Does CBD Work For Cramps?

  • Muscle cramps or spasms are painful, involuntary contractions of the affected muscle groups. It is caused by muscle overuse and strain, dehydration, or long duration of holding a position. Women are also prone to menstrual cramps or contractions of the uterus.
  • CBD may be an alternative pain and inflammation reliever for cramps because of its natural analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and anti-spasticity properties(1). It also displayed little to no side effects when administered to humans(2).
  • Researchers suggest that CBD has properties that may help with menstrual pain management(3).
  • CBD products are not regulated by the FDA(4). More products sold online and in stores are mislabeled, unstandardized, and have unproven claims(5). First-time users should seek medical advice before trying any CBD product.

Why People Are Using CBD for Cramps

Muscle cramps or spasms are painful, involuntary contractions of the affected muscle groups. It is caused by muscle overuse and strain, dehydration, or long duration of holding a position. 

Cramps can be eased within a few minutes of stretching and massage. However, severe cramps that persist for a long time and cannot be eased with stretching may be signs of a more severe condition.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like ibuprofen and naproxen, are over-the-counter painkillers that can relieve tenderness after cramping

However, these drugs have risks of side effects, such as gastrointestinal disorders and cardiovascular diseases(6).

CBD may be an alternative pain and inflammation reliever for cramps because of its natural analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and anti-spasticity properties(7). It also displayed little to no side effects when administered to humans(8).

Cannabidiol or CBD is one of the cannabinoids present in the cannabis plant. It is the non-psychoactive compound abundant in the hemp plants. CBD oil is extracted from the said plant and mixed with carrier oils, like coconut or grapeseed oil.

Cramps can happen to the abdominal wall, arms, legs, hands, back, and feet. They may also occur due to injuries or strenuous activities. 

Women are also prone to menstrual cramps or contractions of the uterus. Menstrual cramping is a common premenstrual symptom for women. It is characterized by severe discomfort and throbbing pain in the lower abdomen before or during their menstrual period.

One of the common kinds of cramps is night leg cramps. Nocturnal leg cramps are the sudden tightening of the leg muscles at night while asleep. It can also occur due to periods of inactivity within the day.

How CBD Oil Works to Help Alleviate Symptoms of Cramps

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is the body’s system that works with cannabinoids, like CBD. Its functions include regulating pain, appetite, sleep, and memory and maintaining homeostasis(9).

The ECS has three primary components: endocannabinoids, cannabinoid receptors, and enzymes. 

Endocannabinoids are the neurotransmitters of the ECS and are spread throughout the body. These transmitters bind to receptors, which activate the functions of the bonded cannabinoids. 

Cannabinoids are then broken down by the enzymes, which indicates that a successful function has been carried out.

CBD and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the two main components of the cannabis plant, are cannabinoids that can bond with the receptors.

THC is the psychoactive compound that can alter a person’s mind or behavior if taken in large amounts.

CBD for Menstrual Cramps

No studies have shown the direct effects of CBD on menstrual cramps. However, some researchers suggest that CBD has anti-inflammatory and pain relief activities that may help with menstrual pain management(10)

Studies showed that CBD might inhibit prostaglandin production and improve women’s health(11)

Prostaglandins are active substances that help in tissue damage, infection, and female reproductive system regulation. These substances control ovulation and trigger muscle contractions that cause period cramps(12)

Period pains are also caused by secondary dysmenorrhea or other medical conditions in the female reproductive system, like endometriosis.

Endometriosis is a condition wherein the uterine lining grows outside the uterus. This condition can cause severe pain and inflammation in the affected area.

CBD is one of the effective treatments for women with endometriosis, according to a study(13).  

CBD oil reportedly reduced medication use, improved mood swings, and alleviated pain caused by the condition. The study also noted that the women used hemp oil with CBD oil. 

CBD for Muscle Cramps

A study showed that CBD might reduce spasticity, pain, inflammation, and depression of multiple sclerosis patients(14)

Multiple sclerosis is a central nervous system disorder that causes communication problems between the brain and body. 

People with this condition experience spasms in the limbs that may impair their mobility.

Another study found that CBD may improve neurogenic symptoms, including pain and muscle spasms(15)

Patients were administered CBD, THC, and combined CBD and THC extracts from cannabis plants through a mouth spray. 

According to the findings, CBD has analgesic and anti-spasticity components and has minimal side effects.

The Pros and Cons of CBD Oil for Cramps

The Pros

  • Studies mentioned showed that CBD has natural analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and anti-spasticity properties that may help ease muscle cramps.
  • CBD may ease painful periods associated with menstrual cramps, a common problem for women.
  • CBD may be bought without a prescription in various states and territories in the United States where it is legal for medical use(16)

The Cons

  • There is no approved CBD medication by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) besides Epidiolex, an oral solution for seizures and epilepsy(17). CBD products in the market should be used with caution.
  • CBD products are not regulated by the FDA(18). Hence, more products sold online and in stores are mislabeled, unstandardized, and have unproven claims(19).
  • CBD products may be costly. As the CBD concentration increases, the price also increases.

