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Some studies suggest CBD can treat physical pain and inflammation, though research is ongoing. CBD cream for pain may help relieve aches and tension, and we round up the best options in this article.

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.

Medical News Today’s methodology

Medical News Today chooses CBD creams for pain that fit the following criteria:

  • Pain relief: Where possible, MNT selects CBD creams that brands recommend for managing pain.
  • Ingredients: MNT chooses creams containing safe, high quality, and clearly labeled ingredients. Brands should also confirm that the product is free from pesticides, heavy metals, and mold.
  • Dosage: MNT selects creams that clearly state the CBD dosage and THC content.
  • Serving size: MNT chooses CBD creams in which manufacturers recommend a dosage and how to use the product.
  • Third-party labs: MNT only selects products that undergo third-party testing for contaminants by an ISO 17025-compliant laboratory.
  • Available certificate of analysis (COA): MNT chooses companies that demonstrate transparency and share a product’s COA after receiving its third-party lab results.
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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.

Medical News Today has tested some of the products below. Reviewers may have received some products from the manufacturers for free, which does not influence their review. All opinions are the reviewers’ own.

The following table compares the key features of CBD creams in this article.

ProductCBD spectrumCBD strengthKey ingredientsSizeReturns or refundsPrice
CBDfxbroad1,000–3,000 mgwhite willow bark, caffeine, menthol1.7 fl oz60 days$79.99–$129.99
Level Select CBDbroad1,200 mgmenthol85 g30 days$40
R&R Medicinalsfull1,000 mg–2,000 mgcalendula flower, jojoba, arnica, montana flower extract2.5 fl oz60 days$55–$130
PlusCBDfull500 mgcamphor, menthol4 oz90 days$34.99
Joy Organicsbroad1,000 mgcamphor, menthol4 fl oz90 days$49.95
Aspen Greenfull1,000 mgorganic jojoba seed oil, arnica extract, tea tree oil2 oz60 days$84.99
CB
Distillery
isolate500 mgcamphor, sunflower seed oil1.7 fl oz60 days$35
Cornbread Hempfull500 mgmenthol2 fl oz30 days$49.99
Soul CBDisolate1,500 mgmenthol, coconut oil, rosemary3.4 fl oz14 days$75

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

  • Third-party tests: 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 present in the amounts and potencies the company states.
  • Ingredients: Buyers should ensure the hemp in a CBD cream is natural and U.S.-grown. Sometimes, it is possible to get CBD creams containing certified organic hemp. Individuals with any allergies or sensitives should check the ingredients list to ensure all ingredients are suitable for them. Those with sensitive skin may wish to avoid creams that have fragrances or irritants known to them.
  • CBD spectrum: CBD creams for pain often contain full- or broad-spectrum CBD, but some products use CBD isolate. People should consider the THC content in full-spectrum CBD, especially if they have regular drug tests. Learn more about CBD spectrums to find out which may be best in a CBD cream for pain.
  • Potency: CBD potency refers to the strength of the product. CBD creams with a higher number of milligrams per application will be more potent than those with lower values. Those experiencing higher pain levels may appreciate a higher potency product, but CBD creams should not replace medical care to treat severe pain.
  • Ease of application: CBD creams for pain may not always be convenient to use, especially if a person wants to manage their pain on the go. Products that come in tubes may be easier to apply to specific areas, while creams in tubs may work for people using them over larger areas of the body.

Read our .

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

A 2020 review found that CBD helped provide significant pain reduction in those with back pain.

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. However, more studies in humans are needed to support these findings.

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.

CBD resources

Visit our dedicated hub for more research-backed information and in-depth resources on CBD.

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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. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has only approved one CBD product, Epidiolex, a prescription medication for rare types of epilepsy. As such, no other CBD products are FDA approved — including CBD creams for pain.

Skin reactions

People can apply CBD cream to their skin like any other topical product, but it is important to follow the instructions on the product packaging. Plus, 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. Reactions can include skin itching, redness, or inflammation.

Ingestible CBD

Generally, people tolerate CBD well. However, the FDA warns that ingestible CBD, such as gummies, 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.

Medication interactions

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.

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

  • Acupuncture: This involves trained practitioners inserting thin needles into specific points on the body. A 2021 systematic review concludes that many studies show the benefits of acupuncture on lower back pain. In addition, a 2022 literature review concludes that acupuncture was beneficial in reducing pain in individuals with myofascial pain syndrome, a condition affecting the muscles.
  • Massage: Massage is a popular treatment for muscle pain. The Arthritis Foundation notes that massage can help improve blood circulation, relax muscles, and improve pain. In addition, 2019 research states massage was effective in reducing pain in older adults with knee osteoarthritis. However, people should speak with a doctor before trying massage if they have a health condition.
  • Exercise: Research from 2019 indicates that certain exercises are beneficial for managing musculoskeletal pain. Before trying exercise to reduce pain, a person should work with a doctor to identify the cause of their pain to reduce the risk of worsening an injury.

Learn how other CBD products, such as CBD oils, lotions, and patches, may help with pain management.

Below, we answer some common questions about using CBD cream for treating pain.

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

Research from 2018 suggests that the use of CBD may help to manage chronic pain symptoms in adults. However, CBD products may help relieve pain temporarily rather than eliminate it.

Research from 2022 states that topical CBD may help to reduce inflammatory conditions, such as eczema. A 2019 paper suggests that CBD has anti-inflammatory benefits, making it potentially beneficial for reducing inflammation.

In some cases, CBD cream may cause skin irritation, including redness, itching, or a rash.

According to the FDA, some individuals can experience side effects from using CBD, including:

  • changes in alertness, including drowsiness or sleepiness

  • gastrointestinal distress, including diarrhea or decreased appetite

  • mood changes, including irritability or agitation

However, this article from the FDA refers to ingestible CBD products.

Topically applied CBD, including creams and ointments, do not enter the bloodstream.

People can purchase different strength CBD creams. They often contain between 500 and 1,000 mg CBD. Those new to CBD should start with a lower dose of CBD and gradually increase it if necessary.

CBD creams are products that a person applies to their skin. They may help reduce pain and inflammation.

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.