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CBD for Muscle Recovery: What You Need to Know

No matter how fit you are, you will have experienced some muscle soreness after exercise, perhaps after trying a new workout or pushing yourself harder than usual. This is referred to as delayed-onset muscle soreness, or DOMS for short, which is thought to be due to temporary microscopic muscle damage that occurs after high-intensity exercise. Common symptoms of DOMS include muscles that feel tender to touch, pain and stiffness when moving, and short-term loss of muscle strength.

The pain tends to peak around 1-3 days after your workout, but should improve after that point. You shouldn’t need medical attention, and should be able to ease symptoms yourself — if the pain persists for longer, this might mean that you have injured yourself. 

Some common treatment options for DOMS include hot or cold packs, massage, light stretches and anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen. However, emerging research suggests that Cannabidiol (CBD) — the natural and non-psychoactive compound found in the hemp plant — might help to improve the post-workout recovery process. This has gained interest from athletes and fitness enthusiasts looking to improve their recovery times, with a 2021 narrative review suggesting that the use of CBD among professional athletes is becoming extensive and frequent. This is, in part, due to the elimination of CBD from the list of prohibited substances by federations and international institutions of sport, such as The World Anti Doping Agency (WADA).

In this guide, we will explore the science behind CBD for muscle recovery, its potential benefits, the different methods of application, and other factors you should consider for safe and effective use. 

What Is CBD?

CBD is one of over 100 natural cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant, which has been linked to a number of potential benefits, such as pain relief. CBD is legal in the UK as long as it contains less than 0.2% THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol), which is the psychoactive compound that causes the “high” sensation. 

It is thought that CBD binds to the receptors in our endocannabinoid system — a complex network of receptors and neurotransmitters that regulates various physiological processes, including pain perception, immune function, mood, and inflammation — to produce its therapeutic effects.

Diagram showing how CB1 and CB2 receptors interact with different parts of the body to help specific conditions, such as mental disorders, gastrointestinal disorders, and full-body conditions, like cancer, lupus and chronic pain.

How Does CBD Help Muscle Recovery?

When you engage in high-intensity exercise, you can get microscopic tears in your muscle fibres. The body’s response to this stress is to increase inflammation, which leads to delayed onset of soreness in the muscles (DOMS). This is a natural response which is essential for muscle growth and adaptation. However, regular inflammation can lead to discomfort and slower recovery times.

1. Reduces Inflammation

It is thought that, by interacting with the endocannabinoid system, CBD can help to reduce inflammation, and in turn, reduce muscle soreness.

CBD has anti-inflammatory properties that can help to mitigate the inflammatory response associated with exercise-induced muscle damage, leading to quicker recovery times. There are several scientific studies to support this. 

A 2020 study in the International Journal of Physical Education found that trained athletes who took CBD post-workout recovered quicker, and also reported significantly less muscle soreness at 24, 48, 72, and 96 hours post-workout. Thus, their conclusion was that CBD appears to have a significant influence on muscle soreness associated with DOMS when consumed after strenuous exercise. 

In a 2018 review of 132 original studies found in Frontiers of Neurology, it was concluded that CBD can reduce inflammation, and help improve pain and mobility in patients with multiple sclerosis because of its anti-inflammatory, antioxidative, antiemetic, antipsychotic and neuroprotective properties. 

General representation of the signalling pathways involved in CBD anti-inflammatory effects

General representation of the signalling pathways involved in CBD anti-inflammatory effects via Pellati, Brighenti, et al. Cannabis sativa L. and Nonpsychoactive Cannabinoids: Their Chemistry and Role against Oxidative Stress, Inflammation, and Cancer.” Biomed Research International, 2018.

2. Relieves Pain

CBD has analgesic (pain-relieving) properties, which can help to alleviate muscle soreness and discomfort, allowing you to get back to your workout routine sooner.

A 2018 review of studies, which looked at studies conducted between 1975 and March 2018 on various types of pain, concluded that CBD was effective in overall pain management and didn’t cause negative side effects. 

A 2020 review concluded that CBD could have benefits for relieving chronic pain and reducing inflammation, though these effects are condition-specific. Another study found that, in adults with chronic pain, patients who were treated with cannabis or cannabinoids are more likely to experience a clinically significant reduction in pain symptoms. 

3. Improves Sleep 

Sleep has been shown in numerous studies to have a positive impact on muscle recovery, and a negative impact if you’re not getting enough of it. Additional studies on the role of CBD on our sleep-wake cycle have found that CBD could help to improve sleep, which could, in turn, improve muscle recovery and performance. 

In a 2021 cross-sectional study, 48% of people taking CBD for sleep reported that it helped them to fall asleep quicker, with 40% saying it also helped them to sleep better.

In another study, researchers evaluated the effects of CBD treatment in 72 adults with either anxiety or sleep problems and, after 2 months, 56.1% reported improvements to sleep.

The Benefits of CBD for Muscle Recovery 

With all of this in mind, the potential benefits of using CBD for your muscles include:

  • Faster Recovery Times: CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties may lead to quicker recovery times, allowing you to get back to training sooner.
  • Reduced Soreness: CBD’s pain-relieving properties can help alleviate muscle soreness and discomfort, making it easier to stick to your fitness routine. 
  • Less Stress: High levels of pre-competition stress, otherwise known as sports performance anxiety (SPA), can be detrimental to athletic performance. However, CBD could help to reduce anxiousness in “stress-inducing” situations. 
  • Improved Sleep: CBD might contribute to better sleep, which is crucial for optimal muscle recovery and our overall health.

How To Use CBD for Muscle Soreness 

Topical CBD products, such as creams, balms, and lotions, can be applied directly to the affected muscle areas. They provide localised relief and can be particularly effective for targeting sore muscles and reducing inflammation. However, CBD oil is still an effective anti-inflammatory agent, and offers faster absorption than other consumables. 

If you’re an athlete that is subject to drug tests, it’s best to purchase products made with broad-spectrum CBD. Unlike full-spectrum or isolate, broad-spectrum offers the full therapeutic benefits of CBD (otherwise known as the ‘entourage effect’) but contains no THC, which means it won’t lead to a positive drug test

At Purity Hemp, we are 1 of 3 companies approved for safe use in sports. We sell broad-spectrum CBD products that are completely traceable from seed to shelf, and have received certification from the Banned Substance Control Group (BSCG) guaranteeing them to be 100% THC free.

Need additional help? Take our CBD Quiz for product recommendations in minutes, or read our full guides on How to Choose the Right CBD Product and The Different Types of CBD.

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Directions for Use:

  • Shake well before use
  • Add dose directly to your pet’s food, stirring it in if necessary
  • Use up to twice daily – (See dosage table for guidelines)
  • Store in a cool dry place out of direct sunlight

Weight of Pet Regular Dosage Strong Dosage
Up to 20lbs/9kg 1 to 4 drops 4 to 8 drops
20 to 40lbs/9-18kg 2 to 8 drops 8 to 16 drops
Over 40lbs/18kg 4 to 20 drops 16 to 40 drops

Contains Zero THC, chlorophyll free

*This product is sold for use by pets only, as it contains CBD Isolate.

We recommend discussing the use of CBD with a qualified vet, especially if your pet is pregnant or nursing a litter.

Keep out of sight or reach of children.