CBD is a chemical found in a type of cannabis plant called hemp. For some time now, companies have been isolating the compound from the rest of the plant and using it to treat conditions, including chronic pain.
Many people suffer from conditions that cause chronic pains. These include things like rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, cancer, stomach ulcers, gallbladder disease, and AIDS.
There is evidence, however, that CBD may be able to curb chronic pain using novel biological mechanisms—methods that other forms of painkillers don’t use. What’s more, CBD does not contain any opioids: a compound in some pain meds that can lead to abuse.
How Does CBD for Pain Relief Work?
So, how exactly does CBD combat chronic pain?
Researchers aren’t entirely sure why CBD leads to a lowering of chronic pain in some individuals. They think that it might have something to do with the body’s cannabinoid system.
The brain contains endocannabinoid receptors. These are structures that bind to the cannabis-like chemicals your brain makes as part of its regular operations. These receptors are microscopic proteins that react to chemical signals and send messages to their host cells.
When CBD activates these receptors, it sends anti-inflammatory and anti-pain signals to cells. This causes the person to experience a lower level of pain overall. Reviews on the subject suggest that CBD may have some effect reducing pain in patients with fibromyalgia, neuropathic pain, and cancer.
What’s more, while the researchers saw evidence that CBD was an effective pain reliever, it didn’t lead to any negative side effects. It could, therefore, be a safer way to treat chronic pain conditions in general and help people avoid taking drugs containing opioids.
Can CBD Help Alleviate Migraines?
Migraines are debilitating episodes characterized by extreme headaches, nausea, vomiting, and disturbed vision. People who experience migraines often can’t work or perform their regular duties.
There’s hope that CBD might help counteract the pain that migraines cause. A 2017 study, for instance, found that people who take CBD and THC experience less pain associated with their migraines than people who didn’t.
The doses, however, needed to be quite high. When the researchers gave people less than 100 mg of CBD, there was no difference in pain between the treatment and placebo groups. When researchers increased the dosage above the 100mg threshold, they found that people on the CBD experienced a dramatic 55 percent lowering of their pain symptoms.
What’s more, CBD appeared to fight against the emergence of migraines in the first place. According to the data, those taking CBD saw a 40.4 percent fall in the number of attacks over the period of the study on 200mg daily.
Can CBD Alleviate Cancer-Related Pain?
Cancer is not only a life-threatening condition, but it can cause chronic pain as well.
The research on CBD and cancer takes two distinct forms. Some studies ask whether CBD can help to prevent or reverse cancer, and others investigate whether CBD can reduce pain associated with it.
Let’s take a look at the pain studies first. A double-blind, randomized study by Jeremy Johnson and a team in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management found that people who took CBD oil alongside conventional opioid drugs experienced a more significant reduction in their pain than those who took the opioids alone. This evidence suggested that CBD worked through entirely different mechanisms and was a new way to combat pain.
A further study in 2013 using THC-CBD oral sprays found a similar result. The combination of cannabis-derived compounds and regular painkillers appeared to be more effective than painkillers on their own.
We should point out, of course, that none of these studies investigated the role of CBD by itself. Further evidence of the independent effect of CBD is required.
Finally, CBD may help to reduce cancer pain by fighting the side effects of chemotherapy. The National Cancer Institute says that CBD could reduce vomiting, pain, and a lack of appetite following therapy.
Does CBD Help Reduce Pain Associated With Arthritis?
Arthritis is a painful condition caused by inflammation and swelling in the joints. Current pain medications put people at risk of addiction and abuse. This means that there’s a need for non-toxic, non-addictive alternative therapies.
CBD is one possible candidate that might help people with this type of condition. Currently, the evidence for the effectiveness of CBD in fighting arthritis pain comes from rats. Researchers publishing in the European Journal of Pain applied CBD gels to the skin above the rats’ joints in a variety of concentrations.
The results indicated that the topical application of CBD helped to reduce the swelling of joints by a substantial amount. The data also showed a reduction of inflammatory factors associated with arthritis.
Again, however, human trials are necessary before making any definitive statements on whether using CBD gels (or ingesting CBD products) could help people.