This editor tried CBD for muscle soreness for a week and noticed a difference. Here, she discusses how it can be used in your recovery regimen. Is CBD an effective muscle relaxer? Does it work better alone or with CBD? This article breaks down the muscle-relaxing properties of CBD oil — bit by bit. Does CBD actually work for muscle pain? We explore what the research says and whether topics or oral supplements are better.
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.
How CBD Works as an Effective Natural Muscle Relaxant?
Looking for an effective muscle relaxant that doesn’t entail the laundry list of severe side effects? Your search may end after reading about the benefits of CBD for sore and stiff muscles.
People usually turn to over-the-counter or prescription pills when they’re in pain after a long workday. While they may provide short-term relief or serve as a quick fix for incidental stiffness, the risk of dangerous reactions is more troubling than muscle pain down the road.
CBD — one of the main active ingredients in cannabis — may be an effective natural muscle relaxant that does much more than just masking the symptoms. By interacting with the endocannabinoid system (ECS), this botanical compound can help you maintain the balance between important processes — including muscle function.
Today, we’re going to explore the benefits of using CBD as a muscle relaxant; we’ll :
- Dive into the relaxing properties of CBD oil
- Discuss the dosage
- Compare CBD with other natural relaxants
- Help you choose the best type of CBD for muscle relaxation
Let’s start by highlighting the role of the ECS in mobility and muscle function.
Muscle Function & the Endocannabinoid System
The endocannabinoid system is frequently mentioned as the most important regulatory network in all mammals. As medical researchers explore the therapeutic role of this system in humans, we can get a better understanding of how it affects so many important functions throughout the body.
The fact that ECS affects nearly every other system in our bodies explains the far-reaching therapeutic potential associated with CBD and other cannabinoids.
The ECS consists of cannabinoid receptors, enzymes, and endocannabinoids — which are neurotransmitters.
Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that regulate all sorts of functions in our brains and bodies. For instance, neurotransmitters such as serotonin travel from a presynaptic cell across the synapse (the space between nerve cells) and bind to postsynaptic cells — triggering specific reactions.
Endocannabinoids — neurotransmitters made by the ECS, such as anandamide and 2-AG — work oppositely. They travel from the post-synaptic cell across the synapse to the presynaptic cell. This process allows for a flow-control mechanism, signaling the presynaptic cell when it’s had enough or needs more of a particular neurotransmitter.
The ECS is engaged in various physiological and psychological processes, including mood, memory, pain perception, sleep cycles, reproduction, body temperature, appetite, immune function, neurogenesis, and muscle function.
CBD As a Muscle Relaxant
Muscles contract due to the communication between the aforementioned neurotransmitters in the central nervous system (CNS). From there, they travel to the muscle, triggering contraction. Without proper endocannabinoids, nothing can slow down the influx of these excessive chemical messengers, causing muscles to contract continuously. A chronically insufficient supply of endocannabinoids is a medical condition known as Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency (CECD ).
CBD interacts with the ECS by engaging with its enzymes and hormones; this changes how cannabinoid receptors function and translates to higher concentrations of anandamide and 2-AG. Improved endocannabinoid signaling can result in the reduction of muscle tension.
Many studies have analyzed the relaxing effects of CBD in people who have been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) — a disease in which the immune system turns against the nervous system’s protective tissues. This often results in movement-related issues, such as an unsteady gait, tremors, and spasms.
A 2017 study reported that a combination of CBD-THC in the form of an oral spray offered MS patients relief in their symptoms on top of helping to “normalize muscle fibers.” In a 2019 study, the authors further found a pattern that using CBD might also reduce muscle spasticity in people with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) .
The above studies go on to explain that CBD works on a cellular level to relieve muscle tension. However, if that tension is caused by chronic exposure to stress, CBD can indirectly ease the physical discomfort by reducing anxiety through serotonin receptors.
Physical relaxation also contributes to mental stress relief. Once the brain and the body are both calm, sleep quality can improve. The mind isn’t boggled by racing thoughts, so you can easily fall asleep and rest through the night without waking up due to strained muscles.
CBD and Chronic Stress
Problems like muscle tension, rigidity, and spasticity often result from chronic stress or overload. CBD demonstrates great potential in helping reduce anxiety levels and improve stress management, which is a significant health bonus for people using CBD oil as a muscle relaxant.
According to a 2015 study published in Neurotherapeutics :
“current evidence indicates CBD has considerable potential as a treatment for a range of anxiety disorders, with the need for further study of chronic and therapeutic effects in relevant clinical populations.”
If you experience anxiety and believe there’s something wrong with responding to daily stressors, CBD may help you feel less anxious and contribute to a calmer state of mind.
