

Best for athletes: Level CBD Sports Cream

  • Price: $29.99-49.99
  • Type of CBD: Broad-spectrum
  • Strength: 900 mg, 1,200 mg, and 1,800 mg
  • Size: 85 g
  • Pros: The website states that the product has no traces of THC.
  • Cons: The product is only available in a 3-oz tub.

Level CBD’s cruelty-free sports cream contains broad-spectrum CBD available in different strengths: 900 mg, 1,200 mg, and 1,800 mg.

The company recommends this product for athletes and active people. It is free from THC so is suitable for people undergoing regular drug testing.

Learn about the best CBD salves for athletes here.

Level CBD claims that it does not test ingredients on animals. This cream contains menthol for cooling relief and absorbs fast into the skin.

Use code “HEALTH40” for 40% off.

Most moisturizing: R&R Medicinals CBD Cream

  • Price: $42.99-64.99
  • Type of CBD: Full-spectrum
  • Strength: 1,000-2,000 mg
  • Size: 2.5 fl oz
  • Pros: It is vegan and easy to rub into the skin.
  • Cons: The product may not be affordable for some people. Contains trace THC.

This full-spectrum CBD pain cream is available in 1,000 mg and 2,000 mg and comes in a 2.5 fl oz tub.

It contains plant-based oils and extracts to moisturize and protect the skin, including:

R&R states that this cream undergoes third-party testing. People can view this cream’s COA on the company’s website.

The following table compares the CBD creams in this article on key features:

ProductCBD typeKey ingredientsCBD strengthSizeReturn/ refundPrice
CBDfxbroad-spectrumwhite willow bark, caffeine, menthol1,000-3,000 mg50 ml60 days$79.99-129.99
CBDistilleryisolatecamphor, sunflower seed oil500 mg1.7 fl oz60 days$35
Aspen Greenfull-spectrumorganic jojoba seed oil, arnica extract, tea tree oil1,000 mg60 ml60 days$84.99
Lazarus Naturalsfull-spectrummenthol, camphor, capsaicin600-2,000 mg30-100 ml90 days$12-32
Joy Organicsbroad-spectrumcamphor, menthol1000 mg118 ml90 days$49.95
PlusCBDfull-spectrumcamphor, menthol500 mg4 oz90 days$34.99
Level CBDbroad-spectrummenthol 900-1,800 mg85 g30 days$29.99-49.99
R&R Medicinalsfull-spectrumcalendula flower, jojoba, arnica montana1,000 mg-2,000 mg2.5 fl oz60 days$42.99-64.99

People may wish to consider several factors before purchasing CBD cream, such as:

  • COA: A person should only purchase CBD products from companies with COAs available for their products. These certificates verify that the products’ ingredient lists are correct and that the ingredients are generally not harmful to individuals.
  • Ingredients: CBD creams may have different ingredients, such as camphor for a warming feel or menthol for a cooling effect.
  • Spectrum type: CBD products typically come in full-spectrum and broad-spectrum formulas. Both contain cannabis plant extracts. However, full-spectrum CBD contains up to 0.3% THC, while broad-spectrum products do not contain any THC. A third type, CBD isolate, is pure CBD and contains no other cannabis plant compounds.

People can apply CBD cream to their skin as they would any other lotion. However, it is important to follow the instructions on the product packaging.

A person should perform a patch test before using a new CBD cream on their skin. If they experience a reaction to the product, they should stop using it and contact a doctor.

If a person experiences any reactions, such as redness or inflammation, they should stop using the product immediately and contact a healthcare professional.

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

Researchers have found that certain compounds in the cannabis plant may have beneficial effects, including:

  • alleviating pain
  • relieving anxiety
  • reducing spasms
  • relaxing muscles
  • reducing inflammation

An older study examining the effects of CBD on the body found that the substance may reduce pain. More recent research has continued to show the benefits of CBD for this symptom.

