With the who’s who taking notice of CBD, it well qualifies to be labeled “the new and cool kid on the block.” People are using CBD for various reasons, depending on what they have read or what they have been told. CBD for pain is one of the most touted health claims, but can CBD cure all forms of pain? This makes for an interesting discussion, and certainly one to think about.
You walk into a store that stocks CBD products, and you are sure to find every conceivable form of CBD: tinctures, creams, lotions, edibles, vape liquids, balms, and some more that I’ve yet to discover. You have pain, possibly in your head, your tummy, skin, or any other place. How do you determine whether CBD will relieve your pain or not? Before we get to that, let’s first define pain.
What is Pain?
The basic definition of pain is “an unpleasant sensation that could be physical, emotional or mental that is caused by injury or disease.” Just as disease is an umbrella term for different types of ailments, pain also represents a host of sensations. Pain could be classified according to how it feels, such as burning, piercing, stabbing, prickly, dull, or tingling. It could also be classified according to its origin, such as spastic from muscle spasms, inflammatory from an inflammation, neuropathic from the nerves, phantom pain from a phantom limb, bone pain from the bones, soft tissue pain from soft tissue injury, or total pain when it has physical, emotional, and psychological components.
In order to effectively treat pain, it is important to understand the nature of the pain being dealt with. This will help to address the root cause of the pain and not just deal with the symptoms.
How does CBD for Pain Work?
CBD interacts with certain receptors in the body that are part of the endocannabinoid system. These receptors are located in the immune system and peripheral tissues. Unlike THC, which binds directly to the cannabinoid receptors in the brain, CBD interacts indirectly with the receptors located peripherally, and through this interaction, it is able to suppress pain and inflammation.
Because different kinds of pain have different causes and mechanisms, the treatment of pain varies depending on the kind of pain. CBD has shown effectiveness in treating four different kinds of pains as outlined below.
Neuropathic pain occurs when there is damage to the nerves. This kind of pain will be prickly or burning and is hard to withstand. It occurs when there is an imbalance in the glutamate neurotransmitter, which causes the neurons to fire sporadically.
CBD inhibits glutamate release and in this way, it exhibits neuroprotective properties. There isn’t much published evidence on the use of CBD to effectively treat neuropathic pain. However, a report by Harvard Health Publishing released in 2018 stated that CBD has the potential to inhibit neuropathic pain as well as inflammatory pain. There is also anecdotal evidence of CBD being effective at relieving shingles pain, which is a form of neuropathic pain.
Inflammatory pain occurs when there is inflammation, and it is often burning or searing. It is the kind of pain that is hard to ignore. When it is mild, it can be treated by over the counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS). These, however, have the tendency to trigger bleeding when used over a long duration of time. Opioids may be used to treat chronic inflammatory pain, but over time they may cause dependence and addiction.
A study published in EUR J Pain in 2015 investigated the effectiveness of CBD in treating arthritic pain in mice. Results revealed that CBD was effective in treating this pain, which is a form of inflammatory pain. Unlike other anti-inflammatory agents that inhibit COX pathways, CBD has a low risk of causing gastrointestinal ulcers.
Spastic pain occurs when muscles contract and become stiff, thus causing pain and hindering movement. Spastic pain is common in multiple sclerosis (MS), which is a demyelinating disease of the central nervous system. A study conducted by Colorado State University in 2018 showed that CBD was effective in treating inflammation and spasticity, which in turn helps to increase mobility in people suffering from MS.
Chronic pain is defined as pain that has persisted for more than three months, in spite of treatment. The pain may vary in severity and intensity, but the underlying factor is how long it has lasted. Conditions such as cancer, arthritis, nerve diseases, and many others may present with chronic pain. Most backaches are also chronic in nature.
CBD works well for chronic pain for two reasons; It addresses pain holistically, and it can be used long-term without causing severe side effects or addiction.
Chronic pain is associated with anxiety, depression, worry, and other emotional symptoms. CBD is able to address pain as a whole so that a patient is at rest even as they find relief from physical pain.
The World Health Organization released a report in 2018 that showed that CBD is safe for human consumption and has little to no side effects. When side effects occur, they are mostly related to mixing CBD with other drugs.
Finally, CBD does not cause addiction, even when used for a long time. The use of opioids to treat chronic pain has largely contributed to the opioid abuse crisis that is now being witnessed in the United States. CBD can be a good substitute for opioids in the management of chronic pain.
Should you Combine CBD with other Pain Relievers?
CBD has a high safety profile, even when taken in very high doses. When combined with other drugs, however, this safety can be compromised. CBD inhibits the action of a group of liver enzymes that break down many drugs. Because of this, it is important to consult with your physician before combining CBD with any other drug.
1. NYT (2018): Why is CBD everywhere? Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/27/style/cbd-benefits.html
2. John Hopkins University: What are Pain/Types of Pain Treated? Retrieved from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/pain/blaustein_pain_center/patient_care/what_is_pain.html
3. NCBI (2009): Endocannabinoids and pain. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19839937
4. Harvard Publising (2018): Cannabidiol (CBD) — what we know and what we don’t. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/cannabidiol-cbd-what-we-know-and-what-we-dont-2018082414476
5. NCBI (2016): Transdermal cannabidiol reduces inflammation and pain-related behaviors in a rat model of arthritis. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4851925/
6. NCBI (2018): Cannabidiol to Improve Mobility in People with Multiple Sclerosis. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5874292/