How does CBD affect pain?

How does CBD affect pain?

Summary points:

  • There are many different types of pain, including back pain, chronic pain, arthritis and joint pain.
  • Studies show that CBD can support the body in repairing damaged cells and maintaining a balanced internal state.
  • CBD can also affect how we perceive pain through the nervous system and decrease pain sensitivity.

Depending on how you use CBD oil, it can have a wide variety of benefits. Topical CBD is becoming an increasingly popular option for people suffering from pain, as it can be applied directly to where it's needed.

While many pain management options are limited or involve addictive drugs, CBD offers an all-natural solution that won't cause dependency in its users.

What is pain?

The International Association for the Study of Pain defines pain as "an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with, or resembling that associated with, actual or potential tissue damage."

When cells in the body detect tissue damage, they signal to the brain through the nervous system that something may be wrong. The brain translates this into the sensation of pain, so we react by avoiding whatever is causing it. For instance, touching a hot surface will cause us to feel pain and immediately contract our muscles as we pull away from the surface. This is an example of acute pain, which arises quickly in response to a specific injury.

On the other hand, a 2016 analysis shows that 43% of the UK population lives with chronic pain. This type of pain typically lasts longer than six months and is caused by underlying issues.

What is CBD?

CBD, or cannabidiol, is one of about 140 cannabinoids found in the Cannabis sativa plant. It is non-intoxicating, meaning it won't make you “high” or impair cognitive functioning. CBD has been shown to help support many health conditions, including pain.

You can legally buy and consume CBD in the UK as long as its THC (the intoxicating component of cannabis) levels are below 0.3%. All Naturecan CBD products contain non-detectable levels of THC; you can read about our CBD extraction process here.

How does CBD work?

CBD influences the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is a complex cell-signalling network consisting of three main components:

- Endocannabinoids
- Enzymes
- Cannabinoid receptors

Endocannabinoids are neurotransmitter molecules that bind to cannabinoid receptors in our central nervous system, peripheral nervous system, and immune cells.

These receptors are attached to specific cells in the body. Endocannabinoids bind to them and transmit signals from the brain.

The cells then respond to these signals by acting on the information relayed. In the event of an injury, endocannabinoids would target receptors in the affected area to relieve pain as well as nearby immune cells to ease inflammation and start the healing process.

Once the endocannabinoids have done their job, the body produces enzymes to break them down. Our ECS regulates several vital body functions through this process.

Unfortunately, if our endocannabinoid levels are low, our ECS struggles to communicate and keep a balance between different systems in the body.

There are many ways to increase endocannabinoid levels, such as regular exercise. CBD supplementation will also boost cannabinoid levels in the body.

what is the endocannabinoid system?

What are the effects of CBD?​

Although research on the effects of CBD is limited, what we do know looks very promising. Depending on how you take CBD, it can have different effects. As cannabinoid receptors are located throughout the body, you can target specific areas by ingesting or topically applying CBD.

Here are the main effects of CBD:

Ingestible CBD

CBD that you ingest or take sublingually (under the tongue) eventually makes its way into the bloodstream, where it can circulate throughout your whole system.

Naturally, taking CBD this way has a broader range of effects: it can impact your mood by interacting with serotonin receptors in the brain and can also increase the levels of your natural endocannabinoids by inhibiting the FAAH enzymes responsible for breaking down anandamide - a common endocannabinoid. Anandamide is linked to a happier mood, higher pain tolerance, and decreased fear and anxiety.

Some also say that our ECS is the bridge between our brain and our gut. Recent studies confirm that gut health is linked to physical and mental health as both use the same receptors, neurons, and neurotransmitters.

cbd edibles

Research also suggests that an endocannabinoid deficiency may cause many common yet incurable health conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome. One of the ways to increase your cannabinoid levels is by taking a cannabinoid supplement, such as CBD.

cbd for skin

Topical CBD

Applying CBD to your skin is one of the best ways to support recovery from pain and inflammation.

Although topically applied CBD isn’t absorbed into your bloodstream, it interacts with ECS receptors directly in the targeted cells.

Since CBD has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, it can help to soothe irritated or damaged skin cells.

