CBD Pain Relief Sprays for Athletes: Do They Work?

CBD used for pain relief.

Pain relief sprays have long been a staple of serious athletes — now they have CBD too. Image Credit: By papi8888 on Shutterstock

For many athletes, CBD has become an integral part of their pre- and post-workout routine. Its ability to reduce pain and inflammation (without causing unwanted side effects) makes it an appealing alternative to traditional medications. But with so many CBD products to choose from — like capsules, CBD gummies, or an old-fashioned vape pen — it can be hard to know which is best. In recent months, a new challenger has joined the fray: CBD pain relief sprays.

Pain relief sprays have long been a staple of athletic trainers and serious workout warriors. Brands like Icy Hot and Bengay have been selling them for years, and their appeal is obvious: they can be applied anywhere in a matter of seconds, they dry quickly, and they provide fast-acting relief. Adding CBD to the mix should, in theory, make a good thing even better.

As a potent natural anti-inflammatory, CBD can help relieve the tightness and soreness that are all-too-familiar to most athletes. It has also emerged as a worthy replacement for prescription pain medications, with many people finding it to be cheaper, safer, and more effective. Thanks to its ability to relieve these common maladies without the risk of addiction, liver damage, or other harmful outcomes, CBD has been embraced by the sports world.

Yet with so many other ways to use it, why do CBD pain relief sprays deserve your attention? Here’s what you need to know.

What’s in a CBD Oil Pain Relief Spray?

CBD pain relief sprays come in two main forms: topical and oral sprays. Both of them contain tinctures of CBD that are vaporized into a fine mist — in states with legal cannabis, some may also contain the psychoactive ingredient THC. However, these can only be found in licensed dispensaries, so there’s little risk of getting an unintended high from a spray you pick up at your local pharmacy.

CBD tinctures itself contains two primary components: the CBD itself, and a carrier oil that allows it to be absorbed better. While it may be tempting to reach for one that contains “pure CBD,” the best option is actually a full spectrum oil, since these also have a diverse range of natural compounds from the cannabis plant that help boost the effects of CBD. In terms of a carrier, coconut oil is the best available at the moment, since its high lipid content helps the CBD dissolve faster and work more efficiently.

Aside from this, most CBD pain relief sprays also contain a range of other ingredients with medical benefits. For example, one popular spray features arnica (an herb that has been used for centuries as a pain reliever), peppermint (which can boost energy and sharpen one’s focus), and juniper (another well-known anti-inflammatory).

It’s worth noting that, at the moment, no clinical studies have been conducted into the potential effectiveness of CBD pain relief sprays. As a result, there’s no proof that one concoction works better than another.

Oral vs. Topical CBD Oil Sprays

While all CBD pain relief sprays contain similar components, they’re applied in different ways. Since no scientific research has compared their results, it’s impossible to say whether topical or oral sprays are better for athletes. One thing worth keeping in mind, though, is that CBD topical creams may not be effective for pain relief, and these apply a more concentrated dose than sprays.

On the other hand, a report on CBD from the World Health Organization (WHO) found that “[aerosolized] CBD has been reported to yield … higher bioavailability than oral administration.” As in many cases where CBD is concerned, scientists simply aren’t sure what works best.

Oral CBD sprays are usually sprayed under the tongue or on either side of the inner cheek. Anecdotally, many users report that the taste is better than unflavored CBD alone, which isn’t known for its pleasing flavor. Most brands recommend 2-3 sprays every few hours, though there’s little risk of unwanted consequences if you use it more frequently. A dosage can last up to six hours, depending on the product.

Topical sprays, as the name suggests, are applied directly to the affected area of the body. The recommended dose is similar, but some users report that they feel the effects more quickly — sometimes in just a minute or two. While this might be due to the placebo effect more than the benefits of the CBD itself, it’s still a welcome relief for sore, tired athletes.

Kerri Louise Watt
Kerri Louise Watt
Kerri Louise Watt is an experienced health and fitness advisor with 20 years of martial arts under her belt. She reports on the healthy lifestyle revolving around CBD and its future potential in fitness. You can find her work at kerrilouisewatt.com.

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