Piercing, throbbing, persistent, debilitating pain.
You cant think clearly, enjoy your usual activities or focus on your daily tasks.
It can prevent you from sleeping and can severely affect every aspect of your life.
But science seems to be struggling to come up with a safe, effective solution.
Conventional medical approaches dictate that if you suffer from a painful condition, you should go to a medical centre and be treated by a doctor, who is likely going to prescribe analgesic medication. But a significant number of people are beginning to see the traditional approach as something they’re not comfortable with. Pharmaceutical painkillers can be expensive and can sometimes cause unwanted side effects.
Deaths due to pain medication are increasing at an exponential rate.
Even "mild" painkillers have been discovered to be responsible for a large number of deaths due to previously undiscovered "side effects".
In the “alternative medicine” community, you’ll find many options you can use to cope with chronic pain; however, perhaps the most widely researched alternative approach to treating long-standing pain conditions is cannabidiol (CBD).
What is CBD?
CBD is primarily extracted from true hemp (Cannabis sativa L). It is also extracted from high THC strains of hemp, although CBD extracted from high THC plants does not benefit from the same legal status as low THC strain CBD.
Hemp is a plant that has many different uses, including recreation. Some varieties of hemp contain a high percentage of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the most well known of the plant cannabinoids due to its commonly known psychoactive effects that get you “high”.
Because of this, many consider all strains of hemp to be a “drug”, and it has therefore been classified as illegal in most countries.
However, there is also a large number of research studies searching for undocumented medical effects.
Scientists are discovering many compounds in the plant that are active and may potentially be able to treat certain diseases. The two main compounds currently being studied are CBD (cannabidiol) and THC.
Most of the current CBD research is being undertaken by universities, pharmacological companies and Government research laboratories. Initial results from animal studies and small-scale human trials have been promising with many studies showing statistically significant positive outcomes with almost zero side effects. The result of the initial findings is that cannabidiol is now firmly accepted as a potentially valuable alternative medical treatment.
It is thought that cannabidiol (CBD) may well be responsible for the majority of the medical benefits of Cannabis.
How is CBD produced?
There are different ways to extract CBD from cannabis, with the most common techniques resulting in the production of CBD oil.
The oil can be obtained by various methods including solvent extraction and C02 extraction. The C02 extraction process is considered to be the cleanest and most effective method as it extracts a high percentage of the available CBD and leaves no harmful chemical or solvent residues. The result is an easy to use edible oil that is widely used by people hoping to treat various diseases and disorders.
Full spectrum, whole plant CBD oil represents the gold standard for non-psychotropic cannabis-derived products. The whole plant extract contains a multitude of cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids, all of which are being currently being researched for potential medical applications. In addition, full spectrum oil is thought to provide increased benefit due to the synergy of the various plant compounds (the entourage effect).
CBD oil has been widely studied to determine if it might be helpful in treating diseases like chronic pain, anxiety, depression, epilepsy, and many other chronically debilitating and degenerative conditions. However, CBD oil should not be promoted as a medicine that is able to cure every type of disease or disorder. Instead, it is necessary for researchers to identify the physical illnesses and cognitive problems where it can be used safely and effectively.
For some complaints, it may be discovered that cannabidiol could also be used alongside conventional treatments for a specific illness, similar to the way in which marijuana is used in conjunction with chemotherapy to help stimulate appetite. In this article, we are going to focus on the use of CBD oil for some conditions that can cause pain.
Pain: Types, causes and conventional treatments.
You can say that pain is when something hurts. That is not a technical definition of it, but its common sense that it can be described as an unpleasant or uncomfortable feeling. If pain is present, it usually means that there is something wrong.
Everyone has individual pain thresholds, and there is no way to know exactly the level of pain that someone has. There are also different types of pain, and each category can also be classified by various aspects.
The different types of pain.
The two main types of pain have physical causes: nociceptive pain and neuropathic pain. Another kind of pain is also recognised which does not appear to have a physical cause, but is subjectively distressing none the less; psychogenic pain.
