If you’ve spent any time looking into natural ways to treat chronic pain, you’ve probably come across CBD, or cannabidiol. The use of CBD has gained massive popularity recently for its purported uses in a range of conditions including chronic pain.
CBD is extracted from the cannabis plant, though it cannot get users “high” in the way THC does. Instead, it targets cannabinoid receptors in the body indirectly, causing therapeutic effects without the intoxicating consequences associated with marijuana use.
If you suffer from chronic pain, you’re probably wondering if CBD is really an effective treatment. Let’s dig deeper:
CBD and Inflammation
Inflammation is associated with a huge number of conditions, especially those resulting in chronic pain. From arthritis to fibromyalgia and even multiple sclerosis, inflammation is the root cause of many forms of chronic pain.
Targeting inflammation is key to treating chronic pain, and that’s where cannabidiol comes in. CBD acts upon the endocannabinoid system, a series of agonists and receptors that act upon the body’s own cannabinoids, called endocannabinoids. Basically, our own endocannabinoids can influence receptors, but so can external cannabinoids, like THC and CBD.
The endocannabinoid system helps restore balance and find homeostasis within the body, preventing the occurrence of various ailments or lessening symptoms of current conditions. Many people find that CBD helps treat their chronic pain, but anecdotal evidence only gets us so far.
What the Research Says for CBD and Chronic Pain
There are two prominent cannabinoid receptors in the human body: cannabinoid receptor 1 and cannabinoid receptor 2 (or CB1 and CB2).
CBD targets CB2 receptors, which results in anti-inflammatory effects. Inflammation is reduced when targeting the CB2 receptor because this receptor is a modulator of immune cell function, which researchers believe may be a target in treating inflammatory conditions.
Researchers also believe CBD may be an effective treatment for chronic pain because it prolongs anandamide signaling. Preserving anandamide, a fatty acid neurotransmitter sometimes referred to as “the bliss molecule,” is important in reducing pain because anandamide influences pain perception. But anandamide is typically broken down by the body quickly, losing its anti-inflammatory effects.
In a rodent study, rat models were induced with the inflammatory gum condition periodontitis, causing a strong inflammatory response. Researchers found anandamide produced a diminished inflammatory response in the rats with periodontitis.
By preserving anandamide, its effects on pain relief can be felt for longer periods of time.
So Is CBD an Effective Treatment for Chronic Pain?
Many people have found relief with CBD for their chronic pain, but we need more comprehensive studies focused on humans to truly understand its powers. The information we have now is promising, and anecdotal evidence points to its efficacy, but until more comprehensive studies are done, we’ll have to rely on the testimony of others and the current research we do have.
A 2008 review of studies for CBD and chronic pain between the 1980s and 2007 found CBD to be an effective pain reliever, especially noting its efficacy in users with multiple sclerosis. With few side effects like nausea, irritability or trouble sleeping, CBD is a promising alternative to other pharmaceuticals targeting chronic pain.
CBD May Be An Alternative to Meditation and Other Pain-Relievers
This has led researchers to believe alternatives to opioids may be beneficial for pain, especially considering they work on different pathways, and are not habit forming. Researchers are still not clear on what exactly happens when sufferers of chronic pain meditate and experience pain relief, but their study showed a significant 24% reduction in pain.
CBD may be a viable alternative to several other methods of pain relief, like meditation. It has also been suggested as a way to combat opioid use, which is especially promising since it’s also non-habit forming. Researchers even found that people who recently quit using heroin experienced reduced craving for the drug when taking CBD.
Attention has turned to CBD recently for its plethora of potential therapeutic effects, and chronic pain is no exception. There is a lot of promising evidence pointing at CBD’s ability to reduce pain in users with chronic conditions.
CBD can help the endocannabinoid system restore balance by interacting with the CB2 receptor, a target for modulating inflammation. CBD also helps to preserve anandamide, a crucial component in pain perception.
Whether CBD will work for your chronic pain or not will depend on many factors, and until more research is conducted, there is no concrete answer. With so many people finding relief using this natural compound though, the use of CBD for chronic pain is promising.