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For those among us living with chronic pain, or even just intermittent pain from things like working out or poor posture, any and all relief is welcome. I’ve personally tried everything from laying on the hardwood floor, to using a foam roller, to acupuncture, to help my sore back feel better.

Of course, the best treatments for pain tend to be preventative – correct your posture, exercise your core, upgrade your mattress – but when you’re dealing with pain, hindsight doesn’t help all that much.

So, of course, it would be best to address pain before it happens. But once it does, what are your options?

Generally speaking, pain relief can be broken down into broad categories:

  • Taking analgesics, like Advil (or CBD)
  • Restorative medicine, like massage and acupuncture
  • Stretching and exercise, like yoga or using a foam roller

Each have their benefits, and the best solution is probably a combination of the three.

But the type of pain you have dictates the best way to treat and address it.

For example, muscle pain should be treated differently from neuropathic pain, or from a cut or injury.

So that means, to know the best way to relieve your pain, we first need to know what causes it.

What is pain, and what causes it?

In a nutshell, pain is the word we use to describe uncomfortable or unpleasant feelings resulting from stimulation of the nervous system.

It’s your body’s natural response to stimuli that are potentially dangerous or harmful – it’s your body telling you, “hey, don’t do that!” when you put your hand too close to the burner on the stove.  

So that means that, despite its unpleasantness, pain is helpful. It’s a useful signal that your brain uses to keep you safe.

The causes of pain are too many to list, but generally speaking they fall into one of a few buckets:

  • Nociceptive pain – Caused by nerve stimulation, often broken down into categories: thermal (hot or cold), mechanical (tearing, cutting), and chemical (like the burn from iodine in a cut). Inflammation and muscle pain are examples of Nociceptive pain.
  • Neuropathic pain – Caused by damage to, or disease of, the nervous system. An example you’re probably familiar with is the tingling, uncomfy sensation of hitting your funny bone.
  • Nociplastic pain­ – Essentially the same as nociceptive pain, but without any real tissue damage – seen most commonly in fibromyalgia patients.
  • Psychogenic pain – Caused by mental, emotional or behavioral factors. There is some stigma around psychogenic pain, with detractors claiming that pain stemming from non-physical sources isn’t “real.” But most researchers agree that, regardless of the source, if one is experiencing pain, it’s real.

So we know the different types of pain and what causes them. But for the purposes of this article, we’ll focus primarily on nociceptive pain, since that’s the kind of pain that inflammation pertains to.

What is CBD?

Before we discuss how CBD may be able to help with pain and inflammation, it’s helpful to know what it is first.

CBD is a compound, known as a cannabinoid, that interacts with certain systems in your body to help regulate functions like memory, pain, tiredness, and lots more.

The other most prominent and well-known cannabinoid is, of course, THC. But despite being similar compounds, CBD and THC have vastly different properties – most notably, the fact that CBD does not get you high, whereas THC does.

Does CBD help with inflammation?

A lot of the research surrounding CBD for pain has to do with inflammation, and there’s good reason for that: a 2016 study noted that topical CBD was effective in reducing inflammation and overall pain in animal models.

While the same study has yet to be repeated on humans, most animals share the same endocannabinoid system that we do, and there’s no reason to think that the same effects would not apply to humans.

This is fantastic news for anyone suffering from regular inflammation, be it due to arthritis, exercise, or repetitive strain.

Reducing inflammation necessarily reduces the pain associated with it, which leads us into our next point…

Can CBD reduce pain?

Since we know that CBD has the potential to reduce inflammation, we know it might reduce pain associated with inflammation as well.

In the same study mentioned above, CBD not only reduced inflammation itself, but also the pain that comes along with it.

But for other types of pain, there may be promise as well: in a 2018 study, researchers noted that cannabinoids were “effective in reducing chronic neuropathic pain.”

In fact, even the National Cancer Institute has pointed to CBD’s effectiveness for pain relief in cancer patients – their website references a study, which found that an extract containing CBD, when taken orally, was “was efficacious for pain relief in advanced cancer patients”.

What’s more, many people who take CBD for pain relief also experience other quality-of-life improvements, like better sleep, reduced anxiety, and improved appetite.

Edibles vs oils vs topicals

So let’s say you’ve decided to address inflammation and pain with CBD.

