It’s impossible to go through life without experiencing some kind of pain. For many of us, it will be limited to an occasional headache or some creaking joints as we get older. But for 50 million Americans, living with chronic pain is part of their daily experience. As a rule, pain relief comes in the form of over-the-counter meds or indeed when these no longer work, highly addictive opiates. As a result, the United States is in the midst of an opioid crisis, but could CBD oil for pain management be the safe, non-addictive, side effect-free alternative many are looking for?
What is Pain?
Acute Nociceptive Pain
We’ve all experienced an acute form of pain when we bang our elbow or break a limb. Known as nociceptive pain, nerve signals (nociceptors) are sent from the site of the pain to the brain in order to warn of some irritation, inflammation or tissue damage. This type of pain tends to be time limited and ends when the damaged tissue heals.
Chronic Inflammatory/Nociceptive Pain
When pain is ongoing, it is termed chronic pain. Inflammation is a crucial part of the body’s healing process after an injury. Sometimes however, this inflammatory response fails to switch off, becoming a symptom of a disease in itself, as in the cases of autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis. Nociceptive pain becomes chronic when nociceptors continue to fire after an injury has healed, leading to an excessive reactivity to pain, something experienced by fibromyalgia patients.
Chronic Neuropathic Pain
Neuropathic pain is generally caused by nerve damage or nerve trauma. This may be as a result of injury, but could also be caused by illnesses like MS and diabetes, or as a side effect of medication. In many cases, the pain persists for many years, despite an improvement or healing of the original injury. The pain is often described as having burning or electric shock qualities.
Depending what class of pain someone suffers from, doctors prescribe different types of pain medication. Most of us get by with over-the-counter meds such as Tylenol or Advil, but that’s not to say they’re free from any side effects when used on a long term basis. Chronic Tylenol use can lead to liver damage, while Advil and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can damage the stomach lining causing painful ulcers.
Unfortunately, when it comes to chronic pain, there often comes a point where doctors call upon the big guns, prescribing opiates like Vicodin, Perocet, Codeine, or Fentanyl. Not only are these highly addictive, but they come with a host of unwanted side effects such as constipation, drowsiness, confusion, and euphoria. Incorrect opioid dosing can also prove fatal due to hypoxia - a slowing down of breathing that prevents sufficient oxygen reaching the brain. Right now, approximately 130 Americans die everyday from an opioid overdose.
No wonder patients, politicians and doctors alike are desperate to find a safe, effective, non-addictive alternative to stem the opioid crisis.
CBD: A Safer Solution For Pain?
CBD, otherwise known as Cannabidiol, is rapidly gaining both column inches and popularity as a natural, side effect-free alternative to prescription pain medication.
Derived from cannabis sativa, otherwise known as hemp, CBD is both anti-inflammatory and analgesic (pain relieving), without causing any intoxicating effect.
CBD has been declared safe, non-toxic, non-addictive, and free from any major side effects by the World Health Organization, who also recommended CBD should not be considered a controlled substance. In fact, CBD has even been found to manage the withdrawal symptoms experienced by addicts quitting opiate addiction.
Most CBD on the market is sold as CBD oil either as CBD tinctures, softgels or CBD vape oils. In a recent report examining CBD usage trends, over 50% of people questioned used CBD oil for joint pain and inflammation and an astonishing 66% said CBD was more effective at relieving their symptoms than over-the-counter products.
CBD Oil For Pain Relief - How Does It Work?
CBD is a fascinating molecule because it affects the body by activating several different biological mechanisms at once.
Take CBD’s anti-inflammatory action. We know that CBD suppresses the excessive inflammatory response often associated with autoimmune conditions. It does this by reducing pro-inflammatory, cell signalling proteins called cytokines. CBD also binds with both the adenosine and TRPV1 vanilloid receptors, further reducing pain and inflammation.
CBD and Endocannabinoid Deficiency
CBD may also bring relief to certain conditions associated with sensitivity to pain by strengthening the endocannabinoid system (ECS).
The ECS is a cell communication network comprising special receptor sites in the brain, central nervous system, immune system, organs, and gut. These are activated by cannabis-like chemicals called endocannabinoids. The purpose of the ECS is to bring balance or homeostasis to our bodies by modulating cell activity.
Unfortunately, due to the stresses and strains of modern living, our ECS can be depleted, and it is postulated that conditions sharing the common symptom of excessive sensitivity to pain, may have at their root a weakened endocannabinoid system. It’s been termed, ‘Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency’ and includes migraines, IBS, fibromyalgia and multiple sclerosis.
Supplementing our diets with CBD is thought to strengthen our endocannabinoid system, by increasing signalling of one of the key endocannabinoids, anandamide. Anandamide is named after the sanskrit word for bliss and is known to have powerful anti-inflammatory properties.
CBD Oil for Pain Management - Is There Any Proof?
When it comes to CBD, science is playing catch up with patient experiences. Many people report excellent results with CBD oil for arthritis or CBD for back pain. However, right now we’re lacking sufficient clinical trials in order to say for sure that CBD for pain is an effective solution.
There have been various preclinical studies on animal models suggesting CBD shows promise for inflammatory and neuropathic pain, and it is only a matter of time before these are extended to human studies.
How To Take CBD Oil for Pain
While we cannot give any medical advice about taking CBD oil for pain, we can help you choose the best CBD oil for you.
Most of us are used to taking medication that contains a single molecule at a precise dose prescribed by our doctor. However, when it comes to CBD, we have to throw the rule book out of the window.
For a start, the best CBD oil for pain, contains not just cannabidiol, but the full spectrum of compounds in hemp. We’re talking minor cannabinoids (the special compounds only found in cannabis sativa), terpenes (the smelly bits,) and flavonoids, which themselves are powerful antioxidants. Not only do some of these molecules have pain relieving and anti-inflammatory powers in their own right, but together they create an overall synergy that is far more effective than taking CBD on its own.
So, when buying a CBD oil for pain relief, always choose a whole plant or full spectrum CBD oil product, just like the ones we offer at Mtiva.
CBD Dosage for Pain
Many people ask us how much CBD they should take for pain. We cannot give any specific guidance about dosing, but not just because this would be considered medical advice. When it comes to CBD, it’s imperative to listen to your own body, deciding for yourself what is your own personal CBD dosage. A rule of thumb though is to start low, gradually building up until you reach the famous ‘sweet spot’. You’ll know when you’ve found it, as when you increase the dose further, you won’t feel any extra benefit. So, just reduce your CBD back down to where you were before. And voila, that’s your sweet spot.
A lot still remains to be discovered about whether CBD oil truly is an effective treatment for pain. Anecdotal evidence and preclinical studies look promising, and certainly thousands of people across the United States are taking CBD for their own pain management. We would love to hear more about your experiences with CBD oil for pain. Leave your thoughts in the comments section below so we can continue spreading the CBD love.