How CBD Oil Compares to Alternative Treatments for Cramps

There are various home treatments and natural remedies that can help with cramps. 

Aside from massage and stretching, muscle cramps can be eased by applying heating pads or cold compress on the affected area. 

Vitamin and nutrient supplements, like vitamin B complex, magnesium, and zinc, are also recommended for cramps. Magnesium regulates the muscle and nerve function while zinc helps in muscle repair. 

A study also showed that oral magnesium supplements lessened the occurrence of nocturnal leg cramps(20). Magnesium supplements can also reduce prostaglandin levels for women with menstrual cramps(21)

CBD oil may also be considered as an alternative treatment for cramps. It comes in different forms, like topical products (CBD balms, salves, and lotions) for targeted pain relief and suppositories for period pain relief.

CBD oil may also be used in massages to provide pain relief.

How to Choose the Right CBD Oil for Cramps

CBD oil comes in three different types. 

Full-spectrum CBD oil contains all the compounds found in hemp plants. This type includes cannabinoids, terpenes, fatty acids, and flavonoids. 

Full-spectrum CBD oil also contains trace amounts of THC which is not enough to make a person high.

Like the previous type, broad-spectrum contains all the organic compounds in a hemp plant but without THC. Removing a compound from a mixture is done using a process called chromatography.

The purest among the three types is CBD isolate. This type contains only one compound, which is CBD. 

Full-spectrum CBD is for those who do not worry about psychoactive effects. Meanwhile, the broad-spectrum CBD is for those who want a non-intoxicating product in their system.

Aside from these factors, choosing the right CBD oil goes beyond its spectrum. These are some ways that a user can ensure that the product is ethical and safe to use:

  • Choose brands that use third-party laboratory tests for their products. A third-party lab certificate or certificate of analysis ensures a reliable and safe manufacturing process. 
  • Check the extraction method and source of hemp used in the product. The extraction method ensures the efficacy and purity of the product. The source of hemp indicates the quality of the product.
  • Read product reviews, especially when buying from an online shop. Online reviews give an insight to the user on what to expect from the product.
  • Make sure that the physical store complies with the state laws concerning the sale of CBD products. Be aware of the legalities associated with CBD use in the area where the product is bought and consumed.
  • Examine the ingredient list to see if there are any synthetic ingredients included in the formulation. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report about possible adverse effects of using synthetic cannabinoids(22)

CBD Dosage for Cramps

There are no standard dosages in taking CBD. However, studies have shown that doses ranging from 1 mg to 1500 mg of CBD per day are well-tolerated by humans(23)

It is safe to take a low dose of CBD initially, increasing it gradually until significant effects are achieved. 

How to Take CBD Oil for Cramps

CBD can be taken orally, sublingually, topically, anally or vaginally (although check to make sure that the carrier component is water-soluble and not oily), and through inhalation.

Oral CBD products come in oils (CBD tinctures), gummies, and capsules. 

Using a dropper, drops of CBD tincture are placed under the tongue where absorption via mucous membranes happens. 

Sublingual is better than oral administration because CBD goes directly into the bloodstream.

Topical CBD products are available in lotions, creams, balms, and salves. The product can be applied to the affected area for targeted pain relief. These products are often used to address local pain, especially in the muscle and joint areas.

CBD suppositories can be inserted anally or vaginally. These products contain a specific compound that dissolves inside the vagina, for period pain relief, or rectum, for gastrointestinal problems.

Suppositories are inserted in the vagina like tampons. However, it is not advisable to apply CBD oil on tampons. Doing so may result in vaginal infections and irritations, like bacterial vaginosis, that are difficult to manage. 

Vaping is also an effective method of taking CBD. As the user inhales the compound, it quickly goes through the bloodstream. Its benefits are experienced in the shortest time possible. However, there are a risk of lung damage using this method.

However, vaping is associated with lung problems(24). Hence, individuals are advised to take caution when using CBD vape pens. 

Conclusion

Cramps can happen to women on their menstrual cycle. Cramps can also be experienced by some people, whether active or inactive.

Chronic pain and frequency occurrence may be signs of a more severe problem that should be appropriately diagnosed.

CBD is a promising natural remedy for pain, inflammation, and spasticity. CBD oils come in different types and forms that suit a person’s lifestyle and condition.

First-time users should seek medical advice before trying any CBD product. Factors, like current medications, severity of medical conditions, and allergies, must be considered before using CBD.


