All pain is not equal. Doctors may ask you to rate your pain on a scale of 1 to 10, but in reality, pain is a lot more complex than that. Neuropathic pain is its very own unique problem – annoying, chronic, and sometimes excruciating. While its a condition that has often been linked to diabetes, that is not the only cause; nerve pain and neuropathy have been linked to multiple diseases and illnesses.
In the United States, there are an estimated 20 million people who suffer from neuropathic pain. It’s a condition that is more commonly found in certain populations. For example, 26% of people who suffer from neuropathy are over the age of 65, and 30% of patients have diabetes mellitus.
Neuropathic pain is a tricky disease to try and define, and it’s even trickier to try and treat. While there are a number of well-known conventional medications that have been found to be effective for treating neuropathic pain, they can be very costly and in many cases may result in severe side effects.
Overview of Neuropathic pain
Neuropathic pain is typically described as a shooting or burning pain. While it can go away on its own, it’s often chronic. Sometimes the condition is severe and unrelenting, and other times it comes and goes. Often, neuropathic pain is the result of either nerve damage or a malfunctioning nervous system – nerve damage results in a change of nerve function at both the site of injury and the areas around it.
Most cases of neuropathic pain are caused by damage to a certain tissue area, or damage to nerve cells which result from an underlying condition, most commonly spinal stenosis, diabetes, or injury to the spinal cord or brain.
One example of neuropathic pain known as phantom limb syndrome. This is a rare condition that occurs when a leg or arm because of injury or illness, but the brain continues to get pain messages from the nerves that initially carried impulses from the missing limb. The nerves then misfire and cause pain.
Most of the time, there is no obvious cause of neuropathic pain. But, some of the most common causes include alcoholism, diabetes, chemotherapy, HIV/AIDS, shingles, spine surgery, multiple sclerosis, and thyroid problems, among other things.
How and Why CBD Could Help in the Treatment of Neuropathic pain
The scientific explanation for using CBD in the treatment of neuropathic pain is quite straightforward. Our bodies naturally produce chemicals known as endocannabinoids, which are involved in the endocannabinoids system (whole-body system) that controls various physiological processes, like inflammation, immunity, appetite, and importantly, in this case, pain.
Endocannabinoids circulate through the bloodstream and take effect by binding to cannabinoid receptors in the ECS. There are two cannabinoid receptors that are currently known about by scientists; CB1 and CB2. The important ones when it comes to nerve pain are the CB1 receptors. These are found in the brain and nerve endings and have been connected to the origin of pain sensation.
CBD works in the body by reducing the metabolic breakdown of endocannabinoids, which are made naturally by our body. By slowing the breakdown process, CBD indirectly increases the activity and amount of endocannabinoids at both the CB1 and CB2 receptors. This helps to alleviate the pain sensations and some even reverse it.
In addition to the above, research has shown that CBD has neuroprotective and antioxidant properties. In fact, the U.S government holds a patent on the compound for these very reasons. Neuroprotective agents are compounds that have the ability to protect the brain from degeneration and damage that is brought on by certain diseases. As we discussed earlier, it’s common for many cases of neuropathic pain to be caused by an underlying disorder or neurological condition, like MS. As you will see below, there is a lot of scientific evidence that has proven the beneficial effects of CBD in the treatment of neuropathic pain, under laboratory settings.
Medical Findings: Effects of Cannabinoids and CBD on Neuropathic pain
In 2006, a systematic review was done by Iskedjian et al. in which multiple studies were combined, and 298 participants with neuropathic pain were examined in response to CBD versus a placebo. The measurement of pain was done according to a visual analogue scale or an 11-point ordinal scale amongst the studies that were examined.
The study concluded that in response to CBD administration, there was a significant decrease in subjective pain score measures in the cannabis group when compared to the placebo group. Furthermore, biochemical analysis done in animal models found a reduction in oxidative stress after administering CBD.
In another study that was published in 2007 in the European Journal of Pharmacology, it was concluded that CBD is an orally effective therapeutic agent in treating neuropathic pain and chronic inflammation in rats.
These studies mirror the results of several earlier publications, some of which have directly concluded that cannabinoids could play an important role in helping with the treatment of chronic neuropathic pain.
Medical Benefits of Using CBD to Treat Neuropathic pain
The lists of research into how CBD impacts chronic nerve pain continues. However, it’s yet to define the exact mechanism by which CBD is able to relieve or modulate pain. What we do know, is that CBD works indirectly, interfering with other factors that contribute to pain. For example, it keeps the body from absorbing anandamide, which is a fatty neurotransmitter that is responsible for sending messages of pain. This helps to free more anandamide to circulate.
CBD limits autoimmune responses, inflammation, and insomnia induced pain. However, its effects assume regular usage and at an effective dosage. Used consistently, CBD has the potential to manage and prevent neuropathic pain.
How to Take CBD for Neuropathic pain
Establishing a CBD regime for a specific pain condition, like neuropathic pain, requires that you use the compound regularly to get its full benefits. What this means is that you will likely have to use it as an ongoing preventative measure even when you’re not feeling pain any longer. This is because, in the long run, it will help you to manage the pain more effectively.
Ingesting full-spectrum CBD oil daily in the form of a tincture or gel capsule is a great method for consistent pain management. Both of these products typically have the same ingredients – the only difference is the form that they come in, and this could affect the dosage that is required. To start off with, it’s good to take between 5 and 10 mg of CBD daily, regardless of the type of pain that you are experiencing. From there, if you aren’t experiencing the desired results, you can increase the dosage by another 5 or 10 mg in stages, until you reach the desired effects.
The great thing about CBD is that you can’t overdose on it. This means that if you buy CBD capsules that are prefilled with 25 mg, you can take them on a daily basis without experiencing any side effects, even as a beginner. While it can take up to 90 minutes for the effects to kick in, they can last for up to several hours, or even an entire day.
Final Thoughts on CBD for Neuropathic pain
As we can see, there is no shortage of evidence suggesting that CBD could indeed be an efficient and reliable treatment in the case of neuropathic pain. Recently, it’s been found to provide relief to those patients who have been unresponsive to various other forms of treatment. This is mostly due to the relationship that it has with the endocannabinoid system.
For now, we will keep waiting for more advanced trials to be completed, which are bound to showcase beyond a shadow of a doubt that CBD has the potential to surpass even the “best” pharmaceutical medications in the treatment of neuropathic pain.