Athletes and sports enthusiasts are no strangers to pain. If you push your body to the limit day after day, pain is simply something you have to learn to cope with.

For some athletes, pain during exercise pushes them to perform better. In fact, a combination of studies and anecdotal evidence have shown that for world-class athletes, it is their ability to cope with pain that allows them to perform so well.

However, all sports enthusiasts and athletes understand that recovery is crucial to keep their bodies in optimum shape. Often, recovery is painful, and athletes seek professional pain management advice during this period.

What types of pain do athletes need help for?

When an athlete turns to medical help for pain management, they are usually only doing so because they can no longer manage it on their own.

Medical professionals can offer a range of existing pain management treatments. Of course, the recommended treatment depends on the type of pain the athlete is experiencing. Typically, athletes will be experiencing increased pain due to an injury.

Some of the most common types of injury in professional athletes and sports enthusiasts are:

  • Tennis elbow
  • Hamstring strain
  • Sciatica (pain related to the sciatic nerve, which starts in the lower back)
  • Shin splints
  • Groin pulls
  • Hip flexor strain
  • ACL tear

What existing pain control methods for athletes are there?

Depending on the individual at hand – as well as their injury, level of pain, and pain tolerance – the pain management programme prescribed by a medical professional will vary.

For many athletes, going into recovery from an injury is necessary because the area is inflamed, which causes pain and irritation upon movement.

Often, athletes will be told to “elevate and ice” the affected area. This helps to reduce swelling in the affected area and can subsequently minimise pain felt by the athlete. However, this pain management method is not always carried out effectively, meaning athletes experience little improvement in their condition.

Some athletes use Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) units in order to deliver regulated electric shocks to the affected area. The devices do not work for everyone, but in some cases can inhibit the neural pain pathways responsible for the athlete’s comprehension of the pain they are feeling.

By essentially “confusing” the brain into feeling the shocks rather than the pain from the affected area. However, this pain management method has been suggested to work best in treating chronic pain, rather than acute pain. (1)

For athletes experiencing a high level of continual pain, medical professionals have been known to prescribe painkillers such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for their analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects.

However, NSAIDs are notoriously dangerous for athletes especially when administered in prophylaxis, and can result in significant side effects such as gastrointestinal and cardiovascular complications. (2)

How can CBD help athletes manage pain better?

For athletes in recovery, CBD offers a number of benefits. Studies have shown that Cannabidiol as a cannabis isolate offers excellent anti-inflammatory properties, as well as pain-killing effects.

If you haven’t read our article on CBD and inflammation yet, check it out here.

A recent, non-systematic literature review (3) on Cannabis and the Health and Performance of the Elite Athlete found that there is scope for future research into CBD’s impact on pain management, especially for concussion-related symptoms.

There is no evidence of performance-enhancing or causal effects related to cannabis use by elite athletes, which leads the researchers to conclude that instead, cannabis (and indeed, mainly isolates such as CBD) are being used as natural pain management options.

For actively competing athletes, it is important to keep an eye on the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) prohibitions list (the List). As of January 2018, the List maintained that synthetic cannabidiol products (i.e. CBD oil) were not prohibited, and therefore could be used by athletes.

However, it is important to maintain a level of vigilance when buying CBD products in order to ensure it does not contain trace levels of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which still remains a prohibited substance.

CBD Oil for Pain Management | Smart CBD

Smart CBD’s THC-free CBD oil is the smart choice for athletic pain management and WADA compliance. You can buy it here.

Remember that CBD oil is not a substitute for prescribed pain management medication or physical therapy. Speak to a medical professional before using this product as part of your pain management regime.


(1) Choi JC, Kim J, Kang E, et al. Brain mechanisms of pain relief by transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation: a functional magnetic resonance imaging study. Eur J Pain. 2016;20(1):92-105.

(2) Prophylactic use of NSAIDs by athletes: a risk/benefit assessment., Warden SJ., Phys Sportsmed. 2010 Apr;38(1):132-8. doi: 10.3810/psm.2010.04.1770., PMID: 20424410

(3) Ware MA, Jensen D, Barrette A, Vernec A, Derman W. Cannabis and the Health and Performance of the Elite Athlete. Clin J Sport Med. 2018;28(5):480-484.