  1. Russo E. B. (2008). Cannabinoids in the management of difficult to treat pain. Therapeutics and clinical risk management, 4(1), 245–259. https://doi.org/10.2147/tcrm.s1928
  2. Iffland, K., & Grotenhermen, F. (2017). An Update on Safety and Side Effects of Cannabidiol: A Review of Clinical Data and Relevant Animal Studies. Cannabis and cannabinoid research, 2(1), 139–154. https://doi.org/10.1089/can.2016.0034
  3. P Cavner, J. (2019). Is CBD A Viable Option for Menstrual Symptoms? Online Journal of Complementary & Alternative Medicine, 2(5), 1–3. https://doi.org/10.33552/ojcam.2019.02.000548
  4. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2020, March 11). FDA Regulation of Cannabis and Cannabis-Derived Products: Q&A. https://www.fda.gov/news-events/public-health-focus/fda-regulation-cannabis-and-cannabis-derived-products-including-cannabidiol-cbd
  5. Freedman, D. A., & Patel, A. D. (2018). Inadequate Regulation Contributes to Mislabeled Online Cannabidiol Products. Pediatric neurology briefs, 32, 3. https://doi.org/10.15844/pedneurbriefs-32-3
  6. Ong, C. K., Lirk, P., Tan, C. H., & Seymour, R. A. (2007). An evidence-based update on nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Clinical medicine & research, 5(1), 19–34. https://doi.org/10.3121/cmr.2007.698
  7. Russo E. B. op. cit.
  8. Iffland, K., op. cit.
  9. Sallaberry, C., & Astern, L. (2018a). The Endocannabinoid System, Our Universal Regulator. Journal of Young Investigators, 48–55. https://doi.org/10.22186/jyi.34.5.48-55
  10. P Cavner, J., op. cit.
  11. Ruhaak, Lucia & Felth, Jenny & Karlsson, Pernilla & Rafter, Joseph & Verpoorte, Robert & Bohlin, Lars. (2011). Evaluation of the Cyclooxygenase Inhibiting Effects of Six Major Cannabinoids Isolated from Cannabis sativa. Biological & pharmaceutical bulletin. 34. 774-8. 10.1248/bpb.34.774. 
  12. Bernardi, M., Lazzeri, L., Perelli, F., Reis, F. M., & Petraglia, F. (2017). Dysmenorrhea and related disorders. F1000Research, 6, 1645. https://doi.org/10.12688/f1000research.11682.1
  13. Armour, M., Sinclair, J., Chalmers, K. J., & Smith, C. A. (2019). Self-management strategies amongst Australian women with endometriosis: a national online survey. BMC complementary and alternative medicine, 19(1), 17. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12906-019-2431-x
  14. Rudroff, T., & Sosnoff, J. (2018). Cannabidiol to Improve Mobility in People with Multiple Sclerosis. Frontiers in neurology, 9, 183. https://doi.org/10.3389/fneur.2018.00183
  15. Wade, D. T., Robson, P., House, H., Makela, P., & Aram, J. (2003). A preliminary controlled study to determine whether whole-plant cannabis extracts can improve intractable neurogenic symptoms. Clinical Rehabilitation, 17(1), 21–29. https://doi.org/10.1191/0269215503cr581oa
  16. National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. (2020, June 30). Medical Marijuana Laws. NORML. https://norml.org/laws/medical-laws/
  17. United States Food and Drug Administration. (2018, June 26). FDA Approves First Drug Comprised of an Active Ingredient Derived from Marijuana to Treat Rare, Severe Forms of Epilepsy. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/fda-approves-first-drug-comprised-active-ingredient-derived-marijuana-treat-rare-severe-forms
  18. U.S. Food and Drug Administration., op. cit.
  19. Freedman, D. A., op. cit.
  20. Roffe, Christine & Sills, Sheila & Crome, Peter & Jones, Peter. (2002). Randomised, cross-over, placebo controlled trial of magnesium citrate in the treatment of chronic persistent leg cramps. Medical science monitor : international medical journal of experimental and clinical research. 8. CR326-30. 
  21. Parazzini, F., Di Martino, M., & Pellegrino, P. (2017). Magnesium in the gynecological practice: a literature review. Magnesium Research, 30(1), 1–7. https://doi.org/10.1684/mrh.2017.0419
  22. Horth, R. Z. (2018, May 24). Notes from the Field: Acute Poisonings from a Synthetic. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/67/wr/mm6720a5.htm
  23. Bergamaschi, M. M., Queiroz, R. H., Zuardi, A. W., & Crippa, J. A. (2011). Safety and side effects of cannabidiol, a Cannabis sativa constituent. Current drug safety, 6(4), 237–249. https://doi.org/10.2174/157488611798280924
  24. Outbreak of Lung Injury Associated with the Use of E-Cigarette, or Vaping, Products. (2020, February 25). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/basic_information/e-cigarettes/severe-lung-disease.html

 

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