Realize it or not, our back works hard for us every day—so if yours is acting up with aches and pains, it can take a serious toll on your overall well-being. On the bright side, there are plenty of solutions that aim to help ease pain and keep you in control of your day to day life. In addition to chiropractor-approved back stretches, exercises, and the best back massagers, a cream that incorporates hemp-derived CBD could be the key to some much needed relief.
When it comes to finding a high-quality CBD product, we’ve got your back—literally. We spoke with the experts and did extensive research to determine the best CBD creams for back pain. Below, find our picks and learn more about whether a CBD cream can help with back pain.
- Best cooling: Cornbread Hemp CBD Lotion: Menthol Formula
- Best formula: Aspen Green Muscle Relief Cooling Cream
- Best unscented: R+R Medicinals
- Best for inflammation: One Farm Turmeric Relief Cream
- Best warming: CBDfx Muscle & Joint Cream: Warming Formula
- Best value: Lazarus Naturals Full-Spectrum CBD Lotion
- Best broad-spectrum: Prima R+R Cream
Can CBD cream help with back pain?
There’s still a lot to learn when it comes to the effects of CBD, but according to Seema Bonney, M.D., founder and director of the Anti-Aging & Longevity Center of Philadelphia, early research is promising. “Cannabidiol—commonly referred to as CBD—is emerging as a novel, non-addictive way to help with pain, both orally and topically,” she says. It all begins with the endocannabinoid system, or ECS. Discovered in the 90s, the cellular-level communication network is also known as the “master regulatory system” due to its role in maintaining homeostasis. “The endocannabinoid system is involved in regulating many functions in the body including mood, appetite, pain perception, and metabolism,” Bonney explains. It also plays a role in our sleep.
While our understanding of how this works is “still evolving,” per Bonney, we do know a few basics. The ECS has two main components: cannabinoids and cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2). Our body produces its own cannabinoids (i.e., endocannabinoids) from certain organs and tissues, but they can also be ingested from key plants. These are known as phytocannabinoids. The binding process to receptors varies by cannabinoid type, but CBD is not thought to actually attach to receptors. Instead certain phytocannabinoids, like CBD, are thought to interact indirectly to regulate the ECS.
How does topical CBD work?
For topical CBD products, this means working with the ECS to help return our bodies to a place of homeostasis, which can be a helpful way of managing pain and inflammation at—or just below—the skin’s surface, per Bonney. “From animal studies, we know that CBD exerts its analgesic effects through modulation of the endocannabinoid, pain sensing, and inflammatory systems,” Bonney explains. For example, a study found that hemp-derived CBD cream has been shown to reduce joint swelling and discomfort in a mice rodent model1 (though more research is still needed to validate its effect on humans).
Another perk of a CBD cream is that it allows you to target specific body parts, unlike other CBD forms, such as capsules or tinctures that act systemically. Topicals like CBD cream, lotion, or balm are optimal for targeting the spots that hurt such as back pain, according to holistic physician Sony Sherpa, M.D..
Just note that hemp topical application of CBD won’t penetrate that deeply in the surface, so it won’t have an impact on other whole-body areas like mood, sleep, etc.
Types of hemp CBD cream
When shopping for any CBD product, you’ll come across a few common terms to describe the composition of the product and its compounds. Here’s a quick look at the three most common types of hemp extracts, two of which you’ll see on our list.
- Full-spectrum hemp: Full-spectrum products contain CBD and other compounds (cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, etc.), including 0.3% or less THC by dry weight, which is within the federal limit in the U.S. and won’t make you feel high. Researchers believe full-spectrum hemp benefits from the “entourage effect,” a theory that suggests the combination of compounds makes it a more powerful product than cannabidiol alone2.
- Broad-spectrum hemp: While broad-spectrum hemp contains other compounds, such as terpenes and flavonoids, it is filtered to contain 0.0% THC.
- CBD isolate: As the name suggests, aside from the singular cannabinoid CBD, CBD isolate doesn’t contain any additional compounds.
It’s important to remember that hemp CBD research and the marketplace are still relatively in the early days, so it’s critical to do your research before purchasing to ensure you’re getting the highest quality.
