does cbd oil topical oil work for pain

I Tried a CBD Topical for Chronic Pain. Here’s What Happened.

Hi, I’m Veronica. I live with myofascial pain syndrome and fibromyalgia. I’ve spent the past 10 years of my life living with chronic pain, specifically in my back, shoulders and neck. Four years ago, I had a breast reduction to help relieve some of the pain. I’ve spent more than a third of my life trying to figure out what type of pain management works and doesn’t work for me.

That’s me with my dog. His name is Potato.

All About CBD Topicals

There are a lot of options when it comes to treating chronic pain and I’ve tried plenty of them. One thing I hadn’t really tried before was a CBD topical. I’ve tried over the counter topicals like Bengay and Biofreeze, but never one with CBD in it.

CBD or cannabidoil is a type of cannabinoid found in cannabis. CBD is non-psychoactive, and legal in the U.S. when derived from the hemp plant. Despite its legal status, it is only FDA-approved for treating rare types of epilepsy, though a growing body of research suggests it can help anxiety, insomnia and chronic pain.

There are many different ways to use CBD. I recently started taking CBD oil orally to help with pain at night but wanted a daytime option too. I was curious if CBD topical would work for my daily life.

According to Michele Ross, Ph.D., a neuroscientist and cannabis expert who writes for The Mighty, CBD topicals are a great option for someone like me. “CBD topicals can provide pain relief without having to ingest CBD, which is great for someone that might be on medications that might interact with CBD or is just a fast metabolizer of CBD, like me,” Dr. Ross explained. “CBD is great for arthritis, joint pain, back pain, tension headaches, sports injuries, fibromyalgia, pelvic pain, and so much more.”

As someone who sits at a desk staring at a screen all day (in a chair that’s not meant for someone with chronic pain I might add), I need something that works long-term and has a pretty significant effect. Ross said if you use a CBD topical regularly, you’ll have a better chance at finding pain relief. She added:

While there is some immediate pain relief, the biggest win is consistent, daily use. CBD is anti-inflammatory, and over time, it can help reduce the source of the pain. For the biggest benefit, I suggest patients use both CBD topicals and CBD tinctures so it’s working on pain on the outside and the inside.

But just like anything else, a CBD topical isn’t a guarantee. So why could it potentially not work for me? Ross pointed to three different options:

The dosage in the topical could be too low.

There’s something weird going on with the ingredients, such as it lacking what the topical needs to actually get into my muscles.

My pain is too severe for CBD alone. (She recommended trying one with THC if that’s the case.)

But what about all those naysayers who say CBD is bad and will have a negative affect on me? Should I be worried? The short answer is no, according to Ross:

CBD topicals won’t get into your bloodstream, so they are much safer to take than other products. There’s no side effects or potential drug interactions when taking CBD topicals. Any negative reactions to CBD topicals come from the other ingredients in them, like artificial dyes or fragrances.

The Experiment

I decided if I was going to try this, then I had to commit. The plan was to use the product whenever I have neck pain, regardless of what I’m doing. That means I’ll use it whenever I have a flare-up, am overly sore or just in need of some relief. That’s the life of someone who lives with chronic pain: it’s hard to find a moment when I don’t need some sort of help.

I’ll be using a topical CBD ointment from Kushly that contains menthol. I’ll be looking to see if the product reduces my pain and improves my mobility throughout the day. I didn’t pick menthol specifically; it’s just something Kushly uses in its products. Be careful if you use topicals containing menthol, Ross cautioned.

“[Menthol] can provide cooling relief, but it can also burn your eyes if you accidentally touch your face before washing your hands,” she said. “So please don’t put a CBD topical with menthol in it near your eyes, nose, mouth, vagina, or rectum.”

The plan is to try and use it consistently for a week. I’m not sure if a week will be enough, but I want to see if there’s any improvement after a week’s time. If there is, then I’ll be more confident using it long-term.