A 2020 review concludes that CBD may have both antioxidative and anti-inflammatory properties. Additionally, a 2016 study looking at arthritis in rats notes that applying a CBD gel alleviated inflammation and pain in rodents.

Another 2020 systematic review of animal studies and clinical trials found that CBD may help ease pain symptoms.

These animal studies have shown that CBD may ease neuropathic, inflammatory, and arthritis-related pain. CBD in oral, injectable, or gel form helped reduce inflammation and had analgesic, or pain-relieving, effects.

How does CBD help with pain?

CBD binds to molecules in the body, including:

  • G protein-coupled receptors: CBD blocks several g protein receptors in the brain, including GPR3, GPR6, and GPR12, which may play a role in neuropathic pain development.
  • Transporters: CBD binds to transporters in the endocannabinoid system, such as fatty acid-binding proteins. It also inhibits other transporters, producing anti-inflammatory effects.
  • Enzymes: CBD inhibits certain enzymes and acids that have a role in inflammation.
  • Nuclear factors: CBD interacts with nuclear factors in the body to produce anti-inflammatory effects.
  • Transient receptor potential vanilloids (TRPVs): TRPV receptors play an important role in pain signaling. CBD blocks these receptors, which can lead to pain-relieving effects.

As the inclusion of CBD into health products is a relatively recent development, there is a lack of scientific research examining its long-term risks.

Generally, people tolerate CBD well. However, the FDA warns that CBD can cause some side effects, including:

The FDA also states that CBD use may have negative effects that people cannot notice, including potential liver damage and harm to fetuses.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has only approved one CBD product, Epidiolex, a prescription medication for certain types of seizures.

Anyone taking medicines and considering using a CBD cream should also consult a doctor or qualified CBD clinician. These professionals can advise whether CBD will interact with the medication.

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 federally legal. However, CBD products containing more than 0.3% 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.

If a person does not want to try a CBD cream for their back pain or if they wish to use it alongside other treatments, they may consider the following:

  • Acupuncture: This involves trained practitioners inserting needles into specific points on the body. A 2015 review examining the benefits of acupuncture for chronic lower back pain notes that it may provide short-term pain relief.
  • Massage: A 2016 case study involving a man with chronic back pain suggests that four massages over 20 days improved chronic back pain. However, more research is necessary to explore the benefits of massage for treating chronic back pain. Massage may be more suitable for individuals with exercise-related back muscle soreness.
  • Spinal manipulation: The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health suggests spinal manipulation may help relieve sciatica, lower back pain, and neck pain.
  • Exercise: According to research, engaging in exercise that strengthens the back may alleviate chronic back and neck pain.

Other CBD products, such as oils, lotions, and patches, may help with pain management. Learn more here.

Below, we answer some frequently asked questions about CBD.

How long does it take for CBD to relieve pain?

The time it takes to feel CBD’s effects differs between products. For example, sublingual CBD, which people place under the tongue, takes from 15 to 45 minutes to take effect.

The time it takes for CBD cream to relieve pain may also vary between individuals. A person should follow all product instructions carefully when using the cream.

How strong should CBD be to relieve pain?

CBD is available in different strengths. Companies should state how strong the CBD is in the product description. The more CBD in a product — usually in mg measurements — the stronger it is.

However, people should start at a lower strength or use less CBD cream. If necessary, they can gradually increase the strength or amount of CBD over time.

Are CBD products legal?

Individuals should always check state laws where they are residing or traveling to before using CBD products, to ensure that they are not breaking any state laws.

Hemp-derived CBD is legal federally. However, some states may class hemp-derived CBD as an illegal substance.

Cannabis-derived CBD is illegal federally, but it may be legal under certain state laws.

CBD creams are products that a person applies to their skin. They may reduce pain and inflammation in individuals with back pain.

Although CBD creams may provide some pain relief, people should seek guidance from a healthcare professional first to assess the underlying cause of their pain and receive medical treatment, if necessary.

People should also consult a doctor or pharmacist if they intend to use CBD products alongside prescription or nonprescription medications to reduce the risk of drug interactions and side effects.