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What are CBD patches for pain?

CBD patches are transdermal patches containing cannabidiol (CBD). They slowly release CBD into the bloodstream through the skin. Some people may prefer this CBD delivery system to inhaling vaporized CBD or ingesting it orally via edibles or drinks.

CBD patches may be a more suitable option for certain applications, such as treating pain, although personal preference will play a role in choosing the best way to take CBD.

Keep reading to learn more about CBD patches, including how they work, the potential uses, and the risks and side effects.

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CBD patches are patches containing CBD and other ingredients that people apply to the skin. They work in a similar way to nicotine patches, delivering CBD directly into the bloodstream.

This transdermal method delivers the CBD quickly to the local area around the patch. From there, it works its way into the bloodstream. When people take CBD orally — via an oil or gummy, for example — the compound must first pass through the digestive system. The body may then use it, break it down, or even simply excrete it as waste. As such, much of an oral CBD dose may be lost in the digestive system.

A transdermal patch applies the CBD directly to the skin, which absorbs it and allows it to enter the bloodstream directly. As a study in Molecules notes, this application allows the CBD to bypass the digestive system and increases the bioavailability of the product.

CBD patches also provide a more consistent solution than other topical methods, such as topical CBD creams and massage oils. Once the skin absorbs topical creams, their effect tapers off. Therefore, people using the creams for relief would need to apply them multiple times a day.

Patches stay on the skin, delivering CBD over a longer period and potentially providing a steady stream of relief from symptoms.

However, transdermal delivery is relatively slow, and not all of the CBD can pass through the skin. For this reason, CBD patches typically also contain some form of permeation enhancer to increase the permeability of the skin and allow more CBD to get through.

For more information and resources on CBD and CBD products, please visit our dedicated hub.

Though research on CBD’s effects on pain is in its early stages, with many studies still using animals, initial findings do suggest that CBD may be an effective pain reliever for people with various conditions, including arthritis and multiple sclerosis (MS).

CBD has a history of use for pain reduction, both anecdotally and through traditional medicinal systems.

Open legislation has allowed for much more formal research to take place in recent years. These studies have helped bring to light the potential of cannabis use for pain relief.

Cannabinoids such as CBD work against pain in two different ways.

Firstly, they act on the endocannabinoid system within the body to block the receptors for various types of pain, even those that are difficult to treat, such as nerve pain.

Secondly, they have an anti-inflammatory effect in the body, which may help reduce pain from sources of inflammation.

These effects, in combination with the transdermal delivery system, may make CBD patches best for forms of inflammation, nerve pain, and localized pain.

Some research notes the benefits of patches over other methods in this regard, including:

  • sustained, long-term delivery of CBD
  • minimal adverse effects
  • localized anti-inflammatory activity
  • localized pain relief

These benefits mean that CBD patches may be effective for situations in which a person has localized inflammatory or nerve pain, such as arthritis pain in the knee, inflammation and nerve pain in the back, or pain from a condition in the skin.

Another study found that topical CBD helped control myofascial pain. The study focused specifically on the muscles surrounding the head and jaw in people with temporomandibular disorder (TMD). The researchers concluded that CBD has potential as a treatment option for people with the disorder.

A study in Postgraduate Medicine investigated the effect of CBD on people with chronic pain who used opioids to control that pain. Of the 97 participants, 94% reported improved quality of life while taking the CBD product.

In addition, more than half of the people who added CBD to their treatment regimens reduced or eliminated their opioid use after 8 weeks. Larger studies can help explore these results, but they indicate that CBD may help reduce some of the risks that other pain management methods pose.

Due to their transdermal delivery system, CBD patches work best when they have direct contact with the largest possible area of skin. To maximize the patch’s effectiveness, a person should apply it to a soft area of skin where it gets as much contact as possible, rather than near bony or irregular areas of skin. It also needs to be as close to the painful area as possible.

Common application areas for CBD patches include the:

  • inside of the wrists
  • back of the neck
  • lower back
  • lower thigh, behind the knee
  • inside of the bicep
  • shoulder
  • inside of the ankle

There are a few possible risks and side effects to consider when choosing a CBD patch, including reactions to both CBD and the patch itself.