How It Went

Day 1: It feels like any other topical. I used it while I was working. I was sitting in a strange position for over an hour at my desk and didn’t even realize it until it was too late. My neck was killing me, so it felt like a good time to try it. It was helpful, but nothing special compared to something cheaper I could buy at Target.

Day 2: I woke up with neck and shoulder pain. I probably slept weird, I tend to do that sometimes. I find a position that’s comfortable, but the position ends up hurting me the next day. I used the topical after I showered. Well, not exactly after. I’ve had problems with putting on topicals after showers and I’ve ended up burning myself. I waited a little bit, then used it.

It felt like it lasted longer than other topical and was different than the day before. It wasn’t a crazy different though. I wasn’t singing my praises to the CBD gods or anything like that. But it was pretty cool to get some relief from a topical instead of something like pain medication.

Day 3: No change from yesterday. I used it while working. I might have been so focused on my deadline that I didn’t take the time to realize that I should stop and think if the topical was doing anything for me. But that might say something itself.

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Day 4: OK, I actually think there might be something to this whole CBD topical thing. There’s something about it that feels different compared to other topicals. It feels like it actually gets into my muscles rather than just sitting on top. Plus, it lasted awhile today. I applied it in the morning and by the afternoon, I still felt pretty good. Pessimistic me would probably just say it was a coincidence, but I actually don’t think it was. Interesting.

Day 5: Hi, my name is Veronica and I really like CBD topicals. It benefits me a lot. I can say that with some confidence now.

I actually put on more today than I probably should have and it made a giant mess. (See photo below.) I should also point out I’ve been noticing it tends to stick to me for longer than other topicals. Hours after having putting it on, I touched my skin and it felt sticky. It’s not like an “I just put this on” sticky. It’s more of like an “Oh, that’s still kind of there” sticky. Makes it hard to wear my hair down.

Day 6 and Day 7: I don’t really notice much, but I think it’s because I’ve just incorporated this into my routine now. I didn’t think twice when using it this weekend. I put it in my purse when I went to the bar and used it like I would any other topical. Except now, this topical is the one I’m drawn to. It’s the one that I want to keep with me whereas my previous topicals are now just backups.

My Final Thoughts

All in all, I would recommend this product. CBD works for me, so I’m not surprised I like using it in topical form. It gets into my muscles more and gives me some relief. Is it the best thing ever worth stopping all my medications to use it? Um, no. Not at all. However, it’s great to keep in my back pocket and has become part of my regularly used products. It joins my muscle relaxers, heating pad and CBD oil. They make a great team.

That being said, there is a downside to this. CBD is expensive in general, and this topical is no exception. At $74.50, I’m trying to figure out how I’m going to make this work. Though the price is fairly standard compared to other CBD products, it’s eight times more expensive than the non-CBD topicals I’d buy at the drug store. It would help if my insurance would cover it, but of course, insurance companies don’t cover over-the-counter CBD products yet. That’s a negative for sure, but has nothing to do with the topical itself and more to do the federal government’s classification of cannabis.

The only other downside is the effort. Dr. Ross pointed out that CBD topicals need to be reapplied about every three to four hours. It takes a lot of effort to apply a topical in general. I would start to procrastinate, telling myself to put it on, but dreading to lift my arms and stretch to apply it. I wish it came in a spray form or something. Once I had it on, I was happy I put the effort in.

There are also a few mistakes that I made. I think I focused too much on my neck. I didn’t even try it on my back because it is only third on my list of body parts that hurt. (One is my neck and two are my shoulders.)

If you want to use topicals, Ross advises making sure you cover all pain areas. “The most common mistakes when using CBD topicals are not using enough topical to cover the entire area of pain, not massaging it in/helping it absorb so it just rubs off on your clothes and not using it often enough,” she said. I was guilty of all of that.

I plan on using this in the future, so long as I can afford it. I think it’s worth the price, but I worry about spending so much money on just one aspect of my care. One thing’s for sure though: CBD topicals do benefit chronic pain and they do provide more than your average, run of the mill topical.

