More people than ever are taking CBD to combat chronic pain. This article provides everything you need to know about taking CBD for pain according to scientific research, including what you should absolutely consider before you buy any CBD oil online.
Is CBD effective at relieving pain? Thousands of reports and a growing list of clinical studies now suggest that CBD oil has powerful pain relieving properties.
In this article, you’ll learn what science has to say about CBD’s effects on pain and everything we know about how this all-natural Hemp extract compound affects different types of pain.
About Chronic Pain
Pain is a subjective experience. That means that we all feel it more or less differently, which also makes it kind of difficult to study.
Furthermore, all pain is not the same. The most familiar pain to us occurs immediately after an acute injury, such as hitting your thumb with a hammer.
However, there are several different classifications for pain. Low-grade back pain, for example, is one of the most common pain conditions and is considered chronic pain related to inflammation.
Migraine headaches and other painful neuropathy are often caused by injury or disease and stem directly from the central nervous system, aptly classified as neuropathic pain.
Various diseases can also cause neuropathic, acute, and chronic pain. Here are just a few examples of diseases associated with experiencing symptoms of different types of pain.
- Multiple Sclerosis
- HIV / AIDS
- Type II Diabetes
- Spinal Cord Injury
- Traumatic Brain Injury
Some prescription medicines and treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation are also connected with causing symptoms of long-lasting and persistent pain.
Whatever the cause, chronic pain can become so difficult to endure that it begins to affect daily life. Severe migraines and headaches, intense joint pain, tooth pain, excruciating neck and back pain, can all ruin the quality of your life and health.
When severe and persistent pain begins to disturb healthy sleep, everything can become even worse. Not sleeping well and in pain every day, the body and mind can weaken and deteriorate, worsening overall well-being.
While we’re going to focus primarily on chronic pain in this article, studies suggest CBD has many diverse benefits that could improve symptoms related with insomnia, mood, and sleep issues, which could improve pain mechanisms.
Make sure to check our other health articles at the end of this one to learn more about CBD’s health benefits.
United States of America In A Lot of Pain
It’s clear that pain is a difficult condition and experience, but how big is the problem really?
Well, in the United States it’s big enough to warrant utilizing the word “epidemic” in regards to a public health crisis of overprescribing opioid-based pain medicines, addiction, and overdose deaths.
The latest data from NHIS gives us a pretty good picture of chronic pain in the United States. They surveyed adults to understand the prevalence and severity of pain in the country, and found that –
- 3 million adults in the US suffer from daily pain
- 4 million adults in the US report a lot of pain
- 4 million adults in the US experience category 3 pain
- 4 million adults in the US report experience the highest level of pain, category 4
The data also revealed that American adults who reported having category 3 or 4 pain were more likely to –
- Have worse health status
- Use more health care
- Suffer more disability
Looking at the latest chronic pain statistics among US adults, 1 in 5 people, or an estimated 20% of the population, had chronic pain in 2016. 8% of adults also had what they call high-impact chronic pain, according to the CDC.
The latest CDC reports indicate that chronic pain is one of the most common reasons adults seek medical care, the cost of which is estimated to be about $560 billion each year from direct medical costs, lost productivity, and disability programs.
Risks of Opioids and NSAIDs on Chronic Pain
Now, we’ve found ourselves in what’s described as an opioid epidemic and millions of us are still living in pain every day. I think the answer to the question is clear. It’s time we reevaluate how we treat and think about pain management.
Traditionally and pharmacologically speaking, we use prescription drugs like opioid-based medications, benzodiazepines, and SSRIs, or over the counter medicines like NSAIDs such as Ibuprofen to treat most types of pain.
These substances can have a great benefit in certain cases when used properly under medical supervision. However, this hasn’t exactly been the case in modern medicine, and some are beginning to wonder if the benefit is worth the risks, especially when it comes to chronic pain and opioids.
What risks? In short, many prescription opioids are highly addictive and cause very harsh side effects, as many of you probably already know.
According to the most recent data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, in 2017 opioid-related overdose deaths in the US reached nearly 50,000 people, nearly four times the rate it was in 1999 just 18 years prior.
In the case of NSAIDs, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, there is an increased risk of GI bleeding, especially in elderly patients, as well as renal and cardiovascular risks. Problems such as stomach ulcers and increased risk of stroke and heart attack are just a couple of the side effects associated with misusing NSAIDs.
You can read more on NSAID risks in this recent paper published in the journal, Integrative Nephrology & Andrology.