“Make sure your CBD product is made by a company that discloses the source of its hemp and can provide proof of third-party testing by an ISO-certified lab,” Bonney advises. “In functional medicine, we're focused on keeping our bodies free of toxins, so also ensure that your CBD product [falls within testing limits] of heavy metals, pesticides, and mold. This information can also be found on the certificate of analysis (or COA) from the lab test.”
How we picked:
We heeded our experts’ recommendations and focused on CBD brands that are transparent about where and how the hemp is sourced, with easy access to the results of its third-party lab testing results.
Our skin is our largest organ, so what you put on the outside of your body matters just as much as what you put inside it. Beyond screening each product for its hemp CBD quality, we made sure any additional ingredients in these creams are safe to use. We prioritized organic ingredients and formulas whenever possible.
Our list includes a variety of CBD potencies, with scented and unscented formulas, so you can find something to meet your preferences, regardless of your experience with CBD.
We scoured reviews to see what people do and don’t like about each formula, paying close attention to feedback from people with back pain.
Our picks of the best CBD creams for back pain:
Best cooling: Cornbread Hemp CBD Lotion: Menthol Formula
- All USDA certified organic ingredients
- Made from whole-flower hemp
- Cooling sensation from peppermint & tea tree
- No broad-spectrum option
Potency:500 mg per container
Cost per mg of CBD:$0.10
Organic:Yes, USDA certified organic
Cornbread Hemp makes high-quality products with USDA certified organic hemp grown in Kentucky. This is the only product on our list with an entirely organic ingredient list.
The peppermint and tea tree oils provide a cooling sensation on your aches and pains, while the jojoba and argan oils bring a touch of moisture and softness.
Reviewers rave about this cream’s fast-acting relief and smooth consistency. One person writes, “This lotion is great. Really helps with the lower back and foot pain. The menthol is a nice added bonus, and the pain doesn't keep me up at night as much anymore.”
Sustainability & packaging: Cornbread Hemp goes the extra mile to ensure its products are all USDA certified organic, which is not an easy feat. The product comes in a glass jar with a plastic cap, both of which should be curbside-recyclable.
Best formula: Aspen Green Muscle Relief Cooling Cream
- USDA certified organic
- Formulated by physicians
- Not a lot of reviews
Potency:1,000 mg per container
Cost per mg of CBD:$0.09
Organic:Yes, USDA certified organic
Aspen Green’s Muscle Relief Cooling Cream packs a big punch in a tiny 2-ounce container. This natural, non-toxic formula contains 1,000 mg of USDA certified organic full-spectrum hemp CBD, moisturizing organic jojoba seed oil, and cooling menthol. The ingredient list is short and sweet, and because it’s water-based it’s quick to absorb into the skin for fast-acting relief.
Reviewers praise the consistency of this cream and say they feel results quickly thanks to the high potency. One person with back pain writes, “I love the scent and feeling from the menthol peppermint combo they’ve got going on…this product is a top two pick for me as daily relief.”
Sustainability & packaging: All Aspen Green products use USDA certified organic, full-spectrum hemp CBD, farmed in Colorado. While you should be able to recycle the container, the brand doesn’t share any additional information around sustainability efforts or shipping practices.
Transparency: Aspen Green clearly displays a link to the COA on each product page. There’s also a QR code on each product’s packaging, which takes you directly to the lab results when scanned with a smartphone.
Best unscented: R+R Medicinals
- Free of scents or dyes
- Two potency options
- Only one size option
- Not organic hemp
Potency:1,000 or 2,000 mg per container
Cost per mg of CBD:$0.05
If you’re not a fan of scents or cooling menthol, this cream from R&R Medicinals is a great unscented pick with two potency options. The vegan formula includes 1,000 mg or 2,000 mg of full-spectrum hemp CBD—as well as soothing Arnica montana, calendula flower, and jojoba—for moisture infusion and pain relief.