If you are interested in trying Kushly’s CBD topical, you can buy it here.

How Long Does it Take For CBD To Work?

How long does it take for CBD oil to work, and how long does it last? CBD offers a wide range of health benefits, from blocking pain to alleviating anxiety.

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CBD (cannabidiol) offers some of its benefits immediately (about 15 to 45 minutes after taking it) — other benefits require much more time, such as several days or weeks.

In this article, we’ll break down all the factors that affect how long it takes for CBD oil to work for various conditions.

You’ll learn how CBD is absorbed, how to make CBD act faster, and what you should expect while using CBD for some of the more challenging symptoms like chronic pain.

Table of Contents

CBD Absorption: How The Type of CBD Product Affects The Onset

Onset is a term used to describe the amount of time it takes for a compound to take effect.

Most oral supplements require at least 30 minutes to work because they need to be absorbed through the digestive tract first. Inhalation is faster because the active ingredient travels directly into the bloodstream through the lungs.

This is due to the difference in bioavailability between these different forms of administration.

In layman’s terms, bioavailability is the term used to describe how efficiently a substance is absorbed when it enters the body.

The higher the bioavailability, the faster a substance will be absorbed, and the more prominent the effects will be.

Substances with a low bioavailability will take longer and feel weaker.

Let’s compare the main forms of administration, going from the fastest onset to the slowest:

  • Inhalation (vaping and smoking CBD)
  • Sublingual (CBD oil absorbed under the tongue)
  • Oralconsumption (CBD eaten as an oil, capsule, gummy, or other edible)
  • Topical (fast onset but only applies to the skin and muscles)
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1. CBD Inhalation: Fast Onset Time

There are a few ways to inhale CBD — the most common are CBD vapes and smokable hemp flowers (including hemp cigarettes, dry herb vapes, and pre-rolls).

Inhalation is the most bioavailable form of CBD on this list. It hits the fastest (within about 5 minutes), feels the strongest, but doesn’t last as long as other forms of administration.

The general timeline for inhaled CBD is as follows:

  • Onset time — first effects felt within 5 minutes
  • Peak effects — maximum effects reached around 20 minutes
  • Total duration — 2 or 3 hours in total

When CBD is inhaled as vapor or smoke, it’s absorbed through the alveoli in the lungs. This makes for almost immediate onset of effects because the CBD is absorbed directly into the bloodstream (no digestion or first-pass metabolism).

You can expect noticeable effects within five to 15 minutes of taking a hit of CBD from a vape. However, although the onset of effects is fast, the longevity isn’t, wearing off after only an hour and a half.

CBD vape pens are fantastic if you require immediate pain relief, but if you’re looking for something to keep you going all day, keep in mind you’ll be hitting the vape every one to two hours.

It’s recommended to combine vapeable CBD with another form for the best balance between fast-acting effects and sustained relief.

2. Sublingual CBD (CBD Oil Under the Tongue): Moderate Onset Time

CBD oil has relatively high bioavailability when used sublingually. This means holding the oil under your tongue for a minute or two before swallowing it. The CBD absorbs directly into the bloodstream through a network of tiny capillaries close to the surface.

Using this method, you can feel the effects of CBD far more quickly than gummies, capsules, and other edibles.

The general timeline for sublingual CBD is as follows:

  • Onset time — first effects felt within 20 minutes
  • Peak effects — maximum effects reached around 1 hour
  • Total duration — 3 to 5 hours in total

2. CBD Edibles (Gummies & Capsules): Slow Onset Time

Oral CBD, such as gummies and capsules that come in pill-form and softgels are similar in terms of bioavailability. This is because both formats must pass through the digestive tract to be absorbed.

Edibles and capsules don’t have a quick onset as the sublingually absorbed CBD oil. However, the effects may last longer.