The idea is that these types of drugs are to be used carefully and for short periods of time, only as needed and as a last resort chemical intervention. However, many people with pain are taking them every day for longer and longer periods of time, which is exactly how you find yourself in the midst of a drug-related health epidemic.
The opioid epidemic deserves its own section in the library to be thoroughly described in detail, so I’ll leave most of that for another day.
Keep reading to learn more about why researchers are exploring CBD as a potential pain reliever. In the next section, we’ll talk about THC, the entourage effect, and also go over what people taking this remarkable hemp compound have to say about CBD’s effect on pain.
Does CBD work on Chronic Pain?
Ultimately, this is the question. Does CBD actually work to relieve pain, and if it is effective at pain relief, is it safe?
For starters, CBD is non-psychoactive, which means it won’t cause you to feel high or stoned. It is non-toxic as well, which means you cannot overdose by taking too much. In fact, CBD has an incredibly high safety profile, making it one of the safest drugs on the planet.
You can learn about what the risks of taking CBD are and more on how to spot high-quality CBD products by reading our 2019 CBD oil scam alert part I and II linked here.
Now, let’s get down to the science and try to learn a little more about how cannabidiol effects chronic pain.
A 2009 scientific paper published in the Journal of Opioid Management outlines the theoretical basis for the pain relieving, or analgesic, properties of cannabinoid compounds such as CBD.
It’s an excellent research paper that essentially explains everything that we do and don’t know about the effects of cannabinoids in different pain-related conditions including arthritis, cancer, MS, and others.
In short, the paper explains that, because of a growing mountain of positive data, cannabinoids such as CBD absolutely deserve a place in the discussion surrounding the treatment of severe chronic pain.
“Cannabis derived medications deserve to be investigated in rigorously designed studies so that their role in managing severe and chronic pain in various conditions can be more clearly defined.”
More recently, a 2018 study from McGill University Health Center investigated CBD and pain relief.
According to the authors of the study, their findings suggest that CBD may offer a safe alternative for treating chronic pain, as published in the journal, PAIN, in January of 2019.
“Our findings elucidate the mechanism of action of CBD and show that it can be used without dangerous side effects of THC,” says Dr. Gobbi a Psychiatry Professor at McGill University.
What Dr. Gobbi refers to in regards to “the dangerous side effects of THC” are the compound’s hallucinogenic and psychotropic effects on cognition and perception. THC can also trigger symptoms of fear, anxiety, and paranoia when consumed in excess. In many ways, it is the deleterious effects of THC that has hindered much of cannabis’ clinical applications.
That doesn’t mean to say that THC doesn’t have it’s place in medicine, as it is being studied for its incredibly powerful therapeutic properties as well. It means to say that the substance is not for everybody, and many people don’t enjoy the effect that THC has on them, regardless of the beneficial effect.
However, now that we are learning more about CBD from Hemp, we’re discovering ways to get the powerful therapeutic benefits from phytocannabinoids without the unwanted side effects from the mind-altering compound, THC. Keep reading to learn more about how CBD and THC interact with pain.
If you follow the links to the scientific papers in this section, you’ll find an immense body of work detailing the literature available on CBD and pain studies. If you don’t have time to sort through it all, let me save you the trouble.
Briefly summarizing, scientists are generally in agreement that cannabinoid compounds such as CBD do indeed show powerful pain-relieving properties, but they haven’t nailed down exactly how to use this knowledge to create ‘clinically approved medicines’. A sentiment reiterated recently by Peter Grinspoon, MD in an article in the Harvard Health Blog.
CBD and Chronic Pain Studies
Okay, so it seems CBD does have the potential to remedy pain but does it actually? Is CBD truly effective at reducing symptoms of chronic pain?
As I mentioned, pain can be somewhat difficult for scientists to measure and study. However, researchers have been able to quantify CBD’s benefits on pain by looking at how it affects opioid use in elderly patients.
One such study was recently published in the journal, Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, looked at exactly that measure.
Their findings suggest that “Medical cannabis patients report that cannabis is just as effective, if not more, than opioid-based medication for pains,” according to the lead author Amanda Reiman from the University of Berkley.
Thirty-four percent of the medical cannabis patients surveyed reported using opioid-based pain medicines in the past six months.
“Respondents overwhelmingly reported that cannabis provided relief on par with their other medication, but without the unwanted side effects.”
In the study, an overwhelming majority of participants agreed that cannabis allowed them to reduce the number of opiates they consume and that taking cannabis by itself was more effective at treating their condition than taking cannabis with opioids.
