How do you use cbd oil for pain

Should You Take CBD for Pain?

People looking for a safer pain reliever are turning to cannabis-derived CBD. Michigan Medicine experts weigh in on what’s currently known about the trendy supplement.

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CBD, short for cannabidiol, is undergoing a surge in popularity as the hot new supplement, with a promise to treat a variety of conditions including pain, anxiety, and insomnia, just to name a few. It’s also available in all manner of forms, from lotions and oils to CBD-infused food and drink. But does it work?

CBD is one of the compounds in the cannabis plant, better known as marijuana. Unlike the famous cannabinoid tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD doesn’t cause the psychological effects typical of being “high”. Both CBD and THC act on the body’s natural endocannabinoid system, which plays a role in many processes including appetite, pain and memory.

The scientific evidence around CBD use is thin, a fact that is mainly due to politics. “Cannabis has been a Schedule 1 drug for a long time, which has limited the type of research needed to figure out how best to use it therapeutically,” says Kevin Boehnke, Ph.D., research investigator in the department of anesthesiology and the Michigan Medicine Chronic Pain and Fatigue Research Center. Under the U.S. Federal Controlled Substances Act, Schedule 1 drugs are defined as having no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.

Yet marijuana has been used as a medicinal plant for thousands of years, he notes. In fact, one of the first recorded uses of cannabis was for rheumatism, also known as arthritis. Cannabis products were widely used as medicines in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and were listed in the U.S. Pharmacopoeia before the onset of Federal restriction in 1937 under the Marijuana Tax Act.

Much of the research literature around CBD in particular supports its use as a treatment for childhood epilepsy. Indeed, in 2018 the FDA approved the CBD-based drug Epidiolex as a drug for childhood epileptic conditions. In a substantial policy shift, Epidiolex was designated as Schedule V, which is the least restrictive drug schedule and indicates little potential for abuse.

While there aren’t any published clinical trials on CBD in pain, Boehnke notes that ongoing preclinical studies in animals have demonstrated that CBD reduces pain and inflammation, and studies of CBD in humans show that it is well-tolerated and has few negative side effects. “There are also observational studies that ask why people use CBD and if it’s effective, and results tend to be quite positive. People report using CBD for anxiety, pain, sleep — all things that go hand-in-hand with chronic pain,” he says. The passage of the 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp-derived CBD (

So many people are turning to CBD as an alternative pain reliever, especially in light of the opioid crisis, that in a commentary published in Annals of Internal Medicine, Boehnke and Daniel Clauw, M.D., director of the Chronic Pain and Fatigue Research Center, provided advice for clinicians on how to counsel their patients about CBD and cannabis use.

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They also provided guidance for the Arthritis Foundation, who recently surveyed 2,600 people with arthritis and found that 29% currently use CBD to treat arthritis symptoms.

Boehnke and Clauw recommend that people with chronic pain talk to their doctor about adding CBD to their treatment plan, and continue to use their prescribed medication. They offer the following advice for people wanting to try CBD:

Don’t smoke or vape. Bottom line is smoking anything harms the lungs. Vaping has been associated with a recent epidemic of lung disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.

Purchase from reputable sources. Like vitamins and other supplements, CBD products aren’t regulated or FDA approved to treat disease, so buyer beware. Look for products that have been tested by an independent third party lab “so you don’t end up with a product that has THC in it or a product contaminated with heavy metals or pesticides,” says Boehnke.

Route of administration matters. CBD is best taken in pill or capsule form for slow extended release or as an oral tincture (infused oil that contains CBD) for faster effect onset.

Start low, go slow. Take a small amount and slowly increase your dosage until you start to get symptom relief over a matter of weeks. Track your symptoms to get a sense of whether or not CBD is a helpful part of your treatment plan.

Check your state laws. While medical marijuana is legal in many states, it’s still illegal at the Federal level, putting CBD in a legal gray zone in many areas.

How To Use CBD To Help Manage Pain

Dr. Bindiya Gandhi is an integrative medicine physician with expertise in functional and holistic medicine based in Atlanta, Georgia.

Commissions we earn from partner links on this page do not affect our opinions or evaluations. Our editorial content is based on thorough research and guidance from the Forbes Health Advisory Board.

Table of Contents

  • CBD for Pain Relief
  • CBD for Chronic Pain
  • CBD for Arthritis and Joint Pain
  • CBD for Neuropathic Pain

Without the intoxicating properties of its cousin delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabidiol (CBD) can provide the human body with a handful of health benefits. Cannabinoids like CBD interact with receptors in the endocannabinoid system, which plays a role in signaling bodily functions, from emotional responses to motor control to energy balance [1] Mouslech Z, Valla V. Endocannabinoid system: An overview of its potential in current medical practice. Neuro Endocrinol Lett. 2009;30(2):153-179. .

