Active Recovery

I Tore My ACL and Both MCLs, and This Potent CBD Salve Quickly Relieved My Joint Pain and Inflammation

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Eight days after I moved to Salt Lake City this past January for the 2022 ski season, I tore the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and medial collateral ligament (MCL) in my left knee. Not, like, pesky, baby tears—complete tears. The correct medical diagnosis for my ACL was a Grade 3, meaning—sorry, this is graphic—it was completely spliced in half. Meanwhile, my doctor described my MCL as "hanging on by a thread." Nice.

Needless to say, I was gutted—but also determined to salvage my season. I took three weeks off and ended up skiing February through April on easy and intermediate runs with the help of a brace and a boatload of kinetic tape. (Fun fact: not all ACL tears warrant surgery, even at a grade III. Some people, and even athletes, can go on without one—but you should always consult with your doctor or healthcare provider.)

This played well for a while, until a weird fall in early April landed me another torn MCL, this time in the opposite knee. While this tear was only considered a Grade 2, and would eventually regenerate without needing surgery, I considered it a sign from the heavens to take it easy and called skiing quits for the season.

Thus, I moved back to Upstate New York for the summer with an impending surgery, two bum knees, and a very fragile ego. Looking back on my season—and looking forward to said surgery—I realized I couldn't have gotten through it without three important things: my very caring and supportive boyfriend (bless his heart), that boatload of KT tape, and Equilibria's CBD Relief Balm ($44), which is an absolute lifesaver on sore, tender joints.

Equilibria, Relief Balm — $58.00

Each jar contains 500 mg of full-spectrum CBD blended with naturally soothing botanicals, like arnica, lavender, and menthol.

As a CBD skeptic, I wasn't immediately sold on trying it. Yes, some research indicates it can be effective in soothing aches and pains, particularly on the anti-inflammatory front. But I'd tried CBD before, mostly in the form of pills and under-the-tongue-tinctures, and, TBH, they didn't do the trick for me.

However! My knees hurt. In the four weeks after my first tear, especially, my left knee was swollen and angry, tender to the touch and mottled with bruising. There was only so much ibuprofen and ice could do for me, so I decided to give a CBD balm a try. Now, I won't go a day without it.

This honey-like balm instantly soothes soreness and inflammation, absorbing into the skin and into the muscles to give you fast-action relief. Each jar (which is ultra chic, BTW) is made with 500 mg of CBD, all sourced from Colorado-grown, full-spectrum hemp. It's infused with superstar soothing naturals, too, like arnica (some studies show that arnica can help alleviate pain and reduce inflammation), menthol, rosemary, and lavender. Blended together in a rich, thick salve, the Relief Balm goes on smooth and is aromatic, giving your tender muscles and painful joints a much-needed sigh of relief.

Take it from someone with serious knee pain—this stuff works fast. That's largely due to the fact that it's a topical opposed to an ingestible pill or a gummy. As the brand's Senior Director of Education Maia Reed previously explained to us, CBD efficacy all comes down to bioavailability, or the amount of CBD that can be absorbed into your body.

"Bioavailability is a key concept when it comes to CBD dosing, as it essentially determines how effective or potent a CBD dose will ultimately be," Reed explained. "This differs between products depending on the way CBD is absorbed through the body. Oils or tinctures are absorbed sublingually, mostly bypassing the digestive system, allowing for increased bioavailability. Anything that goes through the digestive system, such as edibles or soft gels, will lose some bioavailability to the digestive enzymes, but will also last in the system for longer."

Your skin is porous, meaning it rapidly absorbs whatever you put on it. This includes CBD—especially one at a higher dose—which is why it gives you that swift kick of targeted relief almost as soon as you're done applying it.  However, because it acts so fast, it doesn't necessarily last that long. I would say the topical treatment works well for like an hour before the effects start to fade. But even after that, my knees feel considerably more "lubed up," if you will, than if I had taken an oral pain reliever. "Look for something with a high content of CBD and minimal bees wax so it fully absorbs into the skin, instead of just sitting on top of it," Reed said.

Another reason this stuff works so well? It's derived from full-spectrum hemp opposed to broad spectrum. This means there are trace (like, 0.3 percent) compounds of THC in the salve, where as broad spectrum doesn't contain any THC whatsoever. I really believe (more studies definitely need to be done, so please don't take my word as gospel) that this little extra boost of THC makes a difference, relaxing muscles and alleviating aches so my knees can chill out.

Almost six months after my injury, Equlibria's Relief Balm has become my go-to for instant pain relief. Now, it's not perfect. As I mentioned, the effects wear off quickly, but a little goes a long way, so don't be afraid to reapply. And it is a bit pricey. The 1 ounce balm currently retails for $58, unless you subscribe monthly for $44. That's a little steep for a relatively small product, but like I said, a jar will last you a while if you use it in small doses. You really don't need a lot—a dime-sized bit of it melts effortlessly over and into skin, so be conservative in your scooping.

With surgery a month out, I already know I'm stocking up on the stuff for physical therapy—that, KT tape, and ski lessons for next year.

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Our editors independently select these products. Making a purchase through our links may earn Well+Good a commission.

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