CBD has gained a significant amount of attention over the past few years, especially among people suffering from pain. But does it really work? A growing number of studies suggest that CBD safely and effectively helps relieve pain by interacting with key CB2 receptors within the body’s endocannabinoid system. (29)
Continue reading to learn more about CBD and its benefits for pain-related conditions.
What’s the difference between CBD and THC?
Cannabinol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are the best-known active compounds in the Cannabis sativa plant species. While marijuana typically contains 12% or more THC, the psychoactive compound in cannabis that induces a “high”, CBD products legally can’t contain more than trace amounts of THC (less than 0.3 percent). (8) This means you can take advantage of CBD’s health benefits without worrying about the distinctive high you would get from THC. (30)
Did you know?
CBD is one of more than 400 bioactive compounds in the Cannabis sativa plant. Research has shown that cannabinoids account for at least 60 of these compounds, which interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system. (1)
CBD for pain
According to a study published in the journal PAIN, CBD binds to specific CB2 endocannabinoid receptors involved in sensations of pain and anxiety. (6). Research also suggests that CBD has powerful anti-inflammatory properties. (10)(4) According to one study from the University of South Carolina, CBD helps control inflammation via its interaction with CB2 receptors found on the surface of immune cells. (17) These actions could offer an effective solution for individuals suffering from chronic pain, particularly back, joint, and neuropathic pain.
CBD for back pain
Back pain is a leading cause of disability, affecting 50 to 80 percent of all adults at some point in their lives. (23) Conventional treatments include over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen or, in some cases, prescription opioids. (13)(7) Chronic use of NSAIDs can result in gastrointestinal problems, (28) and in the case of opioids, long-term use can lead to addiction. (12) Because of these issues, a growing number of people are turning to CBD to relieve both acute and chronic back pain.
CBD oil for back pain may be effective due to its ability to reduce inflammation. (3) Another pain-related benefit is its ability to improve sleep and overall relaxation. (26) As anxiety often accompanies chronic pain, preclinical research suggests that CBD may help reduce back pain-associated anxiety. (5)
CBD for joint pain
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 32.5 million adults in the United States suffer from osteoarthritis, a type of arthritis that occurs when the cartilage protecting joints erodes. (19) Another 13.5 million individuals suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune condition that attacks joints, (16) and 9.2 million are affected by gout that can occur when uric acid crystals form and/or accumulate in joints. (27) While all of these painful joint conditions affect the body differently, they share one common factor—inflammation.
One preliminary study in the journal Neuroscience Letters found that CBD reduced inflammation and changed the way pain receptors react to stimuli in subjects with osteoarthritis. (25) Animal research found that the oral administration of CBD oil resulted in significant reductions in pain symptoms and increased physical activity compared to a placebo. (9)(14) Further animal studies suggest that topically-applied CBD can reduce joint pain and inflammation, and may even prevent pain when used proactively. (11)(22)
Further, evidence suggests that CBD can benefit individuals with rheumatoid arthritis. One clinical study found that CBD, when combined with THC, effectively improved several parameters of pain and the quality of sleep compared to a placebo. (2) Earlier research suggests that CBD alone may suppress inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis patients by blocking tumor necrosis factor (TNF), a protein in the body that causes inflammation. (15)
While studies specifically targeting gout are lacking, CBD has long been used to treat the condition. (31) Although gout-specific research needs to be conducted, current studies citing the anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving benefits of CBD for osteoarthritis may also provide hope for those with gout. (22)
CBD for muscle pain
CBD also has muscle relaxing properties, making it a popular remedy among individuals with muscular conditions such as temporomandibular disorder (TMD). During one recent study of 60 patients with TMD, half applied a topical CBD cream and the other half applied a placebo cream twice per day for 14 days. At the end of the study, the CBD group experienced a 70.2 percent drop in the intensity of their myofascial pain compared to just 9.81 percent in the placebo group. (18)
CBD for nerve pain
Marked by the gradual onset of numbness or tingling in the feet or hands, neuropathy affects an estimated 20 million Americans. The most common causes of this nerve pain include diabetes, vascular problems, autoimmune disease, or exposure to chemotherapy drugs. (20)
A randomized, placebo-controlled study conducted by researchers at San Diego’s Scripps Mercy Hospital and Des Moines University found that CBD effectively reduced neuropathic pain. During the study, 29 seniors with peripheral neuropathy were randomized to apply a topical CBD oil or a placebo daily. After four weeks, those using the CBD oil reported a statistically significant reduction in intense pain, sharp pain, and cold or itchy sensations. As an added bonus, no one in the CBD group experienced any adverse effects. (32)
Along with its anti-inflammatory actions, some studies suggest that CBD relieves nerve pain and improves quality of life in those with peripheral neuropathy by interacting with serotonin receptors in the brain. This, in turn, appears to reduce anxiety and improve sleep. (6)
Forms of CBD
There is a wide variety of CBD products available today, including CBD oil, capsules, gummies, and topical creams or lotions. It’s important to be aware that studies have primarily focused on the benefits provided by full-spectrum CBD oil and topical CBD products.
Did you know?
While CBD itself is effective for treating both acute and chronic pain, studies suggest that it works best in conjunction with the many other compounds present in cannabis, a concept known as the entourage effect. To get the benefits from multiple cannabinoids, it may be worth considering full-spectrum CBD products. (24)(21)
CBD dosage for pain
Dosing guidelines have yet to be established for CBD. Therefore, it’s essential to consult with your healthcare practitioner to determine the appropriate dose for you.
The bottom line
Although more human research needs to be conducted, preliminary studies and anecdotal reports indicate that CBD may effectively reduce pain and inflammation without inducing the intoxicating effects associated with THC. Always consult your healthcare practitioner to determine if CBD is right for you.
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