Updated on August 26, 2020.
Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
A variety of conditions and triggers can make your muscles feel sore or stiff. When this happens, you can use cannabidiol (CBD) medicine to relieve the tension. Regardless of your muscle tension’s source, CBD can help you lessen the tightness.
How Does CBD Work?
CBD is one of the two main cannabinoids in the marijuana plant. These compounds work with your body to regulate its functions and relieve symptoms. Scientists consider them the source of marijuana’s health benefits. Medical cannabis producers create different cannabinoid formulas to relieve specific symptoms. They can extract CBD from marijuana or hemp plants to produce oil and other types of medication.
Thanks to its multiple benefits and lack of a “high,” CBD is now a popular remedy for all kinds of conditions and symptoms. You can find hemp-based CBD on the shelves of natural health stores and pharmacies across the United States. Patients who participate in a medical marijuana program typically buy marijuana-derived CBD from dispensaries in the form of oils, topical treatments, pills and more.
Sources of Muscle Tension
Patients use CBD to address muscle tension and pain caused by:
Stress: In people with and without anxiety disorders, stress can cause muscles to become tense. Tension from stress often happens in the neck and back muscles.
Exercise/Overexertion: Physical activity keeps our bodies healthy, but it can also cause muscle tension. Working your muscles to overexertion can make them feel sore afterward.
Injury: Injured muscles can also feel sore and tense during recovery. It happens as a response to pain and inflammation, and your muscles can feel tense after most of the pain goes away.
Spasticity: Spasticity causes the muscles to contract, leading to pain and stiffness. Neurologic diseases that impact the spinal cord like multiple sclerosis can have spasticity as a symptom.
CBD works to relieve muscle tension that comes from any of these sources.
CBD for Stress Tension
When stress makes your muscles feel tight, you can use CBD to reduce your stress and relax your muscles. As we discussed in our guide to anxiety disorders, medical marijuana items like CBD lower your cortisol levels. Cortisol controls how much stress you feel — you feel less stressed when you have lower levels of cortisol. CBD can also address conditions that cause feelings of stress like anxiety and panic disorders.
If you deal with stress-related muscle tension, you could try getting a CBD massage. Cannabis massages that use THC and CBD enhance the benefits of massage therapy. During a CBD massage, the massage therapist rubs a topical treatment into your skin. As they massage your neck and back, your skin and muscles absorb the CBD in the topical. The CBD relaxes your muscles, reduces inflammation, relieves pain and helps you feel less stressed.
Using CBD After Your Workout
Many athletes and people looking to improve their health experience delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). When you have DOMS, you feel pain and discomfort 24 to 48 hours after intense physical activity. People of any fitness level deal with DOMS, including professional athletes and bodybuilders. This condition does not cause any long-term harm, but it can be extremely uncomfortable.
Taking CBD after exercise may reduce the length of DOMS and help you recover in a shorter time. DOMS happens when you get small tears in the worked muscle. These tears don’t cause danger, but your body triggers inflammation in the area to protect the tissue. In turn, the inflammation contributes to your pain. CBD regulates your pain and inflammation responses. When you use a CBD treatment, it relieves these symptoms.
In addition to treating DOMS, CBD enhances your workout. Marijuana products like CBD boost your metabolism to help you burn fat. They can also improve your mood and energy to give you the motivation to build muscle.
CBD as a Treatment for Injury or Spasticity
When you have a muscle injury, you feel pain for similar reasons you do when you have DOMS. Your body sends pain signals and triggers inflammation as a protective response. CBD can regulate these functions, so you feel less soreness and tightness while you recover.
If you have a disorder like multiple sclerosis that causes spasticity, CBD lets you enhance your body’s ability to manage the symptom. Research suggests that people with spasticity have different levels of cannabinoids in their bodies than people without spasticity — they have higher amounts of anandamide, a cannabinoid created by the body that manages inflammation and pain. Since CBD lets your body retain more anandamide, your muscles can use the extra cannabinoids to become less tense.
How to Use CBD for Muscle Tension
A wide range of CBD products can help you relieve muscle tension. The following types of medicine work best for sore muscles:
Topical Treatments: CBD creams, balms and salves absorb into your muscles to administer medication to the tense area. Topicals let the full dose of CBD reach the affected muscles. Other treatments require the medicine to travel through your bloodstream before getting to your muscles. A topical treatment helps when you want to focus on your tension instead of multiple symptoms.
Inhaled Medication: Smoking, vaping and using a CBD inhaler provide fast relief. Inhaling CBD lets it enter your bloodstream without going through your digestive system first. As a result, you feel the effects within minutes.
CBD Oils and Tinctures: CBD-infused oils can work as topical, ingestible or sublingual treatments. You can rub CBD oil into your muscles, place it under your tongue or add it to food.
Where to Get Medical-Grade CBD
For the best muscle tension relief, we recommend getting CBD medicine from a dispensary. Adults over 21 can find CBD products at recreational dispensaries that contain more CBD than CBD supplements. If you have an eligible condition under your state’s medical marijuana program, you can also find CBD at a medical dispensary.
No matter where you choose to get your CBD medicine, a marijuana-trained doctor can help you find the best option. They understand how cannabinoids work to relieve symptoms like muscle tension.