Do you want to try CBD patches to help quell pain? Read on to learn whether these products are on par with other CBD formulations to provide pain relief.  

How CBD Patches May Help With Pain

The transdermal delivery system is a process that provides drug absorption through the skin. It offers a non-invasive alternative for parenteral (injection) routes, avoiding issues like needle phobia(1).

Public and medical interest in CBD (cannabidiol) have been rising(2). Hence, CBD is now available in various formats, allowing individuals to tailor their method of use to their needs. 

For instance, transdermal CBD patches are a discreet option for people who do not like inhaling or ingesting CBD. However, studies regarding the efficacy of CBD patches, particularly on pain, are limited.

Still, CBD’s purported medical benefits and activity in the ECS (endocannabinoid system) may elucidate how CBD patches may help with pain. 

CBD and the Endocannabinoid System 

Cannabidiol, popularly known as CBD, is an active constituent of cannabis. Despite CBD being an essential substance of medical marijuana, the compound is mainly derived from hemp plants. 

Meanwhile, the endocannabinoid system is responsible for maintaining bodily balance or homeostasis. It is composed of enzymes, endocannabinoids, and cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2) present throughout the brain and body. 

CBD and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the primary psychoactive compound of the cannabis plant, may interact with the cannabinoid receptors(3).  

CB1 receptors are found within the pain pathways of the CNE (central nervous system) and may affect CBD-induced analgesia (loss of pain perception)(4)

Meanwhile, CB2 receptors, which are mainly present in immune cells, may affect CBD-induced anti-inflammatory properties(5).

Transdermal CBD Patches 

CBD transdermal patches are infused with cannabidiol

Transdermal products like CBD patches and nicotine patches (medicines used to quit smoking) are absorbed through the skin’s layers and into the bloodstream.  

In 2003, formulations containing cannabidiol were studied to determine the compound’s efficacy in reducing pain when conventional treatment options have failed(6)

For instance, emerging data suggests a promising effect of cannabis and CBD in fibromyalgia, a condition characterized by fatigue, depressive episodes, and chronic pain(7)

The Benefits of Using CBD Patches for Pain

Studies regarding CBD patches for pain are still in their infancy. 

However, animal research from the European Journal of Pain suggested that transdermal CBD may reduce inflammation and arthritis pain-related behaviors without detrimental side effects(8).  

The researchers administered 0.6, 3.1, and 6.2mg of CBD gels daily for four consecutive days to a rat model following arthritis induction.

Their findings showed that 6.2mg per day may be an effective dose of CBD in gel format(9).  

Meanwhile, an animal study using a murine model reported that the transdermal application of ethosomal CBD resulted in steady CBD plasma levels for 72 hours and prevented inflammation and edema (swelling)(10).

Ethosomal systems refer to novel vesicular carriers with a high percentage of ethanol. These nanocarriers are designed to enhance the transdermal delivery of substances(11)

A 2020 study from Pharmaceuticals provided a systematic collection of data on CBD’s skin permeation(12)

The researchers observed that hydrophilic gel containing propylene glycol (79%, weight for weight) may be optimal for topical CBD administration(13).

Lipophilic ointment and paraffin oil may also be suitable preparations for CBD administration, promising a significant permeation performance(14)

In terms of skin retention, the transdermal patch may also provide comparable results(15)

Although the findings seem promising, they are inconclusive and mostly done on animal models. In addition, most of the studies did not focus on CBD patches

However, researchers who want to explore the benefits of using CBD patches for pain may find these results helpful.  

How to Use a CBD Patch

Unlike topicals, transdermal patches like CBD patches have a systemic effect because they can penetrate all seven epidermal layers of skin and reach the bloodstream(16)

Below are the steps on how to use a CBD patch:

  1. Read the package instructions and follow them accordingly before using a CBD patch
  2. Choose a skin area where you will apply the patch. The area should be clean and free of oils, lotions, or powders. 
  3. Open the packaging carefully. If you are using scissors or cutters, make sure not to cut the patch. 
  4. Remove the protective liner from the patch without touching the sticky side.  
  5. Check if the patch is flat against the skin once you apply it. There must be no folds or bumps in the patch. 
  6. Use your fingers to peel the CBD patch off slowly, then dispose of it properly.  

