Can CBD help with pain?
Acute pain can occur in various forms and can actually fulfill an essential function in the body so far as it provides warning and aids protection.
In contrast, chronic pain is more complex - pain signals can be sent out even though the injury or illness has already healed. Sometimes, the pain or accompanying infammation can actually impede complete healing.
Millions of people suffer from severe restrictions in life due to chronic pain. Doctors sometimes prescribe strong medications that are often associated with side effects, sometimes including addiction. One need only look across the Atlantic at the opioid crisis in US healthcare for a warning of what strong but poorly managed medications can lead to.
The question we will seek to answer here is whether, CBD, which is not addictive and has few side effects, could be a serious alternative for managing pain?
We have looked at pioneering US scientific research and evaluated hundreds of customer experiences.
Acute and Chronic pain
The physical alarm bell explained above works perfectly for acute pain. The body registers a wound, inflammation or irritation.
The pain makes us aware of a problem and we can quickly ensure that the damage does not spread any further. Everyone has experienced acute pain.
The most common causes are:
- Acute headache
- Abrasions or cuts
- Muscle strains
- Acute arthrosis
- Broken bones
- Postoperative pain
- Menstrual cramps
When the physical cause is cured or eliminated, the acute pain subsides regularly.
However, chronic pain is more problematic. Pain is considered 'chronic' when it persists for more than three months, often past the normal healing time. Therefore, chronic pain lacks the acute warning function of physiological nociception.
A major review carried about by the NHS found that nearly half of all adults in the UK are affected by some type of chronic pain. It really is a common problem.
The causes of chronic pain are often much more difficult to identify than acute pain. This is because chronic pain does not always have a clearly defined physical cause.
The pain then no longer fulfills a warning and protective function. So the alarm bell rings for no reason.
Common types of chronic pain include:
- Back pain
- Chronic headaches, such as migraines
- Chronic joint pain, e.g. arthrosis or arthritis
- Tumour pain
- Nerve pain
- Mouth and face pain
- Phantom pain
The Pain Memory
Science also assumes that our central nervous system has a so-called pain memory.
Basically this means that a damaged nervous system can continue sending pain impulses even if the injury or illness no longer exists.
An example of this is phantom pain following amputations. In these cases there is no physical cause for the pain from a neurological point of view.
Once a pain memory is in place, medication is usually not enough to provide relief. The psyche is part of the pain and must be considered during treatment.
The patient must learn to erase the pain memory. There are approaches here that incorporate Cognitive-behavioral therapy into the treatment.
Chronic pain often reduces the pain threshold in patients. The fear of pain can make the sufferer react sensitively to even the smallest of external influences.
In this way, the nerve cells send pain signals to the central nervous system, although there is no physical cause. External circumstances that can promote chronic pain include:
- People in the area who also suffer from pain
- Negative thinking
- Painful past experiences
- Lack of pain treatment
- Unhealthy lifestyle
A quick reminder... what is CBD?
CBD, the shorthand for cannabidiol, is one of the many active ingredients in the cannabis plant, also known as the hemp plant.
CBD, a natural substance from the Cannabis sativa plant, will not get you high,
Unlike the better-known substance THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), CBD is not psychoactive, does not lead to physical dependence and produces no psychoactive effects, i.e. it does not get you ‘high’ and will not lead to addiction.
The World Health Organisation confirms this in its 2018 report where it states CBD is a safe substance.
CBD can actually be used for a wide variety of medical conditions, such as epilepsy and and anxiety, as well as for general wellness. Much like vitamins. In addition to this people sometimes use CBD to keep calm and relaxed, for example when public speaking.
What's more, CBD is legal in the UK, but be sure of the contents of the specific CBD product you purchase.
There are a number of ways to take CBD, but the most common appears to be CBD oil, this may be due to its strength and to the fact that it is one of the most fast-acting methods. CBD oil tinctures normally come with a pipette, the CBD oil is administered under the tongue and should take effect within a few minutes.
Other methods include CBD topical cream, CBD vape liquid, CBD gummies and CBD chocolate. But the list is rapidly growing in line with CBD's popularity.
A note of exercise caution, however, when venturing into the world of CBD products. Given the fact over the counter CBD products are not FDA approved, it is wise to check the label thoroughly.
