The Science of CBD & Pain Relief
CBD, short for “cannabidiol,” is one of the most promising compounds currently undergoing research for potential medical applications. The compound is being looked at as a treatment option alone or in conjunction with other medications for a wide variety of diseases, symptoms, and conditions. One of the most exciting possible uses of CBD is as an additional option in pain management and inflammation relief. However, the known science of CBD and the available facts surrounding its effect on humans is still an emerging body of information with new studies being published in peer-reviewed journals all the time.
It’s certainly an interesting time for CBD: millions of people are self-treating their pain with CBD products, flooding the internet and media at large with anecdotal reports of benefits and positive effects that they have observed. CBD is being widely vaped, ingested, applied to skin, and taken in capsule form. In spite of this, cannabidiol is not yet formally approved as a treatment for chronic or acute pain, in light of the appropriately rigorous scientific consensus required to assert a direct (and repeatable) correlation between dosing and symptom abatement.
That’s not to say that such a connection won’t be eventually shown indisputably; just that it hasn’t yet. Still, exciting results from scientific studies continue to trickle into major medical journals month by month. For example:
- Cannabinoids in the management of difficult to treat pain, published in the journal Therapeutics and Clinical Risk Management.
- Investigation of Cannabis for Chronic Pain and Palliative Care, an ongoing study currently being conducted by the New York State Psychiatric Institute.
- Cannabinoids as pharmacotherapies for neuropathic pain, published in the journal Neurotherapeutics.
- Cannabidiol inhibits paclitaxel-induced neuropathic pain through 5-HT(1A) receptors without diminishing nervous system function or chemotherapy efficacy, published by the British Pharmacological Society.
In this article, we’ll take a scientific, unbiased approach to laying out exactly what is known and not yet known about CBD and its effect on pain relief. Let’s get one thing clear off the bat: as you can see from the above linked studies, CBD is not ‘snake oil’ or a homeopathic product with a total absence of science behind its efficacy. Cannabidiol is being taken seriously enough as a potential analgesic by the scientific and medical communities that countless research dollars are being poured into its investigation. In fact, as early as 2005, the Canadian government approved a CBD-based oral mist as a treatment for pain associated with multiple sclerosis.
How Does CBD Interact With Your Body?
CBD is derived from cannabis or hemp, the same plant used both medicinally and recreationally for its other well-known compound: THC. Unlike its cousin compound THC, however, CBD does not provide a psychoactive effect. That means that using CBD does not make you feel “high” or intoxicated. For that reason, CBD is available for purchase throughout the United States. The fact that CBD is derived from cannabis also plays a large role in understanding why it’s taken us until now to begin to properly research its medical potential: the stigma of cannabis and its illegality has almost certainly delayed its investigation.
Part of the mystery around CBD has to do with the fact that it doesn’t interact with your body the way most scientists expected when they first began studying the compound. To understand how CBD works, we have to also understand how our bodies process cannabinoids. Our body already has a built-in pathway called the endocannabinoid system that acts as a set of receptors ready to receive neurotransmitters (the cannabinoids themselves). Other cannabinoids like THC chemically bind directly to the major CB1 and CB2 receptor sites when a person takes a dose. Interestingly, however, CBD does not.
Instead, CBD appears to act as an indirect agonist of those big receptor sites as opposed to binding with them directly. That might seem like a minor detail or a pedantic aside, but nothing could be farther from the truth. It gives us vital information; namely, that CBD works in a more roundabout way pharmacologically, which implies that many of its effects aren’t observable via the same processes as other cannabinoids. A rough analogy to this might be someone who prefers to enter their home through the window, despite there being several perfectly good doors that were built specifically for that purpose. The person still ends up inside, but there’s definitely something curious about the way they got there!
With all that being said, how does CBD exert its biological effect on your body, exactly? The short answer is that we’re still learning more about that every day. Here’s some of the ways that CBD interacts with the body that scientists are fairly confident about given the state of CBD research:
- CBD is an indirect agonist of CB1 and CB2, the main receptors in the body that were “built” to receive cannabinoids. It doesn’t bind directly to those receptors.
