Persistent back pain is debilitating.
For some, CBD is the answer.
Back pain is a broad condition that impacts millions of people worldwide. It can range from mild discomfort to severe pain, making simple tasks such as walking, standing, and lying in bed excruciating.
There are medications available, but many of them are dangerous, addictive, or both.
Cannabidiol is one of the main active compounds in the Cannabis sativa plant. It’s become a wildly popular compound in the health and wellness space as a natural way to relieve pain and subdue inflammation.
CBD is a promising remedy for most back pain because it works through multiple pathways when it comes to pain relief and inflammation without the high risk for addiction or fatal overdose.
Opioids are commonly prescribed as a short-term solution for pain management; however, they pose a huge risk for addiction and fatalities even with short-term use.
Opioids are potent painkillers that block out the pain signals to the brain. They also trigger the release of feel-good hormones, hijacking the brain’s reward centers, boosting mood and pleasure, and providing an overall sense of contentment.
CBD has been shown to provide potent pain-relieving effects without hijacking the brain’s reward center, meaning there’s a low risk for addiction. In a study, over half of participants with chronic pain reduced or eliminated opioid use within eight weeks after supplementing CBD into their health regimens .
CBD is most impressive for its potential anti-inflammatory effects.
Unlike many popular anti-inflammatory compounds like aspirin that inhibit up to two inflammatory messengers, CBD stops almost all of them. This makes it useful for many different inflammatory health conditions like allergic reactions, auto-immune disorders, and injuries [2,3].
Many people suffering from back pain often report difficulty sleeping because they can’t find a comfortable position where they’re not in pain.
CBD can be used as a gentle muscle relaxant, helping to reduce tension in the affected area.
Popular forms of prescribed muscle relaxants work on GABA receptors in the brain — which regulate muscle relaxation. CBD also affects GABA activity in the brain with much less risk of side effects to drugs like Valium to relax the muscles.
CBD is generally extracted from hemp plants because it contains less than 0.3% THC — the main psychotropic compound in cannabis — and it’s federally legal in the United States.
Thanks to its legal status, you’ll find a wide range of CBD products to choose from that make CBD more convenient and enjoyable for use.
We’ll discuss some of the popular forms of CBD and how you can use them to address back pain.
CBD oil combines CBD extract and a carrier oil such as MCT coconut oil, hemp seed oil, or olive oil to make CBD easier to dose and palatable — it’s also the most accessible CBD product you can find online and in-stores.
CBD oils come in various strengths listed as the amount of mg of CBD in the container. To address back pain and inflammation, you want a CBD oil with a higher potency of at least 1000 mg or more.
You can always customize your dose drop-by-drop with CBD oils, and purchasing a higher strength of CBD oil means you can achieve a stronger dose with less oil, saving you money in the long run.
To make the most of your CBD oil, you want to administer your drops underneath the tongue (sublingual) and hold it there for 15–20 seconds.
Under the tongue, the CBD enters the bloodstream through the mucous membrane and bypasses the digestive system and liver metabolism. Doing this will give you a faster onset of effects over swallowing it right off the bat or adding it to your food or drinks.
The potential downside to edible CBD products is that they have the lowest rate of bioavailability.
The digestive system breaks down most of the active compounds before it has a chance to enter the bloodstream to exert their effects, which means you may need to take higher doses of CBD edibles to account for this.
While it does take longer for the effects of edible CBD to kick it, it seems to have a more extended set of effects. They tend to creep in, providing pain relief, a sense of calm and relaxation, and taper off much later than smoking CBD.
Related: Best CBD gummies for pain.
One of the most traditional ways of experiencing the cannabis plant is by smoking it.
Smoking hemp flowers or forms of concentrates such as glass, shatter, or pre-formulated vape juices provide the highest rate of bioavailability.
The CBD enters the bloodstream within a matter of seconds via the oxygen exchange in the lungs. You can feel the effects much faster smoking CBD, but the effects may not last as long as edible or topical applications.
Smoking CBD isn’t for everyone — it’s not ideal for those prone to lung irritation, under the age of 21, or new to CBD, as it’s difficult to get accurate measurements of how much CBD you’re smoking.
Smoking CBD provides potent and fast-acting pain relief. Many CBD enthusiasts who suffer from chronic pain supplement their daily gummies, oil, or capsules, with smoking CBD for an extra boost of relief when they need it most.
Alternatively, you can use CBD hemp flower in a dry herb vaporizer to achieve the same thing without the downsides of inhaling noxious smoke.
CBD pain creams are well-suited for delivering localized relief. It can be applied to the painful area on the back for fast-acting relief.
You want to make sure that your CBD rub, lotion, or massage oil has a high concentration of CBD that can deliver potent effects to the endocannabinoid receptors on the skin to manage inflammation and pain.
Massaging the site of pain can help improve blood circulation, lymphatic drainage and improve your range of motion in your back, which can complement the anti-inflammatory effects of CBD to reduce pain.
You can even find some registered massage therapists that provide CBD massage treatments, where they will use CBD-infused massage oil in their treatments.
The benefit of topical CBD products is that you can target its use to the source of pain and use it as frequently as needed without worrying about overdoing it and experiencing potential adverse effects of CBD.
Make sure you patch test the CBD product on a small area of your skin before you apply it to a larger area to ensure you don’t have any allergies from the ingredients in the formula.
Ingredients in topical formulas that are excellent for pain management include capsaicin — the active ingredient in hot peppers, which provides a warming sensation on the skin — and menthol, which delivers a cooling sensation.
Heating and cooling rubs help distract pain signals on the skin, drawing attention away from the source of pain.