It can be quite difficult to know which is the best CBD to buy. Some companies can be misleading, and some products may not contain CBD at all! We generally advise to choose products from a company that openly shares it's third party lab reports.
Make sure you are buying high quality forms of CBD. Again, look at the lab reports, but also look for reviews and customer feedback. High quality doesn't necessary mean it has to be the most expensive, shop around - and always look for discount codes and offers!
There is strong evidence to suggest that when CBD is mixed with other cannabinoids, flavonoids and terpenes, that the effect on the body is greater. This is known as the entourage effect. Products that offer the entourage effect are known as full-spectrum cbd.
Further results on CBD in pain in Experimental Animal Studies
In 2016, researchers had very good results in an animal study regarding CBD in arthritis pain. The scientists were able to prove that CBD effectively alleviated the inflammatory pain in the animals' joints.
A separate animal study by the Journal of Experimental Medicine also supports these results. It has been suggested that the use of CBD can relieve pain and inflammation.
Researchers therefore believe that cannabinoids like CBD could represent a new class of therapeutics for the treatment of chronic pain.
Also the fact that cannabinoids bind with both CB-1 and CB-2 cannabinoid receptors (this is explained on our one of our science heavy pages) on immune cells suggests that CBD could play an important role in regulating the immune system.
Could CBD really be an alternative to pain relievers?
Whilst further study is really needed, there does appear to be scope for CBD relieving pain. Unfortunately, studies on CBD are not in the interests of the large pharmaceutical companies.
Strong, synthetically produced chemical medications are big business, and, it cannot be denied that these medications do help lots of people. Unfortunately, these drugs are often accompanied by severe side effects.
Pain relievers don't heal, relief is temporary
The problem is that classic pain therapy cannot 'cure' chronic pain. Only pain relief can actually be provided for pure chronic pain.
Therefore, long-lasting pain requires ongoing pain relief, that with traditional mediation can mean prolonged exposure to drugs that can cause side effects.
In the worst case scenarios, the (over) consumption of pain relievers can also lead to the pain intensifying. The body is burdened by taking painkillers permanently. The kidneys and liver, which break down the chemical substances, are particularly at risk of being affected by long term medication.
What are the classic medicines for pain?
Painkillers are called analgesics, with a distinction made between non-opioid and opioid analgesics. For reference, the defition of an opioid is a compound resembling opium in addictive properties or physiological effects.
If the pain is mild to moderate, non-opioid pain relievers are often prescribed, such as:
- Acetylsalicylic acid ("aspirin")
With severe pain, opioid pain relievers often come into play, such as:
The potential side effects of opioids are numerous, including constipation, nausea, vomiting, dry mouth and loss of appetite.
Also, psychiatric disorders such as dizziness, headache, tiredness, sleepiness, confusion, anxiety, euphoria, dysphoria and small pupils (miosis) can occur.
Opioids are considered very reliable pain relievers. However, there is a real risk of abuse and these drugs can intoxicate and leave users feeling dependent (i.e. addicted).
This is particularly problematic in the USA, which is witnessing an “opioid crisis”. In 2017 there were over 11 million people who abused opiates.
What are the experiences with CBD for pain?
We have evaluated hundreds of customer experiences. Most come from the United States and Canada, where CBD is already being used increasingly by people with chronic pain.
Of course, these are highly subjective and there is absolutely no reason to assume that these experiences will apply to you, but it is often useful to read other people's firsthand accounts.
We summarise our impressions from these experience as follows:
- CBD is said to be more effective for mild to moderate pain, but less so with severe pain.
- Side effects are hardly reported. From our own experience, we know that CBD oil can sometimes make you sleepy. Therefore, it is recommended by some users to make it easier to fall asleep in chronic pain.
- In some cases, reference is also made to the fact that THC in connection with CBD could work even better for pain.
Success Stories with CBD and pain
Our success stories come from social media, other CBD websites or through people we know personally. Some people are comfortable sharing their names and products, others prefer to remain anonymous. We feel hearing other people's positive experiences are a vital part of learning about how CBD can help, although it is important to remember that not all CBD products work the same for everyone. Don't be disheartened if one product/dosage doesn't work for you... keep trying!
We'd love to hear your success stories! If you would like to share yours, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org