CBD for Post-exercise Soreness
There’s a reason why using CBD oil by athletes has become such a hot topic recently. Although exercising brings many positive effects on your health, it can sometimes create excess muscle tension and soreness. Studies suggest that CBD can help ease these effects thanks to its anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and neuroprotective properties .
Research also seems to confirm that CBD stimulates muscle recovery after a strenuous workout session. According to a 2020 study, supplementing CBD post-workout helped reduce creatine kinase levels. The authors concluded that this effect contributed to lessening muscle damage and also spurred muscle regeneration .
Which Is Better for Muscle Relaxation: CBD or THC?
While CBD is a potent natural muscle relaxant, studies in mice, such as the one published in 2010 in the Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology , indicate that a combination of CBD and THC in a 1:1 ratio is even more effective than pure CBD . If you live in a state where medical or recreational use of marijuana is legal, you can try marijuana-derived CBD oils with such ratios to put the hypothesis to the test yourself.
CBD and THC work better in tandem due to the entourage effect, which is a phenomenon where all cannabis compounds work synergistically to create stronger therapeutic effects than each of the compounds alone. It also refers to a situation where some of the potentially unwanted effects of certain cannabinoids (THC) are mitigated by others (CBD).
How to Use CBD As a Muscle Relaxant
If you’re considering trying CBD as a muscle relaxant, it’s best to start with a small dose to make sure you respond well to cannabidiol. Once you know that your system can handle CBD oil without any side effects, such as feeling lethargic or having gastrointestinal issues, you can slowly increase the dose until you reach a more therapeutic dose.
Below we elaborate on different forms of CBD and how to use them as muscle relaxants.
CBD Oil for Muscle Relaxation
CBD oil is taken under the tongue. You take a dropper out of the bottle, measure out the desired amount of oil, and squeeze it under the tongue, where you hold it for up to 60 seconds.
This method ensures a faster onset of effects and higher bioavailability than oral forms of CBD like gummies and capsules. That’s because CBD travels to the bloodstream via the mucous membrane in the mouth, avoiding the first-pass metabolism in the liver.
The effects of CBD oil usually last up to 6 hours, with peak plasma concentration levels achieved within 1.5 hours from ingestion.
CBD Vapes for Muscle Relaxation
Vaping is the fastest and the most effective way to deliver CBD to your system. When you inhale the vapor from CBD flowers or vape liquid, their content enters the bloodstream through the lung tissue, ensuring almost instantaneous effects (speaking of anxiety and pain). Vaporization also demonstrates the highest bioavailability of all consumption methods. Studies on the pharmacokinetics of cannabinoids show that the bioavailability of vaporized CBD is around 56%. That being said, the effects last shorter than from oils or capsules — usually up to 4 hours.
CBD Gummies for Muscle Relaxation
CBD gummies are a category of cannabis edibles that resemble regular gummy bears from your childhood. But, they also pack an extra kick of adulthood with a fixed dose of CBD. The premeasured amount of cannabidiol makes dosing easier for people who don’t want to use a dropper or divide the potency of their product by the number of puffs from a vaporizer.
For example, if your gummies have 10 mg CBD each, and your optimal dose is 30 mg, you just take 3 gummies throughout the day, and you’re done. CBD gummies are available in plenty of different flavors, shapes, sizes, and formulas — allowing you to tailor the effects to your needs. Oral ingestion also means longer-lasting effects because CBD is gradually released from the liver into the bloodstream. Unfortunately, the longer route of administration also results in a delayed onset and lower bioavailability. Only up to 20% of CBD from the gummies ends up in your system, not to mention that the effects may need about 30-90 minutes to take hold.
CBD Cream for Muscle Relaxation
Using CBD cream is the best way to apply CBD for muscle relaxation. There are many different types of topical products infused with CBD, but creams and gels are the most popular forms. They often also include other relaxing ingredients, such as lavender, beeswax, lanolin, etc. They also contain a blend of fats that improve the absorption of CBD. When you apply CBD to the skin, it interacts with its CB2 receptors — reducing inflammation, pain, swelling, redness, and stiffness.
The absorption time may vary depending on the formula, but the effects are usually noticeable within an hour after application.
Best Type of CBD for Muscle Relaxation
CBD is a potent muscle relaxant, but it’s even more effective when you take it alongside other cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids from hemp. As mentioned, the higher efficacy of full-spectrum CBD extracts is explained by the entourage effect, which is why full-spectrum CBD is the go-to option for most consumers.
There’s also broad-spectrum CBD, which is quite similar to its full-spectrum counterpart, save for the lack of THC. The intoxicating compound is removed during the later stages of extraction.