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Over the last two decades, scientists have tested CBD’s efficacy as an analgesic, or painkiller, specifically—and with promising results. While research is ongoing, here’s what we know so far about how we can use CBD oil for pain relief.

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CBD for Pain Relief

For now, no CBD-based medications are approved as painkillers in the U.S. Epidiolex, which is used for rare forms of epilepsy, is the only CBD treatment approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Meanwhile, several countries have approved CBD to treat certain conditions. For instance, the U.K. approved it for multiple sclerosis, and Canada approved it for cancer pain. Ongoing research suggests CBD oil for pain can aid medical conditions, including arthritis and fibromyalgia, at varying doses. Some pain may not be treatable by CBD alone, but it can help when paired with THC or Western medication applications.

Interestingly, 60% of U.S. adults who use CBD products do so for its potential pain-relieving effects, according to a recent Forbes Health survey of 2,000 U.S. adults conducted by OnePoll.

What’s more, 60% of U.S. adults have tried CBD and believe it has medicinal benefits.

CBD for Chronic Pain

Chronic pain is defined as any pain lasting longer than several months. Studies have found CBD, often alongside THC, to be an effective pain reliever for various chronic conditions.

In clinical trials, Sativex, a spray with equal parts CBD and THC, proved significantly successful as an analgesic for cancer-related pain [2] Russo EB. Cannabinoids in the management of difficult to treat pain. Ther Clin Risk Manag. 2008;4(1):245-259. . The spray, also used for multiple sclerosis-related pain, is approved in Canada to treat cancer pain and is currently undergoing trials for approval and use in the U.S.

A 2019 study found Sativex to be an “effective and well-tolerated add-on treatment” for patients with severe chronic pain stemming from various ailments. The study identified three types of pain: nociceptive (affecting body tissue), neuropathic (affecting nerves) and mixed pain. Sativex helped treat all three kinds but proved especially effective against neuropathic pain.

An earlier study also found CBD to be effective in chronic pain relief for conditions like multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injury, although across a much smaller sample size [4] Wade DT, Robson P, House H, Makela P, Aram J. A preliminary controlled study to determine whether whole-plant cannabis extracts can improve intractable neurogenic symptoms. Clin Rehabil. 2003;17(1):21-29. .

CBD for Arthritis and Joint Pain

Arthritis is a broad term that encompasses hundreds of joint-related conditions and pains. Common symptoms include swelling, pain and stiffness in the joints and may progress over time.

Already a proven analgesic for other conditions, CBD shows promise as an anti-inflammatory substance in both animal and preclinical trials, which bodes well for arthritis treatment [5] Nichols JM, Kaplan BLF. Immune Responses Regulated by Cannabidiol. Cannabis Cannabinoid Res. 2020;5(1):12-31. [6] Mlost J, Bryk M, Starowicz K. Cannabidiol for Pain Treatment: Focus on Pharmacology and Mechanism of Action. Int J Mol Sci. 2020;21(22):8870. [7] Kosgodage US, Mould R, Henley AB, et al. Cannabidiol (CBD) Is a Novel Inhibitor for Exosome and Microvesicle (EMV) Release in Cancer. Front Pharmacol. 2018;9:889. [8] Lowin T, Tingting R, Zurmahr J, Classen T, Schneider M, Pongratz G. Cannabidiol (CBD): a killer for inflammatory rheumatoid arthritis synovial fibroblasts. Cell Death Dis. 2020;11(8):714. . However, clinical research dedicated to CBD administration for arthritis is less robust and ongoing.

The first controlled trial conducted in 2006 focused on patients with rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation in the joints and other affected areas [9] Blake DR, Robson P, Ho M, Jubb RW, McCabe CS. Preliminary assessment of the efficacy, tolerability and safety of a cannabis-based medicine (Sativex) in the treatment of pain caused by rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatology (Oxford). 2006;45(1):50-52. . Researchers found that, compared to a placebo, Sativex significantly improved participants’ pain during movement, pain at rest and quality of sleep. Any adverse reactions to the treatment were mild or moderate, and there were no complications with withdrawal.

In 2018 researchers tested the efficacy of topical CBD gel on participants with osteoarthritis-related knee pain over the course of 12 weeks [10] Hunter D, Oldfield G, Tich N, Messenheimer J, Sebree T. Synthetic transdermal cannabidiol for the treatment of knee pain due to osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis and Cartilage. 2018;26:S26. . Participants used either 250 milligrams or 500 milligrams, split into two applications, daily. Overall, participants’ weekly pain levels didn’t improve much with CBD compared to placebo. However, when researchers evaluated the average weekly worst pain scores and Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Arthritis Index (WOMAC) physical function scores, participants who applied 250 milligrams of CBD daily experienced significant improvement over placebo participants.