Generally speaking, when it comes to pain management from an acute injury or reducing inflammation — the more CBD, the better.
Most research on the effects of CBD for pain specifically noted that participants that used higher doses (50 mg +) felt more relief from pain. However, how much CBD is right for one person can look much different for someone else.
CBD can affect individuals differently depending on their weight, metabolism, genetics, experience with CBD, and level of pain and inflammation.
To start dosing CBD for back pain, you can try our CBD dosage calculator. You can expect to experiment with your doses until you find your desired effects.
Related: Best CBD:THC Ratio for Pain.
Cannabidiol (CBD) derived from hemp became legal in the United States in 2018, and since then, hundreds of products have entered the market — but not all CBD products provide the same levels of benefits.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of scam products and CBD extracts contaminated with pesticides, heavy metals, solvents, and mold that could produce more harm than good.
To help you navigate this space, we’ve outlined a few key points to look for in your CBD product to make sure you’re purchasing something of quality.
You can find CBD products in various strengths. The products should list how much CBD it contains in mg. When it comes to effective CBD formulas that address pain and inflammation, opt for high strength.
Purchasing high-strength CBD products may seem more expensive upfront, but they end up saving you money in the long run as the cost per mg of CBD usually decreases with a higher CBD content.
This also means you have more leeway for experimenting with doses. For example, you can always halve or quarter your gummies or dilute your high-strength CBD oil to achieve your CBD requirements, but it’s much harder to hit a high dose with weak CBD products, and they could be ineffective for managing pain at lower potencies.
There are three types of CBD extracts available:
The differences between these extract types are the cannabinoid and terpene profiles.
Cannabidiol is only one of over a hundred different potentially therapeutic compounds in cannabis. Both full-spectrum and broad-spectrum contain a range of cannabinoids and terpenes that work alongside CBD to provide synergistic effects through a phenomenon called the entourage effect.
The main distinction between broad-spectrum CBD and full-spectrum is the THC content.
Full-spectrum CBD may contain up to the legal limit of 0.3% THC — but no more. These extracts don’t contain enough THC to elicit intoxicating effects in most people. The added THC, while minuscule, is enough to provide some additional benefits to the CBD through a phenomenon called the entourage effect.
However, some states have strict regulations around THC. And for those with extreme THC sensitivities, undergo drug testing for amounts of THC or are on medications that may negatively interact with THC may want to opt for a broad-spectrum extract.
CBD isolate contains only one active ingredient from the hemp plant — CBD. It’s generally much cheaper for companies to source and easier to dose consistently from brand to brand. However, you may need higher doses of CBD isolate to achieve the same effects as full-spectrum or broad-spectrum CBD products.
Most experts agree that full-spectrum extracts deliver the most potent and well-balanced effects for mood disorders, sleep, managing pain, and inflammation.
Virtually all CBD companies will claim to have the best CBD — and unfortunately, you can’t always take the company’s word for it.
While the FDA is cracking down on some of the health information and marketing CBD brands put out there, you’ll still find deceptive products on the market that make big claims but provide very little value or are potentially dangerous.
Do your research before purchasing any CBD hemp product online and in-stores. Only buy from reputable CBD brands that opt for third-party lab testing to show the cannabinoid profile, potency, and safety.
Read expert vendor reviews to see what others say and experience about the brands and products before purchasing. Customer experience indicates a lot about the brand’s overall integrity.
While CBD is generally well-tolerated and safe, even in high doses, it’s not without its risks.
Luckily, the adverse effects of CBD are mild and short-term and are avoidable by ensuring you’re using the correct amount of CBD and using quality CBD products.
Some of the adverse effects of CBD include:
These symptoms will disappear when the effects of CBD wear off within 4–5 hours, depending on the method of ingestion. To avoid these potential side effects, seek medical advice if you’re on any medication or have an underlying health condition.
There are many different causes of back pain. Some back pain can result from a dysfunction in the spine, muscles, tendons, and ligaments — this is called mechanical back pain. Mechanical back pain can occur from trauma such as motor vehicle accidents, sports injuries, or falls.
However, prolonged stress on the spine and muscles from poor posture or being overweight can put a strain on your back that may result in chronic pain.
Mechanical back pain or acute back pain comes on quickly and typically lasts for a short period (weeks to a few months) with proper care.
Back pain that comes on slowly and can’t be traced back to trauma is caused by a dysfunction in the immune system.
The body’s inflammatory response becomes triggered and attacks healthy tissue causing pain and swelling. When back pain arises due to an auto-immune disease, such as arthritis, it typically comes on slowly and becomes a nagging pain, persisting for years.
Back pain as a result of auto-immune diseases is notoriously difficult to manage. Many people can find some natural relief through chiropractic and physiotherapy treatments. In more severe cases, they require surgery and may be prescribed non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to reduce inflammation and relieve pain.
CBD can be a safe and effective option for people suffering from back pain — whether it’s acute or a chronic condition from auto-immune dysfunction.
CBD works at many different areas of pain transmission from the injury site to signaling sites, like the opioid and vanilloid receptors, and has potent anti-inflammatory actions. Most of the research surrounding CBD and its pain-relieving effects found that higher doses of CBD provide the best effects.
If you’re looking to use CBD for pain relief, look for a high-quality CBD oil made with full-spectrum extract with a relatively strong CBD content (1000 mg or more per bottle).
To ensure you’re getting what you pay for, look at what other customers have said about the brand on third-party review sites and read the lab tests to verify what’s in the bottle.
For severe cases of back pain, seek medical advice from your doctor for a more holistic form of treatment to address pain, inflammation, and other symptoms associated with your condition.