If you dislike the botanical taste of full-spectrum and broad-spectrum CBD oils, you can try CBD isolate — which is pure CBD. Isolates are flavorless and odorless, and they carry the highest amount of CBD per serving. That being said, there’s no entourage effect due to the lack of other cannabis compounds, so such products may not be as effective as the aforementioned variants.
CBD vs Other Natural Muscle Relaxants
Wondering which natural muscle relaxants go hand in hand with CBD oil? Here’s your cheat sheet:
- Cherries: cherries are high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds. In a 2018 review, cherries were found to reduce post-exercise pain and muscle damage .
- Blueberries: blueberries are a great source of antioxidants and polyphenols, which exert anti-inflammatory effects when consumed. A small study found that blueberry supplementation may positively affect exercise performance aside from reducing inflammatory markers.
- Protein: taking care of adequate intake is important for muscle relaxation because it could help reduce muscle stiffness and inflammation. A review of studies examining exercise-induced muscle damage in women found that supplementation of whey and casein reduced muscle damage.
- Magnesium: Magnesium is essential for nearly all biological functions, but it’s vital for proper muscle contractions. Magnesium deficiency is associated with muscle spasms, twitches, ticks, and poor cardiovascular health .
- Curcumin: an active ingredient in turmeric, ginger, and cinnamon. Curcumin is a potent anti-inflammatory agent shown by some research to decrease inflammatory markers after exercise and contribute to relaxed muscles and a healthy diet .
- Pomegrenate juice: pomegranates are rich in polyphenols. Their juice has three times stronger antioxidant properties than green tea. One study on professional weightlifters found that pomegranate juice may help improve muscle recovery .
- Capsaicin: Capsaicin can be found in the pith of the fleshy part of chili peppers. It has been mentioned by multiple studies for its pain-relieving and muscle-relaxing properties when applied to the skin .
- Peppermint oil: this herbal extract is a popular home remedy for muscle pain and gastrointestinal issues. In a 2018 review, the authors concluded that taking peppermint orally may effectively reduce pain. There’s also some evidence supporting the topical use of peppermint oil for muscular relaxation, pain relief, and a cooling effect .
- Lemongrass: some studies suggest that lemongrass may be effective in treating inflammation and neuropathic pain. People with arthritic joint pain and inflammation turn to lemongrass as an alternative for easing their discomfort .
- Massage: if your muscles are tense, a deep tissue massage from a professional physiotherapist is a great way to relax them. The massage should be firm but not painful. A visit to a physiotherapist can also help determine the underlying cause of muscle spasms.
Summarizing the Benefits of CBD As a Muscle Relaxant
Muscle pain and stiffness are common problems in modern society due to a sitting lifestyle and daily stress experienced by peer pressure and fast-paced times.
Fortunately, you don’t need to rely on OTC or prescription painkillers to relieve physical discomfort. Pharmaceutical medications are good as a means of intervention in acute pain relief, but they don’t reach the underlying cause of the problem. Moreover, long-term use of such medications can lead to dependence and severe withdrawal symptoms.
As more people start to appreciate the health benefits of natural remedies, products like CBD oil become more popular among health-conscious consumers. CBD’s interaction with the endocannabinoid system helps reduce pain and inflammation, improves communication between nerve cells, and ensures proper muscle movements and contractions.
When shopping for CBD oil online , make sure to purchase your products from reputable brands that use organic hemp and regularly test their extracts in independent laboratories for CBD content and purity. Doing so will help you avoid the problem of “CBD oil doesn’t work for me.”
Do you use CBD as a muscle relaxant? Share your experience in the comments!
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Nina created CFAH.org following the birth of her second child. She was a science and math teacher for 6 years prior to becoming a parent — teaching in schools in White Plains, New York and later in Paterson, New Jersey.
CBD for muscle pain: Topicals and pills can help, but research is limited
Does CBD actually work for muscle pain? We explore what the research says and whether topics or oral supplements are better.
It’s touted as a sleep aid , stress killer and even a performance enhancer, but one of the big selling points of CBD is pain relief . Many have turned to it when other remedies haven’t worked or in addition to them.
But what about using CBD post-workout to help your muscles recover and reduce soreness? It’s a different than the chronic pain that most turn to CBD for, but some research suggests it could help replace hot/cold creams and over the counter anti-inflammatory meds.
There are hundreds of CBD products to choose from — both oral and topical — and the type you choose might make all the difference for your aches and pains.
How topical CBD works for muscle soreness and pain
The promise is simple — slather on a cream or gel with CBD where it hurts to relieve pain. But whether or not they actually work is another story.
