Perhaps the most prevalent use of CBD is for pain relief. The fact is, pain affects everyone at some point in their life, and it’s reassuring to know that there’s a natural remedy that can help. A natural alternative is particularly important for those who suffer from chronic pain or neuropathic pain – or pain that tends to last for more than a few months.
More than 3 million people in the United States are affected by chronic pain every year. The worst part is that it can’t be cured. However, it can be treated. But, the irony is that the most common medical treatments in America are steroids, nerve blockers, and opioids (narcotics), many of which come with significant risk of addiction and side effects. Even over-the-counter drugs like Ibuprofen and Aspirin can be dangerous when used regularly – more than 100,000 people are hospitalized each year, killing an estimate of 15,000.
So what about CBD? Does it really alleviate pain, and if so, how does it work? Ultimately, the answer is yes. Because of its antioxidant properties, CBD is an option for many who suffer from pain to help relieve the symptoms. Studies that have been conducted on CBD and pain management have shown a lot of promise. CBD offers an alternative for those people who suffer from chronic pain and rely on more dangerous, habit-forming medicines like opioids. CBD is very different than most prescribed painkillers since it’s non-toxic, non-addictive, and has very minimal side effects.
Overview of CBD for Pain
Pain is defined as an unpleasant sensory experience. It’s designed as a warning system that something is wrong in the body. It can be experienced as a tingle, prick, sting, ache, or burn, and can limit productivity and adversely affect the wellbeing of a person. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, a person’s risk for developing pain, how sensitive they are to painful stimuli, and if certain therapies will help to alleviate discomfort can be influenced by genetics. Ultimately, pain is subjective.
Pain can be classified as acute or chronic. Acute pain is typically the result of injury, inflammation, or disease. Chronic pain is the discomfort that is associated with chronic disease, and it may persist over long periods of time and is very often resistant to many medical treatments.
Chronic pain can be a devastating diagnosis. For those of us who don’t suffer from chronic pain, it’s hard to imagine what those who do suffer from this condition are going through. Often, chronic pain is secondary to some form of trauma, which makes a bad situation far worse. Just imagine the worst pain that you have experienced, and then imagine suffering that pain day in and day out for months on ends, or sometimes even years.
While doctors have access to tools to help deal with pain, chronic pain is typically resistant to a quick fix. Historically, the go-to therapies for addressing pain have been surgery, physical therapy, interventional procedures, and pain medications. Because they are inexpensive and so easily accessible opioid narcotics have also been a popular choice. But, given the opioid crisis, more and more people are moving towards natural alternatives – like CBD.
Pain can be further classified as neuropathic, nociceptive, or psychogenic. Neuropathic pain is attributed to changes that occur in the nervous system that sustain the sensation of pain even after an injury has healed. Nociceptive pain occurs because of the ongoing activation of pain receptors in either the deep tissue or surface of the body – it’s often associated with inflammation. Fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis are examples of conditions that can cause nociceptive pain. Lastly, psychogenic pain occurs because of psychological disturbances that cause depression and anxiety.
How and Why CBD Could Help in the Treatment of Pain
Humans, as well as many animals, have a biological system that is known as the endocannabinoid system (ECS). This system consists of cannabinoid receptors that are located throughout the body, including the spinal cord, immune system, and brain. The ECS helps to regulate various important bodily functions such as immune response, pain, and sleep.
CBD works by influencing receptors in the ECS indirectly, and it achieves multiple outcomes. For example, CBD will stop the body from absorbing anandamide, a compound that is associated with regulating pain. This is how CBD can reduce the amount of pain that someone feels, and it also reduces inflammation, which is the underlying cause of various painful conditions.
The ECS plays an important role in sustaining homeostasis in the body. When specific processes are out of balance, disease can occur. This may be why pain is experienced. If we are able to put the body back into balance, symptoms like pain can be effectively alleviated. As we already mentioned, receptors are found throughout the body on the surface of the cells, and endocannabinoids interact with and activate the receptors. CBD is able to mimic the activity of the endocannabinoids that are produced naturally in the body to induce similar effects, like pain alleviation.
When THC is consumed, it makes users high because it binds to CB1 receptors that are found in the brain. CBD, however, doesn’t directly bind to the receptors and instead interacts indirectly with CB2 receptors that are found mainly in the immune system but can also be found throughout the body.
The ECS is directly responsible for controlling specific responses in the body, such as pain control. When CBD is absorbed, it takes on the role of endocannabinoids to reduce pain which results from an imbalance in the body.