CBD side effects

CBD is a natural compound, but it can still cause a number of side effects. Common side effects include:

  • sleepiness or fatigue
  • oversleeping
  • diarrhea
  • drowsiness
  • appetite changes
  • weight loss or weight gain

People who are sensitive to these effects should not drive or operate machinery while taking CBD.

Interactions

CBD may interact with some medications. Therefore, people should discuss the use of CBD products with a healthcare professional before taking them so that they can check for any potential drug interactions.

Liver damage

Some research suggests that there may also be a link between CBD and liver damage, although the doses in the study were significantly higher than those that people would take.

People with damaged livers or liver failure may wish to talk to their doctor before using CBD products. However, the transdermal delivery of CBD means that it bypasses the liver, so patches may have a lower associated risk than other delivery systems.

Contamination

While CBD may be helpful, possible contaminants along the manufacturing process, including heavy metals, pesticides, and other harmful chemicals, may put a person at risk for reactions.

It is important to ensure that the product has a reputable manufacturer and to look for a third-party lab test confirming its purity.

Reactions

Some people may experience a reaction to the patch, which may be due to sweat becoming trapped underneath the patch and causing skin irritation. In other cases, the skin may react to the glue in the patch.

Other ingredients in the transdermal patch may cause similar symptoms. If symptoms appear, a person should stop using the patch and talk to a dermatologist to identify any potential allergens.

CBD patches are transdermal patches containing cannabidiol (CBD). They slowly release CBD into the bloodstream through the skin. Learn about their benefits and risks.

The Best CBD Patches for Pain

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If you’re interested in trying cannabidiol (CBD) to quell pain or inflammation in a specific area of your body, one way you can take it is through a patch. When applied to your skin, a patch allows the CBD to be absorbed in a targeted area.

Patches are convenient and discreet, but you might be wondering whether they’re really as effective as CBD oils, gummies, or even lotions. Read on to learn about the research and get our top picks for the best CBD patches out there.

CBD patches are about as effective as CBD that’s taken orally. But they offer several advantages over oral CBD, according to a 2018 review of studies .

As the researchers explain, CBD that’s taken orally is metabolized first by your body before it starts circulating in your bloodstream. CBD that’s taken through the skin — like in a patch — doesn’t have to go through this intermediate step, so more of it gets to circulate in your blood. More CBD in your bloodstream means more CBD that can get to the site of your pain.

What’s more, many CBD patches are designed to remain on the body for several days. You’ll get a slow and steady dose that targets the exact area you need, rather than having to remember to take CBD oil or apply CBD lotion each day.

There are downsides, however. Many companies add chemical carriers to help the CBD penetrate the skin and reach the bloodstream. Some people may be allergic to these chemicals.

The researchers in the same 2018 review note that the adhesive used in patches can cause skin irritation in some people, especially those with sensitive skin.

Additionally, a patch will be more effective if you have a specific area you want to treat, such as your shoulder or lower back, rather than dealing with general or diffuse aches and pains throughout your body.

Research from 2020 suggests that topical CBD may be an effective treatment in decreasing inflammation and blocking pain in the recovery of back injury as well as relieving nerve pain. Topical CBD has also been shown to promote muscle relaxation in chronic pain disorders.

It’s important to note that research on transdermal CBD patches is limited. These products can be expensive and may be as effective as a CBD topical, so it’s best to do your own research before deciding on the right product for you.

It may also be possible for tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) to show up on a drug test after using a patch made with full-spectrum CBD. If you want to avoid THC, look for a CBD isolate product, which contains only CBD, instead.

We chose these products based on criteria we think are good indicators of safety, quality, and transparency. Each product in this article:

  • is made by a company that provides proof of third-party testing by an independent lab
  • is made with U.S.-grown hemp
  • contains no more than 0.3 percent THC, according to the certificate of analysis (COA)
  • is free of pesticides, heavy metals, and molds, according to the COA

We also considered:

  • company certifications and manufacturing processes
  • product potency
  • overall ingredients
  • indicators of user trust and brand reputation, such as:
    • customer reviews
    • whether the company has been subject to a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warning letter
    • whether the company makes any unsupported health claims

Get patched up with one of these three best CBD patches. They’re an easy way to take CBD and may help relieve aches and pains.