Nociceptive pain is caused when the nociceptors (sensory neurons) in the body activate due to potentially harmful or noxious stimuli. The mechanism involves the propagation of messages through the nerves, the brain and the rest of the central nervous system. This pain can be acute or chronic (this is another way to classify pain, and we will talk about it later) and nociceptive pain is able to alert about danger or potential harm to the body which if ignored, may cause damage to the organism.
Nociceptive pain has subtypes; visceral and somatic pain. Somatic pain originates from the pain receptors that are located in the musculoskeletal tissues or on the surface of the body. Bodily pain can be relieved if the patient rests for a period of time but can get worse if the patient keeps active and may even compromise the mobility of the affected part of the body. On the other hand, visceral pain is felt when the receptors of the internal organs of the body have been stimulated.
Neuropathic pain is usually experienced when something causes damage to the nervous system. This type of pain is typically intense, and it is described as sharp or shooting pain. The problem with neuropathic pain is that nerves don't heal as well as other parts of the body, so it is usually chronic (long-term) and doesn’t respond well to regular pain medication.
The final type of pain is known as psychogenic pain, and this is the most peculiar one because it is not linked to damage in organs or nerves or stimulation of the receptors. Instead, it is caused by a psychological disturbance in the patient such as anxiety, stress or depression.
Psychogenic pain can be extremely frustrating! You can feel it, but your GP can not find a cause. To the sufferer, the lack of a physically observable cause does not make the pain any less "real".
Acute and chronic pain
As we mentioned earlier, there is another way to classify pain, and it is according to its duration. This classification includes acute and chronic pain.
Acute pain is classed as any type of pain that lasts up to 6 months, with the person is able to continue his or her life as usual when the cause of the pain disappears.
Chronic pain, on the other hand, lasts more than six months and it is a long-standing kind of pain that usually compromises the lifestyle of the patient and can continue even if the primary harm that is causing it has healed.
Types of treatment for pain
The prescribed treatment for pain usually depends on the type of pain that the patient is experiencing; however, most treatments include regular analgesics like acetaminophen and aspirin. Other treatments may include opioids, antimigraine medication, antidepressants, heat or cold therapy, massages or steroids. These are usually prescribed by a physician and are incredibly useful in a lot of cases, but some treatments can also be rather expensive, and some pharmaceutical medicines can cause side effects and complications when used for long periods of time.
Can CBD oil be used as pain medication?
We have been talking a lot about pain, but now let's have a look at how CBD is being researched to determine if it may be able to treat the most common types of pain usually experienced.
According to research databases, in the past decade, hundreds of scientists became involved in CBD research, possibly due to the exciting potential benefits of this newly discovered cannabinoid. Cannabidiol research has been relatively broad and includes a wide range of potential applications. Let's take a look at the most common types of pain where researchers are focussing their efforts to discover if CBD might be effective:
Is CBD effective for arthritis pain?
Some studies have shown that CBD oil is able to treat arthritis in animals.
In 2011 a study found that CBD oil was able to reduce inflammatory pain in rats because it was able to change the way receptors respond to stimuli.
In 2014 another study titled “involvement of the endocannabinoid system in osteoarthritis pain” showed that CBD oil may be able to treat OA (osteoarthritis).
A study conducted in 2016 called "transdermal cannabidiol reduces inflammation and pain-related behaviours in a rat model of arthritis” concluded that the topical application of CBD has therapeutic potential for relieving arthritis pain and inflammation in rats without causing side effects.
The problem with the use of CBD oil in humans (at least regarding the treatment of arthritis-related pain) is that there is not a large body of human trials research available to help sufferers decide if cannabidiol may be a useful option. A 2006 study titled“preliminary assessment of the efficacy, tolerability and safety of a cannabis-based medicine (Sativex) in the treatment of pain caused by rheumatoid arthritis”, resulted in the researchers concluding that Sativex was able to relieve arthritis pain. However, this medicinal cannabis product contains CBD and THC, so there is no possible way to confirm if it was the properties of CBD that helped to reduce arthritis pain in the human test subjects.