As well, the study showed similar results comparing cannabis with other non-opioid based medicines. However, these are just findings from one limited survey that included almost 3,000 medical cannabis patients though.
However, In this case it wasn’t clear the cannabinoid composition in regards to CBD versus THC and we want to know specifically about CBD’s effect on chronic pain.
Another survey conducted across seven pain clinics in Southern California asked patients and caregivers about their knowledge, beliefs, and personal experiences with CBD.
Key findings from the survey published in a 2019 issue of The Journal of Pain include –
- 63% reported trying CBD products that also contain THC
- 3% reported trying CBD only products
- Of those who’ve taken CBD only, 57% reported it helped their condition and 61.7% said it reduced their pain medication, including opioids
The types of pain reportedly alleviated in this study by CBD include –
- Back pain (64%)
- Nerve and neck pain (38.30%)
- Migraines (29.79%)
- Limb pain, Fibromyalgia, and others (19.15%)
Of course, there are limitations to these types of monographic studies, but the data can help to identify areas of interest for future, more controlled research. This data also shows us that people are finding good results with CBD only and chronic pain, however in this sample most people were using full spectrum CBD that contains THC.
Unfortunately, there has been little work done in regards to large, well-organized and controlled clinical trials on CBD and chronic pain in humans. However, early findings do indicate CBD has analgesic properties and great potential, including in the mental health issues that can occur when living with severe chronic pain.
CBD’s effects on Chronic Pain in Traumatic Brain Injury in Mice
Recently, a group of Italian researchers’ work on studying CBD’s effects in chronic pain and brain damage was published in the journal, Frontiers Spotlight.
The scientists wanted to see if CBD could be used to help with chronic pain symptoms related to mild traumatic brain injury.
So how did they test CBD on chronic pain in animals? Well, long story short, they bopped mice on the head with a weight hard enough to inflict what they call “mild traumatic brain injury”.
According to the study, the effects of mild traumatic brain injury include chronic pain associated with anxious and aggressive behavior, followed by a late depressive-like behavior and impaired social interaction.
The scientists were able to quantify these neuropsychiatric dysfunctions caused by the weight drop test and measure the effect CBD exerted. They concluded that –
“CBD oral treatment restored behavioral alterations and partially normalized cortical biochemical changes. In conclusion, our data show some modification probably responsible for the behavioral phenotype with TBI and suggest the CBD as a pharmacological tool to improve neurological dysfunction caused by trauma.”
The researchers’ findings validate other discoveries verifying that CBD has a powerful effect on the brain’s cognitive functions, likely exerted through neuroprotective, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties.
These surveys and studies linked here are just a drop in the bucket of research on CBD and pain, but they do provide an in-depth look at the foundation upon which CBD and pain science is building.
Still, though, there is a key question that remains unanswered in many cases though.
Is CBD effective at pain relief, or do you need THC to achieve results?
The next section of this article will briefly discuss what science knows about CBD vs. THC for pain relief. We’ll also go into a phenomenon known as “the entourage effect” and why it matters when it comes to getting relief from pain with CBD products.
CBD vs. THC for pain relief and the entourage effect
The question of CBD vs. THC for pain relief is one that is currently being explored to a great extent. THC is the primary psychoactive component of cannabis, while CBD is considered the non-psychoactive primary component of cannabidiol rich Hemp.
Both compounds, CBD and THC, have been found to have analgesic or pain-relieving properties, but some studies indicate that CBD by itself, referred to as isolate, lacks efficacy in some types of pain.
Is that true? Do you need THC to get pain relief, or can CBD do the trick? The studies I mentioned just above cite many patients who report that CBD alone was helpful, but still, for others, it wasn’t.
As we mentioned at the beginning of this article, pain is a subjective experience making it difficult to pin down what works well and what doesn’t, and in whom exactly. No two people are the same, and similarly, no two people will respond to cannabinoids and other substances the same.
Published in the journal, PAIN, an experiment tested four different types of cannabinoids formulations on 20 chronic pain patients with fibromyalgia.
They compared the effects between high THC, high CBD, an evenly balanced THC: CBD formulation, and a placebo. The results showed that the most effective formulation was the cannabis with an evenly balanced ratio of THC to CBD and that the high-CBD strain of cannabis didn’t show too much improvement compared to the placebo.
