Cannabidiol, commonly referred to as CBD, is a new and relatively understudied medical treatment for pain, including back pain. CBD seems to reduce back pain for some people and does not come with the high or psychogenic effects of marijuana.

See Lower Back Pain Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

How Does CBD Treat Back Pain?

Research indicates that CBD may reduce back pain by:

  • Reducing inflammation1
  • Combating anxiety, often associated with long-lasting or chronic back pain2
  • Helping with sleep and improving overall state of relaxation

See Chronic Pain and Insomnia: Breaking the Cycle

Some studies suggest that CBD can have an effect on how an individual perceives pain, but more robust research is needed.3 CBD is generally considered a full-body treatment, which means that it does not target back pain specifically, but contributes to an overall feeling of relaxation and pain relief.

Advocates of CBD believe it can be used to treat a range of conditions in addition to back pain, such as arthritis and multiple sclerosis.4

See Non-Surgical Treatments for Lower Back Pain


Potential Risks and Side Effects of CBD

CBD, even in high amounts, is generally safe. A person may experience these mild side effects:

  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Low blood pressure

More severe side effects, while rare, include:

  • Mental confusion
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

As with other natural products, there is potential for adverse reactions with other medications, especially those that come with grapefruit warnings, such as certain blood thinners. It is important to check with a health care provider before using CBD.

See Medications for Back Pain and Neck Pain

In This Article:

Is CBD legal?
Before purchasing and using CBD, a person should check how a particular product was derived. Most CBD products derived from the hemp plant are legal in the United States. CBD products derived from marijuana plants with high levels of THC are only legal in states where marijuana has been legalized for medical or recreational use. How the CBD product was derived should be on the ingredient list.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not consider dietary supplements marketed to treat certain medical conditions, or food products that contain CBD to be legal, however, these products are still widely available for purchase. Because of this, people should be cautious and speak with a health care professional before using certain products.

See Immunonutrition: Healing Nutrients for Back Pain and Spine Surgery

Since the CBD industry is evolving, regulations may change in the future.


What Is CBD?

The cannabis sativa plant has over 100 chemical compounds, called cannabinoids, that have a range of effects, including anti-inflammatory and analgesic (pain relieving) qualities.

See 5 Nutrients to Support Healing from Back Pain and Back Surgery

The cannabis sativa plant has two main varieties that are grown for specific purposes:

  • THC content. THC is the compound associated with the “high” feeling of marijuana use.
  • Industrial (non-drug) uses. This form of the plant contains very trace amounts of THC (less than .03%) and can be used to make paper, clothing, and some building material. This variation of the cannabis plant is called hemp.

While CBD is present in both varieties, many of the CBD products available to consumers are from the hemp plant.


  1. Russo EB. Cannabinoids in the management of difficult to treat pain. Ther Clin Risk Manag. 2008;4(1):245–259. doi:10.2147/tcrm.s1928.
  2. Crippa, J. A. S., Derenusson, G. N., Ferrari, T. B., Wichert-Ana, L., Duran, F. L., Martin-Santos, R., ... & Filho, A. S. (2011). Neural basis of anxiolytic effects of cannabidiol (CBD) in generalized social anxiety disorder: a preliminary report. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 25(1), 121-130.
  3. Genaro K, Fabris D, Arantes ALF, Zuardi AW, Crippa JAS, Prado WA. Cannabidiol Is a Potential Therapeutic for the Affective-Motivational Dimension of Incision Pain in Rats. Front Pharmacol. 2017;8:391. Published 2017 Jun 21. doi:10.3389/fphar.2017.00391.

Complete Listing of References

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