How Long Do CBD Patches Take to Help With Pain?

The onset time of cannabidiol in CBD patches is between 15 and 30 minutes. Generally, you will feel the effect of CBD via this particular transdermal method for up to 8 hours(17).

How Long Will CBD Patches Help With Pain?

How long cannabidiol in CBD patches lasts after it takes effect depends on its pharmacokinetics. 

Pharmacokinetics is the movement of a substance or drug into, through, and out of the body. It includes the time course of drug absorption, distribution, metabolism, excretion, and bioavailability

Bioavailability is the extent to which a particular substance becomes entirely available to its intended biological destinations. 

The bioavailability of CBD via the transdermal route is 90%(18).

How to Shop for CBD Patches for Pain

CBD brands like Mary’s Nutritionals, Hemp Bombs, and Pure Ratios are dedicated to giving their customers high-quality CBD products, including transdermal CBD patches for pain.

Generally, there are two designs of transdermal patches currently available: the matrix and the reservoir type.

The matrix patch incorporates the substance into an adhesive polymer matrix, from which the active ingredient is continuously released into the skin(19)

Meanwhile, reservoir patches hold a drug in a solution or gel. Although these patches give tighter control of delivery rates, they may cause an initial burst of drug release(20)

On the contrary, the active ingredients are evenly distributed throughout the matrix patch. Hence, these patches may carry less risk of accidental overdose and offer less potential for abuse(21)

Still, when shopping for CBD patches, the best one is what works for you

It is also worth noting that some CBD patches may contain ingredients such as aloe vera, menthol, and lidocaine.

Lidocaine helps relieve nerve pain after shingles, a viral infection that triggers a painful rash. 

Lidocaine and the other ingredients mentioned may provide added benefits. 

For instance, aloe vera may help retain skin moisture(22).  

Meanwhile, menthol has anti-inflammatory potential and may accelerate wound healing(23). However, some individuals have contact sensitivity to menthol(24)

Still, it is essential to talk with a doctor versed in cannabis use before buying CBD patches. These experts can advise you regarding possible allergic reactions or recommend hypoallergenic, water-resistant, and long-lasting CBD patches.  

Aside from CBD patches, other CBD formats available in the market include CBD oil, tinctures, vapes, CBD topicals like lotions and creams, and CBD edibles like gummies.  

Before shopping for CBD patches or other CBD products for overall wellness, here are some more pertinent factors to consider: 

1. Hemp Extracts

A full-spectrum CBD product has all compounds of the cannabis plant, including CBD and other cannabinoids, essential oils, flavonoids, and terpenes.

Terpenes are the chemical components of essential oils responsible for the aroma of cannabis(25)

Meanwhile, flavonoids are active compounds in cannabis that have purported antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antiviral actions(26)

Full-spectrum CBD oil also has 0.3% THC. Additionally, it is known to produce the entourage effect. 

The entourage effect is a theory stating that the biologically active compounds of cannabis work better when administered together. 

Frontiers in Plant Science study suggested that due to the entourage effect, full-spectrum hemp extracts may produce better therapeutic benefits than pure CBD(27)

CBD isolates are made of pure CBD. On the other hand, broad-spectrum CBD oil also contains all of the natural compounds of cannabis. However, this CBD variant is usually THC-free

2. Ingredients 

If possible, always opt for CBD products, like transdermal CBD patches, made from U.S.-grown hemp. Legitimate producers grow hemp in accordance with the tribal plans and the regulations of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

3. Extraction Method 

The extraction method is the process where CBD oil is derived from cannabis

Carbon dioxide, ethanol, or solvent extraction is preferred to create a safe CBD product(28). On the other hand, extraction techniques utilizing hexane or butane may leave harmful residues, like heavy metals, pesticides, and other contaminants.

4. Carrier Oils  

The most commonly utilized carrier oils are MCT oil (medium-chain triglyceride oil), coconut oil, and hempseed oil. 

What to Avoid When Shopping for Transdermal CBD Patches for Pain

The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) does not endorse CBD pain patches. Hence, the agency does not have regulatory guidelines overseeing such products’ testing, marketing, and labeling. 

