by Erica Garza
From martial arts fighter Nate Diaz to professional cyclist Andrew Talansky, many athletes are turning to cannabidiol (CBD) to relieve the pain and inflammation of sports injuries as well as to enhance performance. Not only can CBD relieve discomfort post-injury; it can also serve as a protectant. Whether you’re a professional athlete or you just shoot hoops with your friends now and then, here are some ways you can use CBD oil for pain, specifically in relation to a sports injury.
How CBD Works
The cannabis plant contains over 400 chemicals, of which 70 to 120 are unique to the plant and known as cannabinoids. The two major cannabinoids in cannabis are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which makes a person feel “high,” and cannabidiol (CBD), which has no psychoactive effects.
Along with having antioxidant qualities that reduce inflammation, CBD interacts with the serotonin and vanilloid receptors in the brain, affecting one’s perception of pain. Some athletes report that CBD is so effective in relieving the discomfort of sports-related injuries that it has replaced opioid-based painkillers, which can have highly addictive properties.
Along with relieving pain and inflammation, some research shows that CBD can also serve as a neuroprotectant, which is ideal for football players who are at high risk for concussions and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
Topical Versus Internal CBD
CBD can be used both topically and internally, from balms you apply to the skin to tinctures you hold under your tongue. The most common method of using CBD is oral, ideal for whole-body relief. CBD can be taken as an oil or tincture held under the tongue or vaped, or the remedy is also available in capsule form, which often makes it easier to dose. Taking CBD orally means that it will be metabolized faster, so you can feel its effects right away. This method may also potentially alleviate other symptoms like anxiety or sleeplessness.
When experiencing sore muscles or spasms, CBD applied topically can target the pain directly. Methods available include patches, balms, body oils and even bath soaks. The onset of relief may be more gradual, because it has to pass the transdermal layer, but its effects will also be long lasting, making it a suitable option for chronic pain relief.
CBD dosage depends on the user’s specific needs as well as the method used. Though there have been no serious potential side effects, keeping the dosage low (such as 5mg daily) is preferred to avoid intolerance, especially when using capsules, oils or tinctures. This dose can then be gradually increased over time.
When applied topically, CBD can be used more liberally, but keep in mind that its effects may take longer to set in, so patience is key.
It’s always a good idea to talk with your doctor about any pain you’re experiencing to make sure your sports injury doesn’t keep you benched for good.
Erica Garza is an author and essayist. Her work has appeared in TIME, Health, Glamour, Good Housekeeping, Women’s Health, The Telegraph and VICE. She lives in Los Angeles.