According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), pain currently affects more people in the United States than diabetes, heart disease and cancer combined. As if that isn't startling enough, chronic pain is the single most common reason for long-term disability and often occurs alongside other conditions such as traumatic brain injuries, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

In an attempt to cope with pain, Americans rely heavily on everything from nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to massage to stronger drugs like ovoids. While the treatment options for pain may be plentiful, they're often ineffective. Because pain presents a series of complex and interlocking symptoms, it's very difficult to treat with traditional methods.

Luckily, there's hope. Currently, topical cannabis extracts and ointments are being used around the country to manage and treat pain associated with menstrual cramps, arthritis, injuries and scarring.

What Are Topical Ointments?

Topical ointments are cannabis-infused oils or lotions that are rubbed into the skin to prevent or diminish pain. Unlike cannabis that is inhaled or eaten, topical ointments are nonpsychoactive, which means they provide the therapeutic benefits of cannabis without the cerebral effects.

What Are Topical Ointments Used For?

There are many uses for cannabis-infused topical creams. Most commonly, people turn to these ointments to treat things like tension, inflammation, pain and muscle soreness. Their uses are varied, however, and recent evidence has suggested that topical cannabis can also offer relief for conditions such as psoriasis and menstrual cramps.

How Do Topical Ointments Help Ease Pain?

In the same way that rubbing arnica gel into the skin helps soothe tired muscles, topical cannabis ointments use the healing properties of cannabinoids to stop pain. The ointments bind to a series of receptors within the human body known as CB2 receptors. These receptors are controlled by the body's endocannabinoid system or by certain compounds within the cannabis plant known as phytocannabinoids.

When a person applies a topical cannabis ointment, the cannabinoids within the ointment penetrate the skin, although they don't enter the bloodstream. Instead, the compounds within the cannabis-infused topical absorb into the skin and treat the pain at a muscular or neuropathic level.

What Are the Various Types of Topical Ointments?

There are dozens of varieties of topical ointments available, and the type people choose depends on their unique needs and requirements. Some of the most common topicals include:


  • Oils: Oils are a popular topical because they are fast-absorbing and easy to apply. Ideal for spot treatment of pain, in the case of scar tissue or sore feet, for example, oils are well-liked among people looking for targeted and powerful pain relief.
  • Lotions: Lotions are perfect for people who are just getting started with topical ointments. Designed to be accessible and simple to apply, lotions are ideal for full-body pain relief and can be soothing after an athletic event or minor accident.
  • Soaks: For occasional need, bath soaks or bombs may be a good option for people who want topical, cannabis-infused pain relief. A new addition to the topical cannabis products industry, soaks are a fun addition to a pain management regimen.


The Case for Topicals

While pain is one of the most common conditions in the United States, it's also one of the most difficult to treat. Most of the current treatments for pain are either dangerous (in the case of NSAIDs), addictive (in the case of ovoids) or just plain ineffective. Luckily, topical cannabis ointments have managed to address the tough issue of pain without causing dangerous or damaging side effects. Despite their simple appearance, topical cannabis ointments have proven to be a safe, effective, accessible treatment option that helps pain sufferers lead normal lives once more.

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