Topical CBD has only been minimally studied, says Stuart Titus, CEO of Medical Marijuana, Inc. “Generally, there are also herbs or other ‘skin-penetrating’ ingredients in the final formulation of topical CBD products,” Titus says. “Other ingredients such as arnica or menthol are added in order to make product claims such as pain relief.”
In many cases, Titus explains, the concentration of CBD is often low in topical products, and the soothing sensation you feel is a product of the other ingredients. It’s important for consumers to review not only the ingredients list, but also the certificate of analysis, which reveals the total concentration of different cannabinoids in a product.
A CoA shows the weight percentage of CBD and other cannabinoids, including THC, so only then can you interpret the amount of CBD per “serving” of topical application, Titus says. Make sure the CoA is done by an independent, third-party lab, too.
Is CBD the cure to nagging sore muscles?
That said, high-quality, potent topical CBD products are thought to offer temporary relief from pain and soreness. There’s a high concentration of cannabinoid receptors in the skin, and when CBD is applied topically, it activates the endocannabinoid system through those receptors. CBD binds to the cannabinoid receptors in your epidermal and dermal skin, a process that results in alleviation of pain and inflammation. The anti-inflammatory effect is also why topical CBD is an effective treatment for some skin disorders.
Topical CBD only works where you use it — applying CBD cream to your legs when your abs are sore won’t do you any good. This can be a benefit or a drawback depending on your situation. For example, if you tend to experience full-body soreness, you’d have to use a lot of CBD cream for relief and that can get tedious and expensive.
Just remember, human skin is incredibly absorptive and it’ll absorb more than just the CBD in topical creams, gels and oils. Check the ingredients label to make sure you’re not applying something you’re allergic to or something that, if absorbed, can interact with medications. If you’re unsure, talk to your doctor.
How oral CBD works for muscle soreness and pain
While topical CBD only offers localized relief, oral CBD should have a systemic effect if the product is potent and reliable, Titus says. Oral CBD works just the same as topical CBD, but on a much larger scale, because it enters your bloodstream and can reach cannabinoid receptors throughout your entire body.
Oral CBD is believed to have strong anti-inflammatory effects, and as inflammation is the root of most pain, it makes perfect sense that ingesting CBD could offer relief from inflammation-related pain, including muscle aches and joint pain.
Keep in mind that the majority of studies on the effects of CBD on soreness and pain to date have been small-scale; most large studies have been conducted on animals, and those results may not translate to humans. There’s a long way to go until all the effects of CBD — taken orally or applied topically — are confirmed.
It’s also worth knowing that the Food and Drug Administration has yet to approve CBD as a food additive or dietary supplement. The agency has concerns about the safety of ingested CBD due to the lack of large-scale, long-term studies in humans, and has concluded that there isn’t enough evidence to declare CBD safe to consume. Regardless, oral CBD is widely available and legal in many states. Talk to a health professional about oral CBD if you’re interested in using it for muscle soreness or any other type of pain.
Should you use topical or oral CBD for soreness?
Whether you should use topical or oral CBD for pain and soreness depends on the source and intensity of your pain. Based on the above research and comments from Medical Marijuana’s Titus, here’s a look at common uses of CBD and which type will best help.
CBD for post-workout muscle soreness: A high-quality topical CBD should help treat temporary muscle soreness from workouts, Titus says. One recent study found that oral CBD can also reduce muscle soreness when taken immediately after a workout.
CBD for chronic muscle pain: Topical CBD can help during flare-ups, but you’re better off taking oral CBD for systemic pain. A combination can be especially helpful, Titus says. Ingesting CBD helps relieve pain from the inside out, while applying topical cream can quiet particularly tender areas.
CBD for joint pain: Topical CBD likely won’t reach cannabinoid receptors in your joints no matter how potent. Oral CBD is more likely to help people with pain from arthritis and other joint conditions. People with pain from fibromyalgia will also benefit more from ingestible CBD, Titus says.
CBD for general muscle tightness and tension: For general muscle tightness (such as tension in the neck from a long day at your desk), high-quality topical CBD can offer much-needed temporary relief.
Overall, the effectiveness of CBD varies depending on the product, the intended use and the person. Some people find CBD helpful while others don’t notice much of an effect, whether they take it orally or apply it topically. It might take a lot of research and experimentation until you find a CBD product that works for you.
Other ways to treat muscle soreness and pain
If you’re not ready to hop on the CBD bandwagon, try these other methods for relieving sore and tight muscles :
- Compression therapy
- Far-infrared therapy
- Percussive therapy
- Foam rolling
- Heat therapy
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.