Can CBD be used to treat chronic pain?
This is one the most common diseases that CBD oil researchers are focussing on. If cannabidiol is able to treat chronic pain, it will be heralded as a significant breakthrough for cannabinoid-based medicine.
To understand how CBD may be used to target chronic pain, we need to know how cannabidiol works. Scientists think they have already discovered the mechanism of action of CBD and how it works in the human body. Cannabidiol is a mimic.
The human endocannabinoid system
The human body has what's known as an endocannabinoid system, endocannabinoids are cannabinoid molecules that are produced internally (phytocannabinoids are cannabinoids produced by plants).
The endocannabinoid system is a network of cannabinoids and receptors which are known to play a role in many physiological and cognitive processes including sleep and wakefulness cycles, hunger, immune system modulation, fertility, arousal, memory, mood, and pain. Basically, once CBD is inside the organism, it is able to attach to the CB2 receptor of the endocannabinoid system. CB2 receptors are thought to play a role in managing inflammation and pain. If CBD changes the way the body and the receptors respond to the signals (of pain) that they receive, then this would translate into a reduction of pain and inflammation.
A study titled “Cannabinoids in the management of difficult to treat pain” was carried out in 2008 with the conclusion: “Cannabinoid analgesics have generally been well tolerated in clinical trials with acceptable adverse event profiles”. This study helped to classify cannabidiol as being safe to be used in pain research studies. It also set a remarkable precedent for further cannabinoid research and was instrumental in allowing the advertisement and sale of CBD.
However, if you are considering using CBD oil for chronic pain treatment, you should be aware that you could experience some side effects, especially if purchasing from low quality/unregulated producers. CBD oils come in various sized bottles and a range of strengths which means that unless the labelling is accurate, the user may be getting more or less CBD than they really need. In some countries, cannabis oil products may even contain THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), which is the psychoactive cannabinoid that produces a “high”.
That could be a problem if unexpected!
However, there are zero reports of significant complications while using pure CBD. Be sure to purchase from a trusted company that has lab testing results to back up their product.
CBD by itself does not produce any significant side effects and has zero potential for overdose. Any issues will not usually be with the compound, but with the manufacturing/labelling practices of the manufacturer.
A commonly experienced issue with using cannabidiol is how to determine the correct dosage, not because it can’t be determined, but because CBD is not a regulated substance in some countries so the concentration may be different according to the production process.
If you are unable to control the exact amount of CBD you are using, it can be virtually impossible to know what dosage works best.
Most experts recommend to start with a low dose, observe the results, and adjust the dosage whilst using the CBD. Common advice is to start with approx 2.5 mg of CBD oil and gradually increase the amount until the desired benefits are achieved.
Some research studies have involved test subjects ingesting well over 1000mg per day of CBD with no significant adverse side effects.
To begin, its wise to limit yourself to 30 mg per day, and the duration of use and dosage can be adjusted depending on your subjective experience of the effects.
The safest option is to consult with your primary physician before introducing CBD oil into your diet, this is especially important if you are currently taking any other form of medication.
Conclusions about CBD oil for pain treatment
Twenty years after the research into cannabidiol began, we now know that cannabidiol has extraordinary medical potential and could possibly in the future provide a useful natural healing option to tens of thousands of people.
One of the most welcomed benefits of CBD oil would be if it was found to be proven effective in treating chronic pain. This debilitating, longstanding, degenerative condition can compromise and diminish your life. That is why more human clinical trials and research is urgently required.
Keep in mind that CBD is still illegal in some countries so you should check legislation in your country/state before purchasing or using it. We encourage you to do your own research into the many potential benefits of CBD. Remember to look for reliable information and preferably, if possible, discuss it with a health professional or your GP.