The total amount of CBD in your balm has an impact on whether or not the balm provides relief. Some people may need more substantial doses to feel effective relief. Read the label to understand all the ingredients, and know that lab-tested products are more likely to provide relief.
Most consumers rub the CBD topical into their skin where the pain is localized and allow the cannabinoids to work. Some balms also use essential oils such as peppermint oil or menthol, which adds a cooling sensation to the skin and has analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties.
Does CBD balm work?
CBD muscle balm interacts with the high concentration of cannabinoid receptors in the skin. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
CBD muscle balm interacts with the high concentration of cannabinoid receptors in the skin. These receptors are part of the body’s endocannabinoid system, which is responsible for maintaining homeostasis across many bodily functions, including pain management.
It’s not entirely clear whether infused skin-use topicals are genuinely effective, but consumers seem to feel improvements. The Arthritis Foundation surveyed 2,600 patients with arthritis and found that 79% of respondents had considered CBD use or had already used it, either as an alternative to other pain-relieving balms or anti-inflammatory prescription medications such as NSAIDs.
"The pain and stiffness that comes post-workout or from overexertion certainly has a pro-inflammatory component to it, so it's reasonable to think CBD or other cannabinoids might have benefits, but we have no research to support this yet," adds Gerdeman.
The theoretical logic is that are a few different ways CBD could help regulate pain — by increasing your natural endocannabinoids, decreasing your inflammatory response, and desensitizing your pain receptors (although it's still unclear whether this stands when absorbed topically compared to orally).
The fatty tissue can only hold so much oil, so, theoretically, if you apply enough of a cannabis cream to your skin, it might leak down into your skeletal muscle just out of diffusion, adds Sexton. But there's no study to show this, and that means you're going to be rubbing on a whole lot of the stuff.
What Science Says About Hemp Creams for Pain Relief
Chances are if you're on this website and reading this story you currently have an achy muscle or seven somewhere on your body. You might be familiar with foam rolling, warm compresses, or even ice baths as a means of easing muscle soreness, but what about hemp cream for pain relief?
The other issue? Topical hemp pain relief products and cannabis creams will treat anatomical structures within 1 centimeter of the skin—and the muscle where your actual soreness is located is going to be deeper than that, explains Ricardo Colberg, M.D., a physician at Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopaedic Center in Birmingham, AL. (The good news: Since it doesn't need to be absorbed deeply, CBD and cannabis could do amazing things as a skincare ingredient.)
So do you need CBD? All of the experts here agree that until there's more peer-reviewed research, all claims should be looked at as marketing hype and not evidence-based. (Or, they can be anecdotal. Read what happened when one woman tried CBD for anxiety.)
Finally, you have receptors called TrpV1 that detect and regulate your body temperature. When activated, they put out heat, soothing your pain receptors. Using this channel, CBD makes these pain receptors hyperactive for a period of time, causing them to get hot, desensitizing them and downregulating those pain-sensing nerve endings.
Just remember, human skin is incredibly absorptive and it’ll absorb more than just the CBD in topical creams, gels and oils. Check the ingredients label to make sure you’re not applying something you’re allergic to or something that, if absorbed, can interact with medications. If you’re unsure, talk to your doctor.
CBD for joint pain: Topical CBD likely won’t reach cannabinoid receptors in your joints no matter how potent. Oral CBD is more likely to help people with pain from arthritis and other joint conditions. People with pain from fibromyalgia will also benefit more from ingestible CBD, Titus says.
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How oral CBD works for muscle soreness and pain
The promise is simple — slather on a cream or gel with CBD where it hurts to relieve pain. But whether or not they actually work is another story.
Topical CBD only works where you use it — applying CBD cream to your legs when your abs are sore won’t do you any good. This can be a benefit or a drawback depending on your situation. For example, if you tend to experience full-body soreness, you’d have to use a lot of CBD cream for relief and that can get tedious and expensive.
Does CBD actually work for muscle pain? We explore what the research says and whether topics or oral supplements are better.
Is CBD the cure to nagging sore muscles?