Studies have shown that CBD interacts with both the brain receptors and the immune system. The receptors receive multiple chemical signals from stimuli and help the rest of the cells to respond to these signals. When the receptors react with CBD, they form anti-inflammatory effects that help to reduce pain.
Because CBD interacts with receptors in the brain, it helps to improve the pain management system. This means that there’s a reduction in inflammation and the pain itself lessens. You can continually take CBD to treat your chronic pain, and you won’t build up a tolerance for it. Essentially, CBD provides a long-term solution to a long-term problem. You won’t have to keep increasing the dosage amount or look around for new medications that may work better. This makes CBD an effective treatment for various types of chronic pain, including arthritis.
Medical Findings: Effects of Cannabinoids and CBD on Pain
The studies that support the effectiveness of CBD as a pain reliever are vast. One particular 2007 study looked at the effects that cannabinoids have on treating the devastating pain that is experienced by 50% – 70% of Multiple Sclerosis patients. This double-blind placebo-controlled study found that cannabinoids, which included the CBD/THC buccal spray, are effective when it comes to treating neuropathic pain that is experienced in MS.
One 2008 review looked at how CBD works to alleviate chronic pain. The review looked into studies that were done between the late 1980s and 2007. Based on these studies, researchers reported that CBD was effective for overall pain management without the risk of adverse side effects. They also went on to state that CBD was beneficial for treating insomnia that is related to chronic pain.
A 2016 study looked into the use of CBD in rats with arthritis. For four days in a row, researchers applied CBD gel to the rats. Each day 0.6, 3.1, 6.2, or 62.3 mg of CBD was applied. The researchers found that after the CBD treatment, rats experienced a reduction in inflammation and overall pain in the affected joints, without any side effects.
Overall, researchers agree on the fact that while data to support CBD as a preferred method of pain management isn’t conclusive, CBD products have a lot of potential. Even more impressive, CBD has the potential to offer relief to many people who suffer from chronic pain, without causing dependence or intoxication.
Medical Benefits of Using CBD to Treat Pain
One of the top benefits of using CBD to treat pain is that it doesn’t cause the same dependency that is caused by using pharmaceutical medications. Researchers have been looking into alternative pain medication for a very long time. CBD is one of the treatments that has a long history of being used as a pain medication. But, only recently has the medical sector acknowledged it to be a legitimate treatment for various ailments like chronic pain.
As the FDA considers using cannabis and CBD for medical purposes, vaping and smoking cannabis is slowly becoming about more than just getting high. It’s increasingly becoming a health issue, along with many other positive reasons. Some of these benefits include:
- Helping muscles to relax: When the muscles relax, movement in the body becomes easier. This is important for those who suffer from chronic pain but still want to exercise or do something like yoga – which can initially be painful.
- Sleep heals: Those with sleep disorders are more likely to experience intense pain since the body can’t complete its natural healing process. CBD has neuroprotective properties that help to encourage rest and improve sleep.
- Controls neuropathic pain: CBD targets the neurons in the nervous system that are responsible for transmitting the pain signals through regions of the spinal column and brain. It reduces chronic pain that is caused by inflammation and has calming effects on neuropathic pain.
- Anti-inflammatory: Chronic inflammation is one of the top causes of tissue damage and severe pain. CBD offers immediate and long-term relief without any danger to the body.
How to Take CBD for Pain
Both CBD oil and CBD topicals work well for pain relief. Topicals can be applied directly to the area where the patient feels pain for more targeted pain relief. However, it could possibly take a little longer for the effects to be felt since the CBD is absorbed through the skin.
CBD oil, on the other hand, can provide slightly quicker relief because of the ability it has to bypass the digestive system and go straight into the cells of the body. Also, CBD oil can help to alleviate any other symptoms that the patient may be experiencing, like poor appetite, anxiety, and sleep disorders.
Administering CBD orally is without a doubt the most common method of taking CBD. It’s quick, convenient, and easy to dose. When using CBD oil, you should take it sublingually, which means holding it under the tongue for at least a minute or maybe two before swallowing it. This method will allow the mucous membranes to in the mouth to absorb the CBD, bypassing the metabolism in the liver and the digestive system entirely. This means that the CBD will reach the bloodstream much faster. When using CBD for chronic pain, it’s recommended that you take between 2.5 – 20 mg when using it orally.
Final Thoughts on CBD for Pain
There’s a difference between THC and CBD since CBD doesn’t interact with the same brain receptors that THC does, so it won’t make you high. Instead, CBD gives the body a way to use its own endocannabinoids better. If you suffer from chronic pain, CBD is a good choice for you. It’s easy to use, rarely has any adverse side effects, and it happens to be less expensive than most prescription medications.