Reviewers appreciate the consistency of this cream and the lack of added fragrances. One writes, “Goes on smooth and feels great. There's a slight ‘skunky’ smell the first few minutes it's on, but honestly I like the smell, and it's not strong enough for anyone else to notice.” If you do try this cream and end up deciding it’s not for you, the brand offers a 60-day money back guarantee.
Sustainability & packaging: R&R Medicinals uses USDA certified organic hemp in some of its CBD products, but unfortunately not this one. However, the brand also uses an energy-efficient supercritical CO2 extraction process to extract CBD, and its packaging should be curbside recyclable.
Transparency: You can find all of R&R’s lab testing results on a designated page on its website. R&R manufactures products in an FDA registered facility and is also registered with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
Best for inflammation: One Farm Turmeric Relief Cream
- Contains additional anti-inflammatory ingredients
- Includes arnica & eucalyptus for pain relief
- Not many reviews
Potency:425 mg per container
Cost per mg of CBD:$0.16
One Farm’s Turmeric Relief Cream combines organic full-spectrum hemp with additional botanical ingredients, such as turmeric, piperine, and cayenne, to encourage a healthy inflammatory response. The formula also includes soothing aloe, eucalyptus, and arnica, which has been studied for its natural pain management properties.
What’s not used in this product: phthalates, phosphates, artificial colorings, or fragrances. Unfortunately, there aren’t many reviews of this cream just yet, but the few reviews we read mention a smooth, non-greasy consistency and relief for sore muscles.
Sustainability & packaging: One Farm partners with independent, organic farms to source all its ingredients. The outer packaging on this cream should be curbside recyclable, but the brand doesn’t share specific instructions for how to dispose of it.
Transparency: The COA for this cream is not easy to find on the product page, but it’s available via the brand’s lab reports database. One Farm also shares information about where it sources its USDA certified organic on the website.
Best warming: CBDfx Muscle & Joint Cream: Warming Formula
- Two high-potency options
- No added fragrances
- Warming camphor
- Not many reviews yet
Potency:1,000 or 3,000 mg per container
Cost per mg of CBD:$0.08
Organic:Partial, organic hemp
Like the brand’s cooling cream, this warming formula includes 1,000 or 3,000 mg of organic hemp-derived CBD with white willow bark, tea tree oil, and caffeine to combat inflammation.
What makes this new formula stand out is the inclusion of warming camphor and an increased amount of cannabigerol (CBG), which early studies show may be a promising tool for encouraging more balanced inflammatory pathways in the body.
There aren’t too many reviews for this cream yet, but the initial comments are positive with regards to the effectiveness. Several people note that a little goes a long way, so this jar should last you a long time.
Sustainability & packaging: CBDfx sources hemp from organic farms in the United States (although it’s not specified where,) and uses an energy-efficient CO2 extraction process to draw out the CBD. The packaging is made from plastics and glass and should be curbside-recyclable.
Best value: Lazarus Naturals Full-Spectrum CBD Lotion
- Organic ingredients
- Leaping Bunny certified
- Several reviewers dislike the natural scent
- Availability is inconsistent
Potency:1,500 mg per container
Cost per mg of CBD:$0.02
Organic:Partial, Hemp is not organic
Lazarus Naturals’ Full-Spectrum CBD Lotion is a quality pick at a budget-friendly price. Made with organic ingredients, such as jojoba, sweet almond oil, mango, and full-spectrum hemp CBD, the formula does not contain menthol or added scents.
It gets glowing feedback from most reviewers, who say it glides on smoothly without leaving any residue or stickiness and does a great job at relieving pain. However, not everyone is a fan of its natural scent, and a few reviews say the brand isn’t consistently stocked with the scented options (in other words: snag one if and while you can).
Lazarus Naturals offers 60% off to veterans, people on long-term disability, and households that qualify as low-income.
Sustainability & packaging: Lazarus Naturals farms its own hemp in central Oregon. The brand is a certified B Corp, which means it is held to high business standards for social and environmental impact. It also claims to use recycled materials in all packaging and aims to be carbon neutral by 2030.
Transparency: You can access the COA for this lotion on the product page, or via QR code on the product’s packaging.