- CBD likely inhibits fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH), which probably triggers your body to naturally create more endocannabinoids.
- CBD is a partial agonist of 5-HT1A, a serotonin receptor responsible for neuromodulation.
Does CBD Oil Work For Chronic Pain Management?
As we’ve shown in the previous section, CBD is rather sneaky in terms of the way that it exerts itself from a pharmacological standpoint. That naturally makes it difficult to directly observe the efficacy of CBD oil for pain management -- but that doesn’t mean that people aren’t using it as such, and it also doesn’t mean that researchers aren’t digging into that potential application every day.
CBD oil is being vaporized, ingested, used as a tincture, and applied topically worldwide, as pain sufferers online and in brick-and-mortar stores carefully search for the best CBD oil for pain relief. People are self-dosing CBD for back pain, joint inflammation, pain from accidents and chronic conditions; and many other symptoms, as well.
So, the million dollar question is: does CBD oil work for chronic pain management? The short answer is that CBD is currently considered an investigative analgesic, meaning that it’s in a state of scientific limbo, so to speak. There is enough promising evidence from existing and past studies to continue research around the compound, but there is not enough definitive evidence for physicians to begin confidently prescribing it en masse starting tomorrow. When you add CBD’s status as an investigative analgesic to the overwhelming amount of anecdotal (self-reported) success stories surrounding CBD, you can get an idea of where we’re currently at in terms of classifying cannabidiol as a pain relief option.
The best way to answer this question for yourself is to speak with your doctor and see if trying CBD as an adjunctive (additional) pain treatment is appropriate for you, given your unique health circumstances. If your physician approves, try CBD for yourself and see how you react to it; we’d love to hear from you and get a firsthand account of what your experience is like.
Potential Benefits of CBD Oil For Pain
Potential CBD oil benefits aren’t just limited to CBD’s future in the world of pain relief -- but for the scope of this article, we’ll focus on some of the ways CBD is being investigated to treat pain specifically.
- One of the completed medical studies that is often pointed to by CBD proponents is this famous 2008 one looking at CBD’s usage by chronic pain sufferers. The study concludes that CBD was “well tolerated” and holds “great promise” as an addition to a chronic pain management program.
- Here’s yet another study published in a medical journal showing that CBD’s potentiation of glycine receptors led to relief of inflammatory pain. If CBD gains traction as a treatment for inflammation and/or arthritis, doctors won’t have to rely so heavily on naproxen and other current treatments that come with their own drawbacks and side effects.
- CBD may hold promise as both an agent of cancerous tumor reduction as well as a treatment for pain associated with the main ways we currently treat cancer. In fact, the National Cancer Institute is trying to raise awareness of CBD’s potential usefulness in helping patients deal with adverse effects of chemotherapy.
- CBD was found to be “effective, with no evidence of tolerance” in a role as a palliative agent for multiple sclerosis pain in this 2007 study. That’s an incredible ray of hope for MS patients looking for alternative options beyond the usual slate of pharmaceutical painkillers.
Testimonials About CBDfx’s CBD Oil For Pain Management
Since only a few dozen high quality studies have ever been completed surrounding CBD (and many others are still ongoing), we can also turn for the time being to another source to determine whether CBD is effective at relieving pain: testimonials.
Anecdotal reports, while useful, aren’t the same thing as a scientific study that achieves measurable, repeatable results. That being said, testimonials can be incredibly enlightening, especially when you consider the earnestness and emotion with which some CBD users report the role that CBD oil has played in their life.
For example, consider these testimonials directly submitted to (and verified by) CBDfx:
Side Effects Of Using CBD Oil For Pain Relief
If you’re considering asking your doctor if trying CBD is appropriate for you, you should also be aware that there are some (generally mild) side effects that have been observed in some people when they use CBD.
There you have it: a bird’s-eye view of how CBD works, where it comes from, and its potential as an agent of pain relief. As always, your best bet is to read the linked peer-reviewed scientific studies and discuss them with your doctor if you’re considering trying CBD. We hope this article has been informative, and if you experience pain relief from CBD usage, we’d love to hear your story!