Using CBD for relief from chronic pain
An estimated 28 million adults in the UK are affected by chronic pain. A growing number are turning to CBD oil as an alternative to pain medication. We wanted to explore and explain how CBD oil can be effective as a natural approach to pain management.
There are many health conditions known to cause pain. Some of these conditions can cause pain so debilitating that they inhibit our daily lives. Others cause pain that continues for so long that sufferers resign themselves to living in discomfort. Fortunately, growing evidence and research is showing that there may be a light at the end of the tunnel for people living with pain.
That light comes in the form of cannabidiol (CBD) - the cannabinoid from the hemp plant that is rapidly being touted as a panacea for a massive range of complaints.
What can CBD oil do?
In our popular guide to cannabidiol (CBD) we outlined the science behind cannabinoids, how they interact with our bodies, and the benefits that are being reported for various conditions including anxiety disorders, multiple sclerosis, menopause, and ADHD.
In this article we want to specifically explore the benefits for pain management as that is one of the most common reasons that our customers look to CBD oil for relief.
What can CBD oil NOT do?
As long as the CBD oil you purchase is from a reputable source (like us), and contains below the legal limit of THC, then it won’t get you arrested, and it won’t get you high!
In our guides we clear up some of the misinformation surrounding the legality of CBD oil, as well as the common misconception that vaping CBD oil will get you stoned. If the idea of using cannabis related products makes you uneasy, read this guide first to put your mind at rest. If not, read on...
Research into CBD oil
Most of the existing research into the benefits of cannabis has focused on the use of marijuana rather than the CBD component as a standalone entity. That’s why it’s important to separate the research that specifically looks at cannabidiol (CBD) and its effects on pain - and the preliminary research is extremely promising. Firstly though, let’s look at chronic pain in more detail.
What is chronic pain?
We will all experience pain at some point in our lives. A paper cut, a pulled muscle, a toothache - pain is just the body’s way of telling us that something is wrong. Acute pain usually resolves once the underlying cause is healed. However, when the pain doesn’t go away, it changes from acute to chronic.
The NHS describes chronic pain as constant or intermittent pain that continues for longer than 12 weeks despite medication and treatment.
When treating acute pain, the focus is on the treatment of the source of the pain. When treating chronic pain, the focus shifts to pain management.
What conditions cause chronic pain?
The most common conditions associated with chronic pain can be broken down into several categories.
Joint pain including:
- Back and neck problems
- Frozen shoulder
- Bursitis (Housemaid’s knee)
- Ankylosing spondylitis
- Psoriatic arthritis
Autoimmune disorders including:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Coeliac disease
Chronic pain syndromes including:
- Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS or Myalgic encephalomyelitis/ME)
- Complex regional pain syndrome
Gastrointestinal diseases including:
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Crohn’s disease
- Ulcerative colitis
- Cluster headaches
Infectious diseases including:
- Lyme disease
- Diabetic neuropathy
- Trigeminal neuralgia
- Peripheral neuropathy
Traditional pain management methods
In the olden days, the recommended treatment for persistent pain was bed rest. However, with seemingly no end in sight to the pain for most sufferers, this is simply not possible. We have bills to pay, children to raise, lives to lead.
Plus, lying in bed for long periods can actually exacerbate chronic pain as it causes muscle weakness and stiffness - all which can make it harder to get going again.
Furthermore, the inactivity and isolation can lead to poor sleep, loneliness and depression - all of which make the pain feel worse.
Other recommendations for pain management include exercise, physical therapy, and meditation.
However, when all else fails, the vast majority of chronic pain sufferers have no choice but to take medication.
Medication for chronic pain
Paracetamol is the simplest and safest painkiller there is. However, for chronic pain (especially nerve pain), it usually doesn’t even touch it.
For chronic pain caused by inflammation, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen and diclofenac can provide some relief. However, they can’t be used for long periods as they can cause stomach ulcers and/or liver, kidney and heart problems.
Codeine is considered a medium-strength painkiller. Low dose codeine (generally combined with paracetamol) is available over the counter, whereas higher dose codeine has to be prescribed. However, because it’s an opioid, it’s not recommended for long-term use as it can lead to dependency.
Certain antidepressants, such as amitriptyline, can be used to treat certain neuropathic pain; but they can cause drowsiness and dizziness which can make it difficult to go about your normal daily routine.
Morphine, and morphine-like drugs (such as tramadol and fentanyl) may be prescribed for moderate and severe chronic pain relief when there is no response to standard painkillers. They are highly addictive and the dosage has to be monitored carefully as overdoses can be fatal.
Why could CBD offer a viable alternative to pain relief?
The use of cannabis for pain relief dates back to ancient China. Since then, many civilisations have documented their use of cannabis for any number of conditions, from joint and muscle pain to gout and arthritis. More recently, scientific investigation into the efficacy of cannabis on the treatment of such conditions has been hampered by debates about its legality. Until now…
Researchers are discovering that CBD interacts with receptors in our brain and immune system, as well as influencing our endocannabinoid system. One such endocannabinoid that it can influence is anandamide.
CBD stops the body from absorbing anandamide, a compound associated with regulating pain. So, having increased levels of anandamide in the bloodstream may reduce the amount of pain a person feels.
Moreover, most of the pervasive chronic pain conditions that we can suffer from share a common feature - inflammation. Emerging research now shows that CBD has significant potential in terms of limiting inflammation.
CBD has been found to suppress chronic inflammatory and neuropathic pain by targeting glycine receptors. Also, the highly antioxidant nature of CBD can help to reduce inflammation by combating free radicals.
Are there any other benefits of CBD for chronic pain?
There sure are!
Firstly, CBD oil has been found to promote sounder sleep. This is vital in battling the sleep disruption faced by many people suffering from chronic pain.
Secondly, legal CBD oil contains 0.2% THC or lower. This means that you can take CBD oil whenever you feel your pain flaring up without fear that there will be any psychoactive effects.
Next, unlike prescribed pain medication like opioids, CBD oil is non-addictive. If and when you feel that your chronic pain has subsided, you won’t have the struggle of a dependency to deal with.
Also, so far, CBD oil has shown none of the more negative side-effects of pain medication, and no reported cases of overdose. According to a report from the World Health Organization, “In humans, CBD exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential…. To date, there is no evidence of public health related problems associated with the use of pure CBD.”
Using CBD for pain relief safely
There is no definitive evidence to suggest that CBD oil is harmful to humans. It is a plant based cannabinoid, and cannabinoids are found naturally in our own bodies. Hence, if you decide to try CBD oil to find relief from your chronic pain, even if you don’t find the positive results you were hoping for, you’re unlikely to find any negative ones.
This being said, it’s still absolutely essential that you consult with a doctor before taking CBD oil if you are taking prescribed pain medication.
Also, it’s really important that you purchase your CBD oil from reputable sources. The popularity of CBD is such that many less scrupulous vendors are jumping on the bandwagon. To be sure of the purity of the CBD, and that the advertised dose is the dose you’re getting, do your research and only buy certified products.
The research into CBD continues
As more studies are undertaken, and more research published, we will continue to update you with all the latest findings regarding CBD.
If you still have more questions, we are always happy to help. Just get in touch with any queries you have about CBD or vaping in general.
The content in this article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your GP, or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a particular medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.
- Nicola Webster