Can Topical Cannabis Products Help Me with My “Work-from-Home” Neck and Back Soreness?

I am suffering with a “work from home body”. My shoulders and neck are sore and achy. Can I use a lotion with cannabis?

Should I use one with just CBD or one that contains CBD and THC?


As we continue to implement social distancing measures to help fight the spread of the COVID-19 virus, more and more people are working from their couches, bedrooms…sometimes even their cars when trying to find a quiet space for some much-needed privacy.


Working “pop-up” style can leave many folks with neck and back soreness. Many of the remedies found on pharmacy shelves contain menthol and camphor, both of which contain strong and unpleasant odors.


Today we compare the products found on pharmacy shelves to the products found in most cannabis dispensaries. As a pharmacist, I like to see a side by side comparison of drugs in order to decide which product may be most appropriate for each individual patient. I use this compare/contrast scenario in my book, The Cannabis Prescription when considering medications for conditions such as pain, dementia, Parkinson’s disease, fibromyalgia and more.


When looking for a topical remedy, you will find products labeled with one of the following distinctions:






To quickly summarize:

1. Creams tend to be thicker than lotions

2. Lotions absorb more quickly and easily than creams

3. Ointments have the best absorption rates of all the topical products but tend to be a bit greasy when applied

4. A balm is an ointment which tends to have some fragrance added to it

5. Coconut oil is frequently used as a base for many cannabis products. It absorbs quickly and completely in a few minutes, but can feel greasy when initially applied.


Even though there are numerous products available in the pharmacy for sore and achy muscles (which can lead to a lot of confusion for the patient), in actuality, there are only a handful of ingredients that are used in topical products used for pain and soreness.


Here are the active pharma ingredients found in topical products used for sore muscles:



Methyl salicylate (topical NSAID)

Trolamine salicylate (Aspercream)

Lidocaine (topical numbing agent)

capsaicin (Capzasin)


Here are the homeopathic ingredients found in topical products found in pharmacies:


Blue Emu Oil

Magnesium Sulfate (Epsom salts)

Histamine Dihydrochloride (Australia Dream)


Pharmacy Products:

Most of the products on pharmacy shelves contain menthol, camphor or a combination of both. These ingredients warm the area to which it is applied and typically have a strong odor which most people can identify as a typical “muscle rub” smell.


Methyl salicylate and trolamine salicylate are topical anti-inflammatory medications (think ibuprofen in a rub), but after decades of working in pharmacies I’ve noticed they don’t tend to be very popular and only offer mild relief.


Lidocaine is a very effective numbing agent that is used frequently throughout healthcare. Although effective when injected or for topical pain, such as sunburn, reviews are mixed when it is used for deep muscle pain.


Capsaicin is an ingredient derived from chili peppers and has been used successfully for arthritis pain, but some people don’t like the burning sensation when applied.


Cannabis Products:

Topical cannabis products contain CBD, THC, or a mixture of both. Only people with access to cannabis dispensaries will be able to purchase products containing THC. If you can purchase THC containing topical products, I highly recommend using a combination of both THC and CBD, but CBD balms and lotions can offer a lot of relief in their own right.


Lotions and creams containing CBD are often very effective when used for muscle soreness, arthritis pain, and joint pain. They can be used alone or combined with oral pain medication (ibuprofen, CBD, THC) to add an extra layer of pain relief.


I recommend for edible CBD gummies or oils. Each gummy is 10mg which is a great starting dose for most people. If 10mg is not strong enough, try a 20mg dose every 4 to 6 hours to help with pain and inflammation. Patients with severe pain may need up to 50mg or more of CBD dosed every 4 to 6 hours. This can get expensive if using over the counter products.


On those days when I work out a bit too much (happens more and more the older I get), I take 30mg of CBD with a dose of turmeric powder immediateley following my workout and find it helps tremendously to relieve the next-day soreness and pain.


If I suffer an injury and require more pain relief, I often mix this recipe with a dose or two of ibuprofen. It is important to keep ibuprofen use as limited as possible since frequent dosing of ibuprofen can lead to stomach ulcers, kidney dysfunction, and an increased risk of a stroke or heart attack.


If you have a chance to use a topical product with both CBD and THC, I would highly recommend it. THC offers additional pain relief and when used on the skin there are no psychoactive side effects.


You can also use products that contain CBD and THC for burns, eczema, and other “itchy” skin conditions so they are great items to keep around the house for those “just in case” moments. Keep them stored in a cool, dark place and they can last for years.


So the next time you are at the dispensary or your local CBD store, grab a bottle of the strongest lotion you can find. It’s sure to be a “must-have” for every medicine cabinet.


Good luck!


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