Many athletes worldwide are using CBD muscle balms to aid recovery from injuries, muscle tension and soreness.

CBD Oil Effects on Pain​

CBD can support recovery from aches and pains, and topical CBD can offer targeted comfort where it's needed most. Although still in its early stages, research indicates that CBD can have a positive effect on pain management.

CBD and Back Pain​

Back pain can result from several health conditions and last for just a few days or turn into chronic pain.

In a 2020 review of studies, researchers found that using CBD oil for seven days may help to reduce back pain.

Previous clinical trials have shown that CBD may help people suffering from chronic pain by supporting recovery from the underlying cause of the pain.

For instance, studies have found that CBD has positive effects on the quality of our sleep, which may reduce the sensitivity to back pain.

CBD may also help ease anxiety, which is often the cause of pain as anxiety increases our cortisol levels and delays the body's natural healing process. And finally, the anti-inflammatory effects of CBD have been shown to contribute to reduced back pain.

cbd for back pain

This is no surprise when we think about how CBD influences the endocannabinoid system, which regulates the body’s perception of pain. Evidence from animal studies also shows that CBD can interact with our nociceptive (pain-sensing) system and influence how we experience pain.

CBD and Chronic Pain​

Chronic pain typically lasts longer than six months and can continue even after the source of the pain, such as an injury or illness, is long gone. This is caused by pain signals remaining active in the nervous system, often without any apparent cause. You may experience chronic pain due to several underlying health conditions that can take years to diagnose and properly treat.

A report on CBD and general chronic pain found substantial evidence that CBD can support recovery from chronic pain in adults. Another study in the Journal of Experimental Medicine confirmed that CBD could contribute to lower levels of pain and inflammation. CBD also offers a non-addictive and low-risk alternative to popular pain medications, according to the evidence in a 2018 review of studies. Researchers added that CBD doesn’t cause you to build a tolerance, meaning you won’t have to increase the dosage over time.

All in all, researchers have found that CBD could offer a more natural way of supporting the health of people with chronic pain without causing harmful side effects. 

CBD and Arthritis​

Research also indicates that CBD can positively affect arthritis-related pain. There are over a hundred different types of arthritis, each having unique symptoms and causes, but pain being a common factor.

Since CBD can interact with receptors in the brain and immune cells, it may support recovery from pain and inflammation for those who have arthritis. A 2016 study found that topical CBD use was linked to reduced pain and inflammation associated with arthritis. A study on rats confirmed that CBD can affect how pain receptors in the body respond to stimuli, possibly reducing pain sensitivity.

The Arthritis Foundation conducted a survey on arthritis and CBD showing that nearly 80% of people dealing with arthritis-related pain were either currently using CBD, had used it in the past or were actively considering using it to help ease their pain. Those using CBD reported improvements in their sleep, overall wellbeing, and pain and stiffness caused by the condition.

cbd for arthritis

However, CBD may not support all arthritis conditions. Rheumatoid arthritis is a common autoimmune condition that causes painful inflammation and stiffness in the joints. Prescription medications are necessary for preventing more permanent damage to the body, and since CBD could potentially interact with common arthritis medications, always be sure to consult with your doctor before using CBD to help relieve symptoms of health conditions. 

CBD and Joint Pain​

Joint pain can make movement incredibly painful and uncomfortable for people. Injuries due to over-exercising, living a sedentary life, or underlying conditions, most commonly arthritis, contribute to joint pain. As people get older, it’s pretty likely they’ll experience joint pain in one form or another.

Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis where the cartilage between joints wears down, and bones rub against each other, causing a lot of pain. CBD may offer comfort in two ways: it directly targets the affected area to support recovery, and it also interacts with the central nervous system, which sends pain signals to the brain when detecting damaged cells.

A study published in the journal Pain found that CBD could provide targeted comfort for joint pain in rats with osteoarthritis by blocking the inflammatory responses that worsen the disease. Since CBD has anti-inflammatory properties, it may also contribute to a reduction in joint pain caused by inflammatory conditions.

While many patients struggling with joint pain report positive effects from using CBD, more clinical trials still need to be done. In animal studies on CBD and pain, topical CBD has also been shown to effectively reduce both pain and inflammation.