Best broad-spectrum: Prima R+R Cream
- Strong sustainability efforts
- Not the strongest potency
Potency:750 mg per container
Cost per mg of CBD:$0.05
If you’re hoping to avoid THC entirely, Prima’s R+R cream is a quality pick that uses broad-spectrum hemp and has a customer-loved floral scent. In addition to CBD, the formula includes natural oils such as tea tree, eucalyptus, lavender, and rosemary. The brand uses peppermint and menthol for a mild cooling sensation.
I (the writer) have tried this cream myself, and am a big fan of the smooth consistency and of the scent. I tend to prefer a higher-potency CBD product for back pain, but this one does offer some relief and feels buttery-soft on my skin.
Sustainability & packaging: Prima is dedicated to sustainability and has a slew of certifications to show for it. It’s a plastic and carbon neutral company, which means the brand offsets its use of plastic and carbon by removing twice as much plastic waste from the environment as is used across its packaging and operations. And while Prima is not USDA certified organic, the hemp is naturally grown using only organic principles as defined by the United States National Organic Program.
Transparency: Prima displays each product’s COA on the product page. The company is also a Certified B Corporation (which means it meets the highest standards of public transparency, environmental performance, and legal accountability) and has an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau.
How to choose:
Consider the below factors to determine which CBD cream is best for you.
When it comes to choosing the best cream for pain, CBD is just one part of the equation. The formulas often include moisturizing ingredients, such as shea or cocoa butter, or cooling agents (i.e. eucalyptus or menthol). Another option? Selecting ingredients like arnica and turmeric that support the body’s inflammatory response, which is directly tied to things like joint comfort, for example.
Be sure to make note of every ingredient used, and consider any allergies or sensitivities you may have, including sensitivity to certain scents.
Sherpa says the potency of a topical CBD product will determine how effective it is for most people, and can also impact how long those effects will last. “Generally, the higher the potency, the more focused relief the product can provide as it contains more active cannabidiol molecules, while lower potencies may be better for those with sensitive skin,” she explains.
Like many botanical extracts, people can respond differently to hemp CBD, and some may require higher doses than others to feel the effects. If you’re brand new to the world of CBD, consider starting with a lower potency and working your way up.
High-quality hemp CBD creams can be expensive, especially higher-potency products. If you’re new to CBD, you may consider starting with a lower potency product, which will likely be less expensive. However, if you know you prefer a higher potency cream, subscription discounts and assistance programs make it possible to find a high-quality product that won’t break the bank.
Many products on our list last a long time, so just be sure to manage your subscription settings accordingly. You may also want to double check whether the brand has a return policy or money-back guarantee (R+R Medicinals and Cornbread Hemp both do).
What are the side effects of CBD cream for pain?
CBD from the hemp plant, including in the form of topical products, is generally safe for use. Still, there are possible, mild side effects of CBD. These may include changes in appetite, drowsiness, and GI issues (e.g., looser stools). It’s wise to consult your healthcare provider before use, especially if your back pain is a symptom of a broader chronic condition. You should also avoid CBD if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.
How long does it take for CBD to work for back pain?
CBD’s effects vary from person to person and will also depend on the potency of the product you’re using. Most people feel the effects of CBD cream within 45 minutes, and most anecdotal evidence suggests that users experience the most consistent results when reapplying regularly.
How do you make back pain go away fast?
Beyond CBD, there are several back pain-relief methods worth trying. However, the speed in which you’ll find relief from back pain will vary depending on the root causes of your health issues.
For everyday aches and pains, you might try incorporating stretches into your daily routine, applying heat or ice to the tender area, or getting a massage or acupuncture (or try an at-home method!). If you’re unable to find relief from back pain at home, it may be time to speak to your doctor or a physical therapist.
If back pain is interfering with your day-to-day, a topical CBD cream could help provide the relief you’re seeking. For a real treat, opt for a CBD massage oil and either enlist the help of someone else or give yourself an at-home massage.
Beyond CBD, we have plenty of suggestions for natural remedies for back pain, including soothing stretches, at-home TENS units, and, of course, finding the right mattress. If your back pain persists, be sure to seek out the help of a medical professional who can help you get to the root of the problem.