The general timeline for oral CBD is as follows:

  • Onset time — first effects felt between 1 and 1.5 hours
  • Peak effects — maximum effects reached around 2 hours
  • Total duration — 5 to 8 hours in total

4. CBD Topicals: Fast Local Onset

CBD topicals are completely different from the other consumption formats on this list.

They aren’t ingested, sublingually absorbed, or inhaled. Instead, they are applied to the skin, where they can be dermally absorbed (absorbed through the skin).

Topical CBD takes just a few minutes to start exerting its effects, but it will only affect the area it’s applied to directly. When using topicals for the skin, the effects are very quick (around 10 minutes or less), but the deeper the source of the issue, the longer it takes to work.

For example, if using topicals to alleviate joint pain from osteoarthritis (which originates from inside the joint), you may have to wait 30 minutes to an hour to feel the effects. Joint pain from rheumatoid arthritis is felt more quickly (20–45 minutes) because the source of the pain is closer to the surface of the skin.

The longevity of effects will also depend on the specific product and the skin condition. It’s difficult to provide a specific timeframe because it depends on the other ingredients in the formula. Waxy topicals tend to last longer (3 or 6 hours), while more cream-based topicals fade out slower (between 2 and 3 hours).

The general timeline for topical CBD is as follows:

  • Onset time — first effects felt between 20 and 60 minutes
  • Peak effects — maximum effects reached around 30 to 90 minutes
  • Total duration — 2 to 6 hours in total

CBD Onset Time For Specific Conditions

The time it takes for CBD oil to work can depend on the condition it’s used for. CBD has the potential to reduce pain, inflammation, and mental health problems. The onset times for these different treatments can vary.

It’s also important to note that everyone reacts differently to CBD and other cannabinoids. The time it takes for CBD to work for one person can change dramatically to another, so take these onset times with a pinch of salt. You may notice effects sooner or later than these timeframes.

In general, we can break down the onset time for CBD into two categories:

  1. Acute Effects — this refers to the immediate effects of CBD from a single dose. This includes effects like pain relief, anxiety relief, or sedative effects.
  2. Chronic Effects — this refers to the effects of CBD that develop over repeated doses. These effects happen gradually as CBD promotes healing over several days, weeks, or months.

How Long Does it Take for CBD Oil to Work for Joint Pain?

The acute effects of CBD usually kick in immediately, depending on the type of CBD you’re using. For oils, expect results in about 15 or 20 minutes (sublingual administration).

The long-term effects should start to kick in after around five days of use. These effects involve a gradual reduction in pain, improvement in joint mobility, and reduction in swelling.

Different types of joint pain and the severity of the condition can both affect the amount of time it takes CBD to work.

In general, you can expect faster acute effects from CBD for rheumatoid arthritis (1–2 hours) but slower healing of the joint (2 weeks of consistent use or longer).

For osteoarthritis, it’s the opposite — acute effects take longer, but you’ll notice a general improvement in the condition much sooner (one or two weeks).

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How Long Does it Take for CBD Oil to Work for Sleep?

The effects of CBD on sleep are very fast — one dose is enough for most people to feel the improvements.

However, CBD works differently for everyone. Some people report that CBD helps induce sleep dramatically from one dose, while others report having to use CBD for a few days before noticing many benefits.

You can expect to notice sleepiness within one to two hours of consuming CBD oil before bed.

The effective dose of CBD for sleep sits between 3 and 8 mg per 100 pounds of body weight. If the CBD isn’t taking effect, a higher dose may be needed. You can expect to notice the sleep-inducing effects to kick in around an hour after CBD oil is applied sublingually.

When using CBD oil for sleep, it’s important to get relaxed and consume the oil one to two hours before you plan on sleeping. This allows your body to relax fully and prepare for sleep. Practicing relaxation before bed alongside taking CBD is key for seeing results.

How Long Does it Take for CBD Oil to Work for Anxiety?

The fast-acting anti-anxiety effects of CBD can be noticed in as little as five minutes after the first dose when inhaled and about 60 minutes if using CBD orally.

