As unfortunate as it is, pain is a common occurrence in life. It is accredited with affecting more Americans every year than cancer, heart disease, and diabetes combined according to a survey published in the Journal of Pain by Elsevier. One in three people experiencing pain report it to be disabling or severely impacting their day-to-day life.
For those with chronic or acute pain, finding a good way to mitigate their pain is a top priority. Over the counter painkillers such as acetaminophen, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, and opioids often carry side effects and can lead to addiction and dependency after long term use.
An ailment gaining traction in the world of pain relief is Cannabidiol (CBD). This alternate form of pain relief is thought to work very effectively to alleviate pain by reducing inflammation in the body.
The Benefits of CBD Oil for Pain Relief
CBD has shown promise in reducing pain in several ways. It stimulates the body’s endocannabinoid system, which is partly responsible for mood, memory, and how pain is experienced. A study conducted in 2004 published by the British Journal of Pharmacology reported that CBD relieves pain through the body’s TRPV1 receptors which control certain bodily functions such as body temperature, inflammation, and awareness of pain.
CBD also inhibits the levels of glutamate in the brain as well as spinal cord. Glutamate can be associated with increased sensations of pain and transmission, and enhances anandamide signaling (often referred to as the “bliss molecule) in the brain. These anandamide levels, when healthy, are linked to feelings of euphoria and well-being.
Through the effects CBD has on the endocannabinoid system, the body recenters itself into a state of homeostasis (balance). Besides its pain-dulling effects, CBD oil has been known to help promote sound sleep, helpful to those afflicted by pain which disrupts their sleep. However, CBD is only found to be effective at inducing deep sleep when administered in high doses.
The Studies on CBD Oil & Pain
Research into the effects and potential of CBD is increasing. As is common, many studies into CBD have been conducted on non-human test subjects, however, the number tests on human subjects is increasing.
These studies have shown CBD oil to be effective at treating chronic pain conditions which are otherwise very difficult to treat (such as neuropathic pain in multiple sclerosis), and cancer related pain.
Although there is promising research suggesting CBD to be effective at combating neuropathic pain caused by conditions such as cancer and stroke, more research is needed to draw a decisive conclusion.
According to a 2013 research paper published in the British Journal of Pharmacology found that CBD was effective at alleviating pain caused by chemotherapy in cancer patients. CBD is also popularly used because of its anti-inflammatory properties lending itself to suppressing inflammatory pain caused by muscle cramps and headaches.
In a study performed on rats and published in 2016 in the European Journal of Pain, researchers found that CBD had limited oral bioavailability. Topical application of CBD may be more effective than oral ingestion in cases where inflammation or pain is specific to one area, such as arthritis or muscular pain.
What the Experts Say
Stacia Woodcock, Pharm.D., is a pharmacist with Curaleaf New York who specifically endorses CBD oil as a form of pain relief for conditions that cause inflammation or nerve pain.
”The current research shows that CBD is a very potent anti-inflammatory agent, which can help decrease pain where inflammation is a key factor, such as arthritis or colitis,”Woodcock explained. “CBD has also been studied in the prevention and treatment of neuropathy, or nerve pain.”
Woodcock also emphasized that CBD is unique because it assists with an array of symptoms associated with pain: “CBD is a huge multitasker. Whereas most medications typically work on only one symptom, CBD can help with multiple facets of pain, including inflammation and the anxiety constant pain can cause, in addition to the pain itself.”
She points out, however, that severe pain, such as the pain associated with fibromyalgia, endometriosis, or musculoskeletal pain such as severe back pain, benefits from the entourage effect of CBD in conjunction with THC. “The research also indicates that higher doses of CBD (between 100-200 mg per day) are often needed when CBD is used without THC to bolster its effects.”
Woodcock underlines that thus far, there is no clinical evidence yet that found CBD causes any serious side effects. “It doesn’t cause stomach issues, itching, or constipation the way anti-inflammatories and opioids can. When a medical cannabis product is dosed properly, it can provide powerful pain relief without any [intoxication], which is not typically the case with opioids.”
Lastly, Woodcock cautions that verifying the source and potency of CBD oil is critical. “Medical cannabis products are highly regulated and tested, whereas hemp CBD products are not required to be regulated,” she said. Buyers should be aware that many hemp products might not contain what they promise they do, and may even include harmful substances in their formulation. Buying third-party tested products can help ensure you receive the pain relief you are paying for.
The Bottom Line
CBD may very well be helpful in alleviating pain and treating associated symptoms to those suffering from neuropathic pain. There is more research to be done, but there is enough at this point to call it an effective tool for combating pain.