Using CBD Oil for Back Pain

What You’ll Learn in This Article

  • CBD is a non-intoxicating cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant and is widely perceived to help reduce pain.
  • CBD could be an effective treatment for some of the most detrimental conditions that cause chronic pain.
  • The optimal CBD dosage is contingent on several factors.
  • More clinical research is needed to gain a better understanding of the anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties of CBD.

Recognized as the leading cause of disability worldwide, back pain is a common condition that can cause extreme discomfort – not to mention a few missed days of work or physical activity. Evidence suggests that 50% to 80% of adults will experience at least one episode of back pain at some point in their lives. 

Back pain can occur for any number of reasons and ranges in severity, whether it be a simple muscle strain, bad posture, a ruptured disc, arthritis, or even a sign of more serious medical conditions, such as a kidney infection or blood clot.


As research into the benefits of cannabis continues, cannabidiol (CBD) has emerged as a potentially viable treatment for pain relief. CBD is a non-intoxicating cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant, second in abundance only to THC, and is widely perceived to help reduce pain. 

Therefore, it stands to reason that someone experiencing back pain might be wondering whether they can effectively use CBD oil for back pain

How CBD Oil Interacts With the Body to Provide Pain Relief

When CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is an internal system that regulates our bodies and helps us maintain homeostasis, it enhances the signaling of anandamide, a pain-regulating compound found in the brain that is linked to feelings of well-being and happiness. By preventing the absorption of this molecule, CBD pushes excess quantities into the bloodstream, reducing pain throughout the body. 

CBD has also demonstrated the ability to reduce pain through the body’s TRPV1 receptors, responsible for control functions such as inflammation and the awareness of pain.


One study, published in the September 2015 edition of the journal Neurotoxicology, found that CBD also inhibits glutamate levels in the brain and spinal cord, which is associated with increased sensations of pain and transmission. Past research also suggests that CBD could be an effective treatment for some of the most detrimental conditions that cause chronic pain, such as neuropathic pain in multiple sclerosis (MS) and intractable cancer pain. 

In a 2012 study, also conducted on lab mice, researchers found that CBD targets alpha-3 glycine receptors to suppress chronic inflammatory and neuropathic pain associated with dysfunctional glycine receptors, an important target for pain processing by the spine, without causing any noticeable analgesic tolerance. 

What Does Research Tell Us?

More peer-reviewed research is needed, focused specifically on CBD treatment for back pain relief, but numerous studies have already demonstrated the anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties of this cannabinoid. 


There is evidence that CBD could reduce pain associated with osteoarthritis, a multifunctional joint disease that causes joint degeneration and inflammation. A 2017 study in the journal Pain found that local application of CBD reduced joint inflammation and prevented pain, suggesting that CBD would be an effective treatment for pain associated with arthritis.


In a 2014 review in the European Journal of Neuroscience that summarized past research on CBD and osteoarthritis, researchers concluded that while clinical evidence is limited, existing studies on CBD use for arthritis treatment have shown promising results. 

Spinal Injury

CBD has also been examined as a treatment for other conditions that cause intense bouts with back pain. For instance, a 2014 study demonstrated that CBD reduced the severity of damage caused by disc degeneration in the vertebrae. After inflicting lab rates with a spinal injury, the research team injected them with various concentrations of CBD, and concluded that higher doses of CBD provided an anti-degenerative effect and “attenuated the effects of disc injury.”


For some, chronic back pain may make it difficult to get a proper night of sleep, but a growing faction of research points to CBD as an effective sleep aid as well. One study, published in the Permanente Journal in January 2019, found that CBD alleviated short-term sleep issues and reduced anxiety in a majority of patients. 

While the initial evidence supports that notion that CBD is a viable treatment for chronic pain, it’s important to note that more clinical research is needed to gain a better understanding of the anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties of this non-intoxicating cannabinoid. 

How to Use CBD Oil for Back Pain

The most common way to consume CBD oil is the sublingual method. Using the dropper that comes with the CBD oil bottle, simply apply a few drops under the tongue and allow the CBD to absorb into the bloodstream.

 If there’s a specific area where the back pain is located, CBD oil or CBD-infused topicals or transdermal patches can be applied directly to target the source of discomfort. Always read the product label to check for specific dosage instructions.



CBD oil and CBD-infused topicals can both be used to assist with pain management, but which is the more effective treatment method? 

There’s no definitive answer yet, but a 2016 animal study published in European Journal of Pain found that topical application may be more effective than the sublingual method. The research team discovered that while CBD had poor oral bioavailability in lab rats, topical CBD application provided more constant plasma levels, bypassing gastrointestinal administration and first-pass metabolism, which is a phenomenon where the concentration of a drug is reduced before it reaches circulation.

What’s the Best CBD Oil Dosage for Back Pain

At the moment, there is no universally established guidance for accurate CBD oil dosages, let alone for ailment-specific dosages. The optimal CBD dosage is contingent on several factors, including the CBD quality, the individual’s weight and metabolism, as well as the reason it’s being taken in the first place.

How frequently should you use CBD oil for back pain? Start with the lowest viable dose and gradually raise the amount of CBD consumed in one dose or increase the frequency of use until pain relief is achieved. Once you sort out an optimal dosing regimen, use those measurements and monitor whether the effects remain consistent as treatment continues.

Until additional evidence is gathered, those who are interested in using CBD oil for back pain will likely have to undergo a bit of trial and error to find the most effective CBD dosage. But don’t be too concerned with overdoing it, the potential side effects of CBD tend to be mild. According to Mayo Clinic, the U.S.-based nonprofit academic medical center, CBD side effects include dry mouth, diarrhea, reduced appetite, drowsiness, and fatigue. Additionally, in a study published in Molecules on April 19, 2019, researchers from the University of Arkansas for Medical Science found that CBD elevated the risk for liver toxicity in mice.

How to Find the Best CBD Products for Back Pain 

There’s no shortage of options when it comes to finding CBD oil for back pain, but it’s important to distinguish between the availability of hemp-derived CBD and marijuana-dervied CBD

Following the passage of the 2018 Hemp Act, included in the 2018 Farm Bill on Dec. 20, 2018, hemp was removed from the list of controlled substances, shifting regulatory oversight from the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). By law, hemp plants are not allowed to contain more than 0.3% THC. Therefore, in order to abide by the law, hemp-derived CBD products should contain little to no traces of THC. 

Aside from the U.S., other countries have also started warming up to the potential therapeutic benefits of CBD. In Canada, following the passage of The Cannabis Act, which legalized adult-use cannabis in all provinces, both hemp-derived and marijuana-derived CBD are readily available. The European Union (EU) has also established regulatory guidelines for hemp-derived CBD oil, allowing the cultivation of hemp provided that the THC content does not exceed 0.2%.  

A number of South American countries have also loosened restrictions against CBD oil and medical marijuana in general. Both Mexico and Brazil currently allow CBD products to be imported for certain medical conditions, while others, such as Chile, have already established a full-scale medical marijuana program.  

Marijuana-derived CBD products may contain higher levels of THC, and therefore are only available in states that have legalized adult-use or medical marijuana

Whether you utilize hemp-derived CBD or marijuana-derived CBD, try to find products that have a certificate of analysis from a third-party testing lab to ensure that the cannabinoid levels listed on the product label match what’s actually inside the CBD oil. Be wary of products that boast about containing hemp seed oil, as it will not contain any CBD or THC. 


You can find verified CBD products from reputable brands on Weedmaps.