Understanding CBD (Cannabidiol) for Back Pain
Cannabidiol, commonly referred to as CBD, is a new and relatively understudied treatment for pain, including back pain. Studies suggest it may help relieve inflammation, which is often a factor in chronic back pain. 1
CBD is available in many forms; topical creams and gels have shown promising results for inflammation and neuropathy, which may make them a good option for back and neck pain. 2
CBD requires more research in order to prove and explain its effectiveness as well as to better understand potential side effects (especially long-term) and potential drug interactions.
What Is CBD?
CBD oil is derived from a plant called cannabis sativa. The plant has over 100 chemical compounds, called cannabinoids, that have a range of effects, including anti-inflammatory and analgesic (pain relieving) qualities.
The cannabis sativa plant has two main varieties that are grown for specific purposes:
- THC content. THC is the compound associated with the “high” feeling of marijuana use.
- Industrial (non-drug) uses. This form of the plant contains trace amounts of THC (less than .03%) and can be used to make paper, clothing, and some building material. This variation of the cannabis plant is called hemp.
While CBD is present in both varieties, many of the CBD products available to consumers are from the hemp plant. CBD does not come with the high or psychogenic effects of marijuana.
Ways CBD Treats Back Pain
Research indicates that CBD may reduce back pain by:
- Reducing inflammation 3
- Combating anxiety, often associated with long-lasting or chronic back pain 4
- Helping with sleep and improving overall state of relaxation 5
Some studies suggest that CBD can have an effect on how an individual perceives pain, but more robust research is needed. CBD is generally considered a full-body treatment, which means that it does not target back pain specifically—except in the case of topical products—but contributes to an overall feeling of relaxation and pain relief.
Advocates of CBD believe it can be used to treat a range of conditions in addition to back pain, such as anxiety-related disorders. 5
Potential Risks and Side Effects of CBD
Cannabidiol, even in high amounts, is generally safe. Side effects from CBD may include:
- Dry mouth
- Low blood pressure
More severe side effects, while rare, include:
- Mental confusion
As with other natural products, there is potential for adverse reactions when taken with other medications, especially those that come with grapefruit warnings, such as certain blood thinners. These warnings indicate that certain medications should not be taken with products containing grapefruit.
CBD use prior to surgery
Before having surgery, all cannabis use, including CBD and marijuana, should be disclosed to the surgeon or anesthesiologist. A recent study suggests that cannabis use may have an effect on medications used to sedate patients. 6
I Tried CBD Oil on My Legs After My Workouts, and I Have Some Thoughts…
A s someone who works out 5 days a week—with each workout containing at least a two mile run—you could say that I’m always sore. That means that my legs frequently feel as heavy as cement, my hamstrings are continually tight, my quads are always quaking, and my calves know what it means to be knotted. Maybe I’m being a smidge dramatic (and maybe I need to foam roll more), but all of that running takes a serious toll on my legs.
In my beauty research, however, I’ve realized that cannabidiol or CBD is an anti-inflammatory powerhouse, and since inflammation is the cause behind many woes—including muscle soreness—the wheels in my head started turning. Perhaps, by slathering a CBD-rich product all over my gams, I could enhance my recovery and optimize my workouts even more.
The non-psychoactive part of the marijuana plant, CBD, has been all the rage for its multifaceted topical benefits. I’ve already tried CBD skin-care products, so I’m beyond ready to use it to enhance my workouts. “CBD is an active cannabinoid found in cannabis and has multiple uses in improving inflammatory conditions when used topically, like eczema, and even improving wound healing, itching, pain, and has even reported to improve a rare blistering disorder of skin,” says Rachel Nazarian, MD, a dermatologist with New York’s Schweiger Dermatology Group. “It would be great for sore muscles, because it has an analgesic effect which decreases pain.” Bingo.
Luckily for me, as soon as this plan entered my mind, a brand-new CBD body oil by Lord Jones ($75) landed on my desk. I spoke with Cindy Capobianco, co-founder and president of Lord Jones, about my muscle soreness and she was enthusiastic about how a CBD oil could help. “You can use it pre-workout and post-workout. Up front, it relaxes your muscles, allowing you to have a more efficient workout, and then on the back-end you can use it for inflammation and any kind of pain,” she tells me. For what it’s worth, this area hasn’t been well studied, so while the science isn’t there, anecdotal evidence amongst experts seems to suggest that it can supply an improvement (if even a slight one).
That night, I went home to excitedly apply the oil all over my legs, making sure to massage it into my quads and all over my calves, before slipping into my workout clothes. When I proceeded to run on the treadmill, I didn’t necessarily feel any difference. I still struggled in the same old spot—as I approach the 25-minute mark—and my legs began to feel heavy. Post workout (and post shower), I diligently applied the oil to my muscles again.
I continued my pre- and post-workout CBD oil regimen for the entire week. The CBD didn’t make me completely weightless on my feet and invincible on the treadmill, yet I did notice something after a solid seven days of using it. Formerly, in my pre-CBD oil life, it’d hurt to walk hours and days after tough workouts. Now? Slicking myself down with the anti-inflammatory ingredient has eliminated a little bit of the heaviness I used to feel in my legs from running.
“CBD is a known anti-inflammatory ingredient that can soothe skin conditions and affect the quality of life for many people—I’m a fan,” says Dr. Nazarian, who tells me she hopes (and thinks) the CBD oil should work for my muscle recovery. While it wasn’t a night-and-day difference, religiously incorporating CBD oil into my workout-slash-beauty regimen has made a subtle impact. You can kind of think of it as a recovery boost, and one that’s likely helped by the fact that I was massaging my sore limbs regularly which has been shown to be effective at relieving soreness in studies. Now, all I need to do is master that foam roller and I’m all set.
To get it on this, here’s a roundup of CBD products for athletes. And over in the beauty world, these are the mind-body-skin benefits of getting a CBD facial.