Does that mean that THC is the provider of pain relief, not CBD? Well, not exactly. The researchers say that, in their experience, high-CBD strains of cannabis have shown benefits in pain scores during previous studies.
They suggest that perhaps CBD is influencing improvements in symptoms of insomnia, anxiety, cognition, and/or mood, which could improve pain mechanisms and perception.
However, this experiment only tested one inhalation of each cannabinoid formulation. The researchers say that higher dosages and potencies of CBD would likely have an effective influence on pain.
Full-Spectrum CBD & The Entourage Effect
I understand that all of this research can be a little confusing, especially if you just want a straightforward answer on CBD’s effectiveness on chronic pain.
However, I think there is one more concept to explore here that will really help out your understanding of CBD and pain. The concept is called the entourage effect and it has to do with how CBD and THC interact.
You see, CBD isolate’s effects are limited by what’s referred to clinically as a bell-shaped dose-response curve. In short, that means you cannot take more CBD isolate and get more pain relief.
There is a cutoff point at which the benefits of the isolated CBD compound are limited. However, researchers have discovered a way to break that dose-response barrier. How, so you ask?
Studies show that when CBD is administered along with other naturally occurring plant compounds, its effect not only surpass the bell-shaped dose-response, they are exponentially enhanced.
The secret to understanding hemp’s therapeutic benefits lay within the diverse formulations of all its naturally occurring plant compounds.
That includes cannabinoids such as CBD, THC, and minor cannabinoids such as CBN, CBG, and Delta-9 THC a lesser well-known version of THC that doesn’t exert psychoactive properties as potent the Delta-8-THC compound.
In fact, there are over 120 cannabinoid compounds and counting that have been isolated from this incredible plant. Equally important in how the entourage effect phenomenon helps improve CBD’s benefits in pain are the aromatic essential oil compounds found in the flower’s resins called terpenes.
There are many terpenes, such as B-Caryophyllene, Pinene, or Myrcene that are naturally found in Hemp extract used to make CBD products.
Studies also indicate that combining CBD with other natural therapeutic herbs such as turmeric or mint also triggers a synergistic enhancement in the compounds’ beneficial properties.
What most people ask me about this concept of “Full-Spectrum” CBD are things like – does it make you feel high, or will CBD with THC make me fail a drug test?
The short answer is to both of these questions is no. Full-Spectrum CBD products typically contain less than 0.3% THC, which is not enough to trigger psychoactive effects, and likely not enough to be detected by most drug tests.
In regards to CBD and drug testing, however, you could hypothetically fail a drug test from taking a full-spectrum CBD product. There are a few factors at play when it comes to detecting trace amounts of THC. Although the chances are low, it’s tough to say ultimately what a drug test result may be.
If you want to learn more about the entourage effect, terpenes, drug tests, and Full-Spectrum CBD products, make sure to check out our in-depth article and FAQs linked here.
Types of Pain and Methods of Administering CBD
There are several methods of administering CBD to address symptoms of chronic and neuropathic pain. Each method has unique properties and characteristics in its effects.
The various forms and methods of administering Full-Spectrum CBD includes,
- CBD oils and tinctures, or drops.
- CBD edibles such as gummies, cookies, beverages, infused foods, and candies
- CBD vape oils
- CBD topicals such as ointments, gels, crèmes, and lotions
What’s the best type of CBD for chronic pain? Well, there are multiple factors that can determine which type of CBD, potency, and dosage might be best for you, including –
- The severity of pain
- The cause of pain
- The location of pain
- Endocannabinoid tone
- Tolerance, genetics, environment
People taking CBD for headaches and migraine-related pain report that inhalation of high-potency CBD vape oils are most effective. In Arthritis pain-related sufferers, people taking CBD report the most effect from topical CBD pain crèmes or a combination of forms.
Some people may prefer to ingest capsules or edibles, while others might find sprays and ointments more effective. Likewise, different types of pain may respond better to different methods. Remember, know two people are alike and everyone will respond uniquely to CBD.
For managing severe pain conditions always consult a medical professional.
You can learn more about the different forms of CBD and their benefits, as well as dosages and potency tips as reported by people taking CBD for pain, in our FAQ article linked here.
Want to take a look at high-quality Full-Spectrum CBD products and get more information, browse the CBD Hemp Temple catalog.
For serious, pain-related clinical health problems, always consult a medical professional first.
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What do you think about full spectrum CBD for relieving symptoms of chronic pain? We’d love to hear from you! Let us know in the discussion section below and leave us a comment about your experience and thoughts.
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