Meanwhile, a small 2019 trial suggests a mix of CBD and THC may prove beneficial for people with fibromyalgia, a type of arthritis that results in whole-body pain and fatigue [11] van de Donk T, Niesters M, Kowal MA, Olofsen E, Dahan A, van Velzen M. An experimental randomized study on the analgesic effects of pharmaceutical-grade cannabis in chronic pain patients with fibromyalgia. Pain. 2019;160(4):860-869. . The study found that, via a single inhalation, a CBD-THC solution performed better than a placebo and either substance on its own.

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CBD for Neuropathic Pain

Various conditions and injuries that damage nerves or the nervous system can result in neuropathic pain. This kind of pain manifests as tingling, numbness, muscle weakness and a sharp, shooting, burning or stabbing pain.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a common cause of neuropathic pain. The disease wears down myelin, a mixture of proteins and phospholipids that coats nerve cells. Sativex is already approved as an MS treatment around the world due to its success in clinical trials. As a spray, Sativex is absorbed in the mouth. Studies support a median dose of eight sprays a day for patients with MS, which provides about 20 milligrams of CBD and 21.6 milligrams of THC [12] Sativex Oromucosal Spray – Summary of Product Characteristics (SmPC). Datapharm. Accessed 7/9/2021. . However, doses vary between patients, and each person needs to find their optimal dose.

A 2020 study also tested topically administered CBD oil as a treatment for patients with peripheral neuropathy, or damage to the peripheral nervous system, which sends information throughout your body from the central nervous system [13] Xu DH, Cullen BD, Tang M, Fang Y. The Effectiveness of Topical Cannabidiol Oil in Symptomatic Relief of Peripheral Neuropathy of the Lower Extremities. Curr Pharm Biotechnol. 2020;21(5):390-402. . When compared to placebo, the topical CBD significantly reduced patients’ intense pain and sharp pain, as well as cold and itchy sensations.

How to Use CBD Oil for Pain

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CBD, also known as cannabidiol, has continued to grow in popularity over the last few years. This isn’t a surprising trend, especially considering the fact that CBD is therapeutically versatile, well-studied, and is generally safe and well-tolerated.

Unlike THC, which is another cannabinoid found in the cannabis and hemp plants, CBD doesn’t have any psychoactive effects. Because CBD doesn’t cause a high, it appeals to a wider audience, especially those who are looking for natural relief.

One of the biggest benefits that CBD may offer is pain relief. CBD has shown to have strong anti-inflammatory properties, which is often the underlying cause of aches and pains. If you’re interested in using CBD to keep chronic pain at bay, you’ve come to the right place!

Here’s everything you need to know about using CBD oil for pain so that you can feel your best everyday.

CBD and Its Impact on Pain

Everyone has a cell-signaling system known as the endocannabinoid system (ECS). When ingested, CBD interacts with the core components of the system, including receptors located in the immune system and throughout the brain.

All cells have receptors, which are responsible for receiving chemical signals from stimuli, which in turn help the cells properly respond. In terms of pain, CBD helps to create pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory effects, which greatly helps with pain management.

CBD has shown to be effective in relieving various types of chronic pain, including pain caused by arthritis, fibromyalgia, and even neuropathic pain.

Tips for the Best Pain Relief

Now that you know how CBD interacts within the body to ease aches and pains, you may be more interested than ever to enjoy these benefits. But before you run out and buy CBD, there are some tips and tricks that you’ll want to know.

Choose the Right Product

There are hundreds of CBD products on the market, including oils, capsules, topicals, and unique products like bath bombs, drinks, and even dried fruit. When treating pain with CBD, it’s important to choose a product that best meets your needs. There are definitely certain CBD products that may be more suitable for treating pain than others, but the fact is that any form of CBD will reduce inflammation.

CBD oil is one of the most popular forms of CBD. This is because oil is easy to take and offers fast, long-lasting results. CBD oil is taken sublingually, which allows the cannabinoid to quickly make its way into the bloodstream. These days, CBD oil is available in all sorts of flavors, including mint, various fruits, and even dessert-type flavors.

If you aren’t a fan of putting oil under your tongue, CBD edibles are another popular option. Edibles are meant to resemble gummy candies that taste great while also offering the therapeutic benefits of CBD. Many prefer gummies and other edible products because they’re convenient, taste good, and require no special dosing.

For those with muscle aches and pains, a topical CBD product may be beneficial. There are all sorts of lotions, creams, and slaves that can be applied to the skin to minimize pain. Many topical CBD products are made with menthol or capisicum for further relief.

Other options that can be used for pain relief include:

When choosing the type of CBD product, it’s most important to find one that offers the best relief and experience. For example, if you aren’t someone who likes to take pills, you wouldn’t want to buy CBD capsules. Choose a product that you like and actually enjoy using. You want to have a great experience from beginning to end.