For this reason, consumers should be extra careful when buying transdermal CBD patches

Make sure to avoid brands that do not provide lab reports or COAs (certificates of analysis) that come from a trusted third-party lab

Even if the company you choose has readily accessible COAs from its website, always check if the CBD product label matches the information provided on the site.

A research article published on January 5, 2022, stated that some commercial CBD products contain percentages of CBD that vary significantly from the information provided on their labels(29)

Meanwhile, since most people have different opinions and experiences of a product, understanding the overall impression given by other customers will help you with your decision-making. 

Therefore, read customer feedback to get more insight into the CBD brand and its products.

If a specific brand gets negative feedback, make sure to research more about the issue before deciding not to purchase from the company altogether.   

An article from Harvard Business Review stated that a firm that provides a tailored solution to a particular complaint shows other reviewers that it cares about customer issues(30).

Risks and Side Effects of Using CBD Patches for Pain

CBD is relatively safe for use(31). Nonetheless, the FDA believes that additional work is warranted to build an extensive research database on CBD usage and safety(32)

Moreover, the agency warns the public regarding the possible side effects people may encounter when using CBD. These side effects include(33)

  • Changes in alertness
  • Gastrointestinal distress
  • Changes in mood 

Legality of CBD

The 2018 Farm Bill states that Cannabis sativa L. and other derivatives of cannabis with less than 0.3% THC content on a dry weight basis are deemed legal under federal law(34).


1. How can CBD patches help with pain?

Cannabidiol has purported pain-relieving properties(35). CBD patches are infused with cannabidiol. Considering the pharmacology of CBD, the efficacy of CBD patches to help with various types of pain, such as lower back pain, is plausible.  

Still, studies regarding the effectiveness of CBD patches are in their infancy. Therefore, more research is warranted to determine whether CBD patches work.   

2. What evidence or research exists to say that a CBD patch helps with pain?

No specific research suggests that CBD patches help with pain. 

However, an animal study hypothesized that transdermal CBD gel may help with arthritis pain-related behaviors and inflammation without causing detrimental side effects(36).   

Like CBD gels, CBD patches are also used for the transdermal delivery system

3. Is there any evidence that CBD patches can worsen pain?

Transdermal patches like CBD patches are available either in reservoir or matrix patches

Reservoir patches may cause an initial burst of drug release, suggesting a potential risk of accidental overdose(37)

Although there is no evidence suggesting that CBD patches can worsen pain, potential risks, such as overdose and abuse, are enough reasons to be extra careful when administering CBD patches, particularly reservoir types. 

4. Will a CBD patch interact with any current medication I may be taking for pain?

When substances reach the dermal layer, they become available for systemic absorption(38)

Transdermal CBD products like CBD patches and gels enter the bloodstream. Hence, CBD infused in these items may interact with other medications you are taking for pain.

A study mentioned that CBD may interact with ibuprofen(39). Ibuprofen is a known painkiller that also helps with inflammation(40)

5. Are there other treatments I should consider alongside CBD patches to help with pain?

Corticosteroids (steroids) may help with pain(41). However, a study mentioned that patients using corticosteroids alongside CBD should take caution(42), possibly due to potentially adverse effects. 

6. Can I fail a drug test if I use CBD patches for pain?

Some CBD products like CBD patches may contain small amounts of THC. The psychoactive compound may build up in the body when taken regularly in a span of four to six days(43)

An increased THC level in the bloodstream may result in a positive drug test.  

7. What is the standard dose of CBD for pain relief?

CBD doses between 10mg and 100mg daily may help with pain(44). However, for CBD patches, you may look for a low-dose patch and gradually increase the dosage.

Still, it is best to talk with a doctor versed in cannabis use to help you figure out the right dose. 

8. Are CBD patches available online?

Yes. CBD patches are available online. 

9. Where to buy the best CBD patches for pain?

If your state allows the use of CBD products like CBD patches, always buy from a state-licensed dispensary to ensure product quality and safety. 