What kind of product should you choose?

It all depends on what you want it to do.

Different types of CBD products have different properties, most notably the difference in bioavailability. Bioavailability is a term that describes the total amount of active ingredient that will actually make it into your bloodstream. To put it another way, when you take CBD, your bloodstream doesn’t absorb 100% of it. So if you take 10mg of CBD, how much actually gets to work in your body varies depending on how you took it.

For example, eating an edible, like a CBD gummy, has an absorption rate or bioavailability of between 6-15%. Taking CBD sublingually, like you would with an oil or tincture, has an absorption rate of between 15-30%. And topical CBD, meaning applied to the skin like with a lotion or cream, has bioavailability of up 45%.

Using the example of 10mg of CBD, let’s see how much your body would absorb depending on how you took it:

  • 10mg oral (eaten): 0.6-1.5mg absorbed
  • 10mg sublingual (under the tongue): 1.5-3mg absorbed
  • 10mg topical (on the skin): up to 4.5mg absorbed

So the way you consume your CBD changes how effective it is.

But more specifically, depending on the type of inflammation you want to address, different types of CBD might be more or less effective.

For example, inflammation from muscle soreness or over-exertion is probably best addressed with a topical application, because you can centralize and target the CBD to exactly where it’s needed.

If you have chronic inflammation, like arthritis, you might be better off using a consistent, regular internal dose in the form of a gummy. (You may also want to supplement its effects by using a topical as well.)

If you haven’t found a gummy that you enjoy, or simply prefer sublingual delivery to maximize your absorbed CBD, oils and tinctures are the way to go.

Best CBD products for inflammation and pain

If you’ve decided to try CBD for your inflammation, any product with a healthy serving of CBD is likely to help you out. But we’ve compiled some of our star products that also include other ingredients reported to help with inflammation – like turmeric and menthol. We stand by all of the products we offer, but here are our top picks for CBD for inflammation:

CBD Oils + Tinctures for Inflammation

CBD Oil Turmeric Rosemary Extract 1000mg – This 1000mg CBD oil from Kanabia also includes supercritical C02 rosemary and turmeric extracts – two compounds known for their potential to reduce inflammation. Made with full-spectrum CBD extract for maximum effect.

CBD Drops Relief 720mg – from Plant People, this full-spectrum CBD tincture contains lots of great ingredients reported to help with inflammation, like turmeric, black pepper and ginger – along with 720mg of powerful CBD extract.

CBD Oil Extract Signature 500mg – Bluebird Botanicals’ Signature CBD oil is made with 500mg of full-spectrum, whole-plant extract, which contains naturally occurring cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, aldehydes, ketones, vitamins, trace minerals, omega fatty acids, protein, and more. Along with these powerful hemp ingredients, it also contains frankincense and black cumin oil, both of which are reported to help reduce inflammation.

CBD creams, salves and balms

CBD Rapid Cooling Cream 750mg – Medterra’s Rapid Cooling Cream is ideal for sore muscles, because it contains soothing menthol, arnica, rosemary, ginger root, and lots more – not to mention 750mg of pure CBD. It comes in an easy-to-dispense pump bottle, and it’s small enough to fit in your gym bag. A no-brainer.

CBD Root Butter Muscle Rub 500mg – 500mg full-spectrum CBD. Mango butter. Shea butter. Coconut oil. Almond oil. Jojoba oil. Vitamin E. Rosemary Essential Oil. Lavender essential oil. Everything your skin and muscles need to feel better. Need we say more?

CBD Salve Plant Balm 420mg – Plant People’s plant balm soothing body salve contains 420mg (wink wink) of CBD, along with camphor and other soothing ingredients. Portable, affordable, powerful – a great choice for those who want to try out CBD for inflammation without breaking the bank.

CBD edibles, gummies and capsules

Turmeric Spirulina CBD Gummies 300mg 60ct – Give your body a potent shot of two nutrient dense superfoods that have been combined with 5mg of broad spectrum CBD per gummy. Made with turmeric and spirulina for extra nutrition.

CBD Recover Gel Caps 1000mg 30ct – For powerful and portable, you can’t beat this 1000mg package of CBD Recover gelcaps from Social CBD. Along with loads of hemp-derived CBD, they also contain anti-inflammatory ingredients like black pepper and turmeric.