Over 1.5 billion people worldwide suffer from chronic pain1. According to Healthline.com, chronic pain is defined as pain that lasts at least 12 weeks (and can continue for years), making it difficult or impossible to perform daily activities. In the past few years, studies have revealed that Cannabidiol (CBD) may offer a variety of medicinal qualities. One of the conditions it is most well-known for treating is chronic pain. These days, it’s not at all uncommon to learn that a friend or loved one is using CBD for some type of pain. Between the developing scientific evidence and anecdotal evidence, it’s undeniable that CBD has the potential to be an impressive pain reliever.
Traditionally, chronic pain has been treated with opiates, antidepressants, and anticonvulsant drugs. Since the isolation of Morphine in 1803, opioids have been the well-accepted method for treating chronic and acute pain when ibuprofen and acetaminophen aren’t enough. Over the past decade, opioids have amassed plenty of controversy due to the growing rate of abuse. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, opioids were responsible for 47,600 of 70,200 drug overdoses in the United States in 2017. Opioids are broad spectrum analgesic agents, affecting a large number of bodily functions and organ systems. Treatment by opioid use includes a laundry list of side effects, such as: sedation, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, constipation, physical dependence, tolerance, and respiratory depression–with the most common being constipation and nausea. Reports from statnews.com show that the longer a patient takes an opioid, the less it helps, resulting in many opioid users becoming addicted to the drugs by no fault of their own. A 2016 study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that opioids might actually worsen chronic pain.
CBD for Pain
CBD has far fewer side effects, is not mind-altering, is non-addictive, and is proving to be a competitive treatment option for people suffering from chronic pain2. Researchers believe that CBD interacts with cannabinoid receptors in the brain and immune system, interrupting the nerve pathways that send signals between the brain and body to generate anti-inflammatory and pain killing effects3. Another theory is that a deficiency in the endocannabinoid system may be at the root of chronic pain symptoms (as well as the resulting mood and sleep disorders) for disorders such as migraine and fibromyalgia. While CBD doesn’t directly bind to cannabinoid receptors, it has been shown to stimulate activity in these receptors, promoting a healthy endocannabinoid system. Since the endocannabinoid system is directly involved in helping the body maintain homeostasis, CBD may provide the body with a boost it requires to function properly from a well-balanced foundation.
Stories of Hope
Melissa Stephens, of the lifestyle blog Music City Mel, has also found that CBD helps her manage fibromyalgia flares, writing: “The first night I took it, I felt as if I had taken a muscle relaxer minus the doped up feeling. My body relaxed and I got the best night’s sleep! (My fellow Fibro Warriors know how rare that can be!)”
Pamela Hadfield, co-founder of HelloMD, a digital platform for the cannabis industry, turned to a combination of CBD and THC to treat her excruciating migraine headaches after growing dependent on migraine medications and opioid painkillers after finding herself feeling increasingly debilitated and foggy. “Based on a personal friend’s recommendation, I did end up trying CBD for migraine pain relief, and it to my great surprise worked.” She adds: “This is me screaming from the top of my work desk, IT ALSO STOPPED THE PAIN CAUSED BY MY MIGRAINES with zero gnarly side effects!”
Last year, Emily Bache, a writer for the lifestyle blog WanderLust Girls, was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma. She describes her cancer journey and her improved quality of life with the addition of CBD: “I began chemo treatment in December 2018 and continued till the end of May 2019. Being pumped with all those drugs really takes a toll on your body. I was nauseous all the time, my “system” was all sorts of messed up, I hadn’t slept for days at a time and I was just plain uncomfortable in my own skin. I began taking (CBD) right before I got into bed. Within a week I was getting a full night sleep. For someone who was on a schedule of taking medicine every four hours, a straight eight hours of sleep seemed like a pipe dream. My nausea was way more controlled and I was less antsy all the time. Taking the CBD oil every evening helped me relax my mind because believe me it was constantly racing from the stresses of having f’ing cancer.”
Can CBD Really Do All That?
Anecdotal evidence of success stories with CBD use is abundant. Due to the inclusion of hemp in the 2018 Farm Bill, cannabis research is finally able to pick up steam. Even though scientific studies on CBD are still advancing, there are quite a few studies suggesting that CBD is a potent analgesic.
- In 2008, an analysis of studies conducted between the late 1980s and 2007 found that, overall, CBD helped patients manage chronic pain effectively without any adverse side effects, especially among people with multiple sclerosis (MS). CBD was also found to beneficial in treating pain-related insomnia. The researchers behind a study of mice that looked at CBD as a treatment for arthritis pain concluded:
“These data indicate that topical CBD application has therapeutic potential for relief of arthritis pain-related behaviors and inflammation without evident side-effects.
- In another study, CBD gel reduced swelling in the knees of arthritic mice and significantly improved the rodents’ pain scores. Hind-paw sensitivity and heat sensitivity dropped and fewer pro-inflammatory markers were noted after treatment with transdermal CBD.
- In a study of rats, CBD relieved incision pain. Human clinical trials are needed, but the finding suggests there’s a possibility that CBD could replace addictive opioids for post-surgical pain.
- A 2011 study by researchers from Temple University School of Pharmacy in Philadelphia said CBD was found to be a promising way to prevent pain in people receiving the chemotherapy drug paclitaxel. Cannabidiol also reduced paclitaxel-induced neuropathy, which causes symptoms like pain, numbness, and tingling.
- The combination of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and CBD might treat one of the most common, most debilitating health problems around–migraine headaches. A migraine isn’t an ordinary headache. It usually occurs on one side of the head, and it can last for days. It’s often accompanied by nausea as well as light and noise sensitivity. A 2017 study showed that the mixture was better at treating the pain intensity of migraines than 25 milligrams of the antidepressant drug Amitriptyline, which is sometimes prescribed to fight the severe headaches. The study was presented at the 3rd Congress of the European Academy of Neurology.
With a mounting pile of anecdotal evidence and scientific studies, CBD shows incredible potential as a viable option for pain relief. Combined with a lack of intoxicating effects, withdrawal symptoms, addictive properties, and side effects when compared to traditional pain management treatments, it’s tempting to hail CBD as a miracle drug. While we’re clearly advocates of the advantages of CBD use, it’s important to note that even with an increase in visibility and studies based on CBD benefits, research is still behind in long-term studies with human subjects.
Not All CBD is Created Equal
Science is still catching up to the evolving CBD industry, providing the opportunity to be your own scientist. Ask questions on how your CBD is sourced and find a brand you trust that provides transparency from farm to bottle. Ask for the Certificate of Analysis if one is not readily provided to you. Pay attention to your body while experimenting on your own to determine what works best and follow the first rule of the scientific method–test/adjust one variable at a time.
Dosage, bioavailability from the method of administration, and cannabinoid profile can all play a role in the effectiveness of CBD on an individual. The endocannabinoid system is also very personal to each body, therefore the effects of CBD can vary from person to person. For example, some people find that CBD oil will relieve symptoms immediately, but in many cases, it takes a little time to see a gradual decrease in symptoms. If you’re considering adding CBD to supplement your treatment plan, it’s always best to speak with your doctor to ensure there aren’t any adverse reactions to your current medications.
Chronic pain is devastating to physical and mental health, and often the traditional options provided can have even greater debilitating effects. If you suffer from chronic pain and wish to avoid the harmful effects associated with opioid use, you might consider adding CBD oil to your pain relief plan. It’s our belief that natural, plant-based solutions are the key to promoting health and homeostasis. We’re always amazed to learn about the ever-expanding benefits and uses of the most homeopathic plant on Earth, and look forward to discovering further evidence on how this plant can change lives.