10. What are the side effects of CBD patches for pain?

Generally, CBD may induce minor side effects, such as low blood pressure and drowsiness(45)

11. How fast do CBD patches work?

You may feel the effects of CBD following the application of transdermal patches between 15 and 30 minutes(46)

12. What is the best skin area to put a CBD patch on?

Transdermal drug delivery is the process of applying an active ingredient onto intact and healthy skin(47)

Hence, make sure to apply a transdermal CBD patch onto intact skin to maximize the product’s effectiveness.

  1. Transdermal Drug Delivery: Innovative Pharmaceutical Developments Based on Disruption of the Barrier Properties of the Stratum Corneum
  2. Reasons for Cannabidiol Use: A Cross-Sectional Study of CBD Users, Focusing on Self-Perceived Stress, Anxiety, and Sleep Problems
  3. Cannabidiol
  4. Ibid.
  5. Ibid.
  6. A Balanced Approach for Cannabidiol Use in Chronic Pain
  7. Cannabis and Cannabidiol (CBD) for the Treatment of Fibromyalgia
  8. Transdermal Cannabidiol Reduces Inflammation and Pain-Related Behaviours in a Rat Model of Arthritis
  9. Ibid.
  10. Cannabidiol-Transdermal Delivery and Anti-inflammatory Effect in a Murine Model
  11. Ethosomal Nanocarriers: The Impact of Constituents and Formulation Techniques on Ethosomal Properties, In Vivo Studies, and Clinical Trials
  12. Topical Administration of Cannabidiol: Influence of Vehicle-Related Aspects on Skin Permeation Process
  13. Ibid.
  14. Ibid.
  15. Ibid.
  16. CBD: A Patient’s Guide to Medicinal Cannabis, page 123.
  17. Healing With CBD, page 194.
  18. Ibid.
  19. Transdermal Drug Delivery: Principles and Opioid Therapy
  20. Ibid.
  21. Ibid.
  22. The Effect of Aloe Vera Clinical Trials on Prevention and Healing of Skin Wound: A Systematic Review
  23. The Use of Menthol in Skin Wound Healing—Anti-Inflammatory Potential, Antioxidant Defense System Stimulation and Increased Epithelialization
  24. Allergic Reaction to Mint Leads to Asthma
  25. The Cannabis Terpenes
  26. Flavonoids As Antioxidants
  27. The Case for the Entourage Effect and Conventional Breeding of Clinical Cannabis: No “Strain,” No Gain
  28. Cannabidiol Primer for Healthcare Professionals
  29. Analysis of Cannabidiol (CBD) and THC in Nonprescription Consumer Products: Implications for Patients and Practitioners
  30. 5 Principles for Responding to Customer Reviews
  31. An Update on Safety and Side Effects of Cannabidiol: A Review of Clinical Data and Relevant Animal Studies
  32. Better Data for a Better Understanding of the Use and Safety Profile of Cannabidiol (CBD) Products
  33. What You Need to Know (And What We’re Working to Find Out) About Products Containing Cannabis or Cannabis-derived Compounds, Including CBD
  34. FDA Regulation of Cannabis and Cannabis-Derived Products, Including Cannabidiol (CBD)
  35. Research Shows Pain-Relieving Effects of CBD
  36. Transdermal Cannabidiol Reduces Inflammation and Pain-Related Behaviours in a Rat Model of Arthritis
  37. Transdermal Drug Delivery: Principles and Opioid Therapy
  38. Transdermal Drug Delivery: Innovative Pharmaceutical Developments Based on Disruption of the Barrier Properties of the Stratum Corneum
  39. Potential Adverse Drug Events and Drug-Drug Interactions with Medical and Consumer Cannabidiol (CBD) Use
  40. Ibuprofen for Adults (Nurofen)
  41. Steroids As Pain Relief Adjuvants
  42. Potential Adverse Drug Events and Drug-Drug Interactions with Medical and Consumer Cannabidiol (CBD) Use
  43. Can You Take CBD and Pass a Drug Test?
  44. CBD: A Patient’s Guide to Medicinal Cannabis, page 129.
  45. CBD: What You Need to Know Before You Try
  46. Healing With CBD, page 194.
  47. Transdermal Drug Delivery: Innovative Pharmaceutical Developments Based on Disruption of the Barrier Properties of the stratum corneum
CBD Clinicals is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more