Whether you're an athlete or visit your local gym only a few times a year, you've likely experienced soreness or pain. Even sitting still for too long or lifting children all day can cause your muscles to feel stiff. Luckily cannabinoids may help soothe the pain. One cannabis product type that lends itself well to muscle pain relief is CBD muscle balm.
What is CBD muscle balm?
CBD muscle balm, also known as CBD muscle rub, is a fragrant topical oil or cream that may help soothe sore muscles. CBD balm is generally mixed with other soothing ingredients such as peppermint, tea tree, eucalyptus, and other oils.
CBD balm is considered a topical product because it's used on the skin. By definition, CBD products contain no more than 0.3% of THC – thus, they won't cause a "high" feeling. CBD balm is an excellent alternative for individuals who want to avoid using THC or who live in an area where THC products are illegal.
Does CBD balm work?
Many consumers find CBD to be soothing and relaxing, but the exact experience you get from a CBD muscle rub depends on several factors. These include the amount of CBD used in the balm, extra ingredients such as essential oils, the total dosage, and individual differences in the consumer.
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 how much CBD is actually in the balm. Purchase from a reputable company that tests their products in independent labs to improve the odds of getting a product that works for you.
What the research says
CBD balm may work to ease sore, stiff muscles but it also shows potential in targeting other conditions when used topically.
- Inflammation: A 2017 study published in the journal Pain found that acute joint inflammation in arthritic rats was reduced by local CBD treatment
- Skin conditions: CBD is a safe, effective treatment for patients suffering from chronic skin conditions like psoriasis and atopic dermatitis along with resulting scars, according to a human study published in 2019 in the Italian journal La Clinica Terapeutica.
- Wound care: A case report published in 2017 in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management showed that CBD and THC applied topically could offer effective pain and symptom management for malignant wounds.
It's not entirely clear whether infused 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.
How does CBD muscle balm work?
Topical CBD products work locally on specific parts of the body, potentially helping soothe pain in areas such as joints or particular muscles. CBD gets absorbed by the skin but doesn't enter the bloodstream. As such, the balm affects the body similarly to over-the-counter topical creams that relieve pain for a certain amount of time.
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.
Most consumers rub the CBD topical into their skin where the pain is located. A carrier molecule of some sort is required to allow the CBD to penetrate the skin barrier and affect muscles and other tissue within the body. Some balms also use essential oil such as peppermint or menthol, which adds a cooling sensation to the skin and has analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties.
Does CBD help with muscle recovery?
After an intense sweat session, it's common to experience muscle aches and soreness. Workouts cause microscopic tears to the fibers in muscles, which can lead to inflammation and the subsequent feeling of being sore or in pain. While the breaking down and recovery of muscle fibers after intense workouts is critical to growth, soreness feels unpleasant and, in excess, can cause changes in the body.
Several pieces of evidence, including those detailed above, indicate that CBD may be useful for reducing inflammation. By suppressing the inflammatory responses of a workout, CBD may allow muscles to recover more rapidly.
How to use CBD balm
Generally speaking, using CBD-infused topicals is extremely easy. Simply apply the balm on and around any painful area that might benefit from local treatment. As will all lotions and creams, CBD cream shouldn't be used on broken skin.
The process of applying CBD topicals is similar to putting on a moisturizing lotion. However, administering the proper dosage of CBD to the skin is not as straightforward. It's important to find out how many milligrams of CBD are in the topical to gauge whether there's enough of this cannabinoid to provide the potential therapeutic relief patients seek. A balm with a small amount of CBD will be less effective than one with higher concentrations.
Once you find a balm with adequate CBD concentrations, start with a low dose and gradually increase the amount of CBD balm you use. Remember, individual body chemistry and the quality of the CBD and other ingredients will affect your experience using CBD balms and other products.