How long does it take for CBD Oil to work?​

CBD oil is one of the fastest-acting means of taking CBD, and typically starts working within 15 minutes to half an hour after taking it sublingually (under the tongue). The effects of CBD oil should also last for four to six hours after consumption.

Using CBD oil is one of the most effective ways to take CBD, as it can be directly absorbed into your bloodstream through the capillaries under your tongue. Any leftover CBD that doesn’t get absorbed can be swallowed and digested, where it will take effect soon after.

How long it takes exactly for CBD oil to work depends on several factors: your height, body weight, muscle mass, your metabolism and activity levels, and also your genetics. Some people may notice the effects of CBD oil just a couple of minutes after taking it, and for others, it may take up to an hour. Generally speaking, the higher your metabolism and activity levels, the faster it can circulate through your system and unfold its effects.

Here’s a quick overview of how long various CBD products take to work on average:

cbd tinctures

CBD Tinctures

Within 30 minutes

cbd capsules

CBD Oil Capsules

Up to 2 hours

cbd snacks

CBD Edibles

Up to 2 hours

cbd balms

CBD Topicals 

Within an hour

How do I use CBD?​

There are many different CBD products out there, so you should be able to find the one best suited for your needs and lifestyle. When using CBD to aid the body's natural recovery from aches and pains, some forms may work better than others.

CBD oil tinctures are a great way to benefit from its effects quickly and more intensively, thanks to their high bioavailability. Since CBD can be absorbed directly into your bloodstream without being metabolized by the stomach and liver, more of it will make it into your circulation, where it takes effect.

You can use CBD oil sublingually by applying a couple of CBD oil drops under your tongue and holding them there for about one minute without swallowing. This allows it to be absorbed by the mucosa in your mouth, where it can reach your bloodstream within just a few minutes. For more information on how to take CBD, check out our blog article here.

how to take cbd
how to apply cbd on the skin

Another way to use CBD is by applying topical CBD products, such as CBD Arnica Cream, directly to painful areas.

Topical CBD can be absorbed directly into your skin cells, where it interacts with local cannabinoid receptors to support recovery from pain and inflammation.

We recommend applying a thin layer of CBD cream onto your skin two to three times a day for best results.

For help in finding your optimal CBD dosage, try out our CBD Dosage Calculator.

Other uses for CBD​

By interacting with our ECS, CBD can have a wide spectrum of benefits. Apart from pain, CBD can help the ECS to support vital functions such as sleep, mood, metabolism, skin health, and overall wellbeing. CBD has even been shown to offer health benefits to pets!

CBD side effects

CBD affects everybody differently, but when taking the correct dose of a high-quality CBD product, it’s very unlikely you’ll experience any side effects. If you do, however, these are some of the reported side effects:

  • Dry mouth
  • Diarrhoea
  • Reduced appetite
  • Drowsiness
  • Reduced blood pressure

 Although CBD is generally well-tolerated and has a low-risk profile (according to the WHO), taking an incorrect dose or poor quality product can cause you to experience these unpleasant side effects. You shouldn’t take more than 70mg CBD in a day, and we always recommend checking for third-party lab results before purchasing any CBD products.

The side effects of CBD are often caused by poor quality controls and harmful ingredients ending up in the final products. CBD may also interfere with other medications, so always consult with a doctor before combining CBD with any other drugs as it could make them less effective and cause unwanted side effects.


Pain affects millions of people around the world, and treatments are often limited. There are several different types of pain, including chronic pain, back pain, arthritis, and joint pain. Thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties, CBD may help to support these conditions. CBD interacts with the nervous system, which sends pain signals to the brain, so may also contribute to reduced pain sensitivity.

CBD is non-addictive and has a relatively low-risk profile without harmful side effects. The best way to use CBD to support recovery from pain is with CBD oil or CBD creams. Just be sure to check for third-party lab results before using any CBD product.


Disclaimer: There is currently insufficient evidence to support the use of CBD in the condition(s) mentioned above and this text by no means reflects recommended uses. Always seek the advice of your healthcare professional if you are taking prescribed medication or are thinking of using CBD for your condition.