CBD vape pens are the best option for acute anxiety — such as social anxiety or panic attacks — because the effects appear almost instantly (within about 5 minutes).

Sublingually absorbed CBD oils and tinctures are perfect for treating anxiety on a daily or recurring basis. Over the course of several days, weeks, or months, you should start to notice the intensity of your anxiety symptoms decreasing as well.

How Long Does it Take for CBD Oil to Work for Skin Irritation?

The best way to treat skin irritation using CBD is by using topicals. Creams, balms, and roll-ons may help reduce swelling, ease irritation, and reduce localized pain.

You should notice skin irritation start to reside within 20 minutes to one hour after the topical is applied to the skin.

However, CBD topicals may not work for all skin conditions, and for some, an oral method of consumption is required alongside the topical to fight the irritation from two angles.

How Long Does it Take For CBD Oil To Work For Pain

CBD works differently for chronic pain (long-term, persistent pain) than it does for acute pain (pain that occurred suddenly due to injury).

For acute pain, the benefits are felt immediately from one dose. You just have to wait the standard amount of time for the form of administration you’re using (fast onset for vapes, slower onset for oils and edibles).

Chronic pain can take longer to benefit from CBD. You may notice some immediate improvement right away, but the more significant, long-lasting pain relief can take several days or weeks of consistent use.

CBD can take longer for chronic pain because it needs to heal the underlying cause of the pain — such as chronic inflammation, scar tissue, or muscle tension.

Onset Times For CBD Extracts

There are three main types of CBD extract — full-spectrum, isolate, and broad-spectrum.

Each one differs in the make-up of their cannabinoid profiles. Some extracts contain CBD only, some contain a full cannabinoid profile similar to the raw plant, and others contain a full cannabinoid profile minus any THC (tetrahydrocannabinol).

All of these other compounds (especially the cannabinoids and terpenes) can affect the amount of time it takes for CBD to work.

1. CBD Isolate: Slower Onset

CBD isolate is a pure extract of CBD — nothing else. No other cannabinoids, terpenes, or any other hemp derivatives.

An isolate has a slightly different onset experience than other extract types because of this lack of other ingredients.

Some of the other compounds in broad-spectrum or full-spectrum products improve the bioavailability of CBD and therefore have a faster effect. This is down to something called the entourage effect [1].

2. Broad-Spectrum CBD: Moderate Onset

Broad-spectrum CBD contains cannabidiol as well as all of the other naturally-occurring cannabinoids and terpenes found in hemp except for THC.

Broad-spectrum extracts are great for people that want to benefit from the entourage effect to some degree but don’t want to consume any THC due to sensitivity or drug screening issues.

Broad-spectrum CBD is considered to have a faster onset time than CBD isolate but slower than full-spectrum. The difference here is very subtle — most people won’t be able to tell the difference.

However, there is a relatively big jump in terms of potency when you move from CBD isolate to broad-spectrum, followed by another jump to full-spectrum products.

3. Full-Spectrum CBD: Faster Onset

Full-spectrum extracts that contain high concentrations of terpenes are going to have the fastest onset of effects overall. Many of the terpenes in cannabis work to improve absorption of other active ingredients — providing faster and longer-lasting benefits.

This type of CBD extract contains THC — but only in trace amounts.

This amount of THC is not enough to get “high” from, but the trace amount may show up on drug screening for regular users.

Bottom Line: How Long Does it Take for CBD Oil to Work?

The time it takes for CBD to work is affected by a variety of factors. The type of CBD used and the consumption format used will affect how long it takes to work. Inhalation is the fastest, followed by sublingual consumption with CBD oil and edibles or other oral forms of CBD taking the longest.

The condition you’re aiming to support, and the severity of symptoms can affect the amount of time you need to wait for CBD to take effect as well. More severe or chronic conditions take the longest, with milder or more acute symptoms requiring less time to clear up.