Choose the Right Extract

There are three different types of CBD extract that can be used to make CBD products. These include isolate, full spectrum, and broad spectrum. Understanding the differences between each of these extracts will make it easier to find a product that best meets your needs.

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Isolate is the purest form of CBD. As the name implies, CBD isolate has been isolated from all of the other plant compounds. Products that contain CBD isolate are pure CBD. There are no traces of other cannabinoids, terpenes, or flavonoids.

Full spectrum CBD contains all of the whole plant compounds, including THC. While these products do contain THC, which is known for its psychoactive properties, the legal amount must be less than 0.3%. This is a very small percentage, which won’t cause any noticeable effects. So using a product that is made with full spectrum CBD won’t get you high.

If you want to enjoy the benefits of other plant compounds but don’t want any exposure to THC, look for a product that contains broad spectrum CBD. This extract offers terpenes, flavonoids, and minor cannabinoids, but is free of THC.

Pick a Reputable Brand

Last but not least, when using CBD for pain relief, it’s important to buy products from a brand you can trust. Reputable brands make high quality products, so you’re more likely to get the side effects that you want.

Here are five of the best CBD products for pain relief.

1. Penguin

If you’re looking for quick, long-lasting relief, consider a high quality CBD oil. One of the top brands in the industry that is known for its flavorful oils is Penguin. Each bottle is made with broad spectrum extract that originates from top of the line Oregon grown hemp. Penguin CBD oil is made with hemp oil, MCT oil, terpenes, and natural flavor.

Penguin CBD oil is available in several flavors, including Mint, Citrus, Strawberry, and Cookies & Cream. There’s also a Natural flavor if you enjoy the earthy profile that CBD offers.

What’s nice about CBD oil is that it can be taken in many ways. You can use the traditional sublingual method, or you can add a few drops to your favorite food or drinks. Nothing beats a CBD-infused smoothie in the mornings!

2. Verma Farms

Verma Farms is best known for their tropical paradise-inspired gummies. However, the brand also offers a full line of other products, including topicals. Mahalo Muscle Relief is a roll-on product that can be used on any part of your body that needs a little extra care.

The roll-on is made with unadulterated CBD extract along with natural menthol. The product also contains other pain-relieving ingredients, including Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Boswellia Serrata Extract, and Ilex Paraguariensis.

Mahalo Muscle Relief is available in 200mg and 500mg strengths, so you can get the relief you need when you need it the most.

3. Evn CBD

Evn CBD products are made with organically grown, non-GMO hemp. They are also lab tested and contain no THC.

For a tasty CBD experience from chew to chew, try CBD gummy bears from Evn CBD. These gummies are made with broad spectrum CBD, offering 10mg of CBD per gummy. Gummies are a great option if you’re looking for a quick, convenient, and tasty way to take your daily CBD dose.

Evn CBD gummies are made with simple ingredients, including sugar, gelatin, coconut oil, and natural flavoring. Gummy bears are available in both sweet and sour flavors, and we highly recommend both types!

4. Irwin Naturals

Irwin Naturals was founded in 1994 with the mission of providing plant-based healing. The brand offers several CBD-infused products, including capsules. CBD + Turmeric is made with full spectrum hemp extract along with the Curcumin C3 Complex. Each serving offers 15mg of CBD and 450mg of turmeric.

Turmeric is one of the most commonly used herbal ingredients to treat pain. The active compounds in the herb, known as curcuminoids, have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

CBD + Turmeric is also made with other pain-relieving compounds, including Boswellia serrata, which has shown to be effective in reducing pain and inflammation, including pain caused by arthritis.

5. FAB CBD

FAB CBD offers a wide assortment of CBD products, but for the ultimate pain relief, we recommend the brand’s topical CBD cream. Each jar contains 600mg of CBD along with full spectrum hemp extract from organically grown hemp in Colorado. The cream has a subtle, refreshing blood orange scent.

What’s great about this cream is that a little goes a long way. A fingertip-sized amount is plenty to get the relief that you want. Of course, more can always be applied over time to achieve and maintain the effects.

Unlike other CBD topicals, FAB CBD’s cream doesn’t contain menthol or capsicum. Instead, it nourishes the skin and eases pain with Aloe Vera, Vitamin E, and Cinnamon.

Final Thoughts

CBD is a great alternative treatment for aches and pains. If you’re looking for a product that’s powered by nature and has little to no negative side effects, CBD is one of the best options on the market today. Enjoy life without aches and pains with a high quality CBD product.

To have the best experience possible, choose a product that best fits your needs. It’s also important to buy from a brand that you can trust. This way you can invest in a product that is formulated to keep aches and pains at bay.

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