Pain is a complex problem affecting many in Australia and around the world. In the US, 20% of people suffer from chronic pain, while 1 in 5 Australians over 45 have had chronic pain issues at some point in their lifetime. Unfortunately, many of the underlying conditions that cause such pain are difficult to treat. Often people are prescribed highly addictive painkillers such as oxycodone or morphine as well as anti-inflammatory pharmaceuticals. These products are side effect prone. Their impact on user’s health can be dire – particularly when used for long periods. CBD or cannabidiol is offering many with a natural alternative to these synthetic chemicals. People who have pain issues are turning to CBD for its therapeutic properties and ability to help manage and mitigate the effects of pain. Let’s take a look at why this is, how it works and how it might help you.
What is CBD oil for pain?
CBD is one of the hundreds of cannabinoid compounds that naturally occur in the hemp plant (or cannabis sativa). This cannabinoid in particular is highly therapeutic and prized for its health promoting properties. When consumed in oil from the plant, it interacts with the endocannabinoid system in the body and causes the release of anti-inflammatory, anxiolytic (anti anxiety) and analgesic (anti pain) compounds known as endocannabinoids. It’s natural, non psychoactive, non addictive and safe to use daily. The best part is – CBD has very minimal (if any) side effects for most users. Some users report mild stomach aches, dry mouth or drowsiness at high dosages. Compared to pharmaceuticals offering similar effects, its safety profile is far superior.
What is pain?
Pain is an unpleasant reaction to external stimulus from our nervous system. It causes uncomfortable sensations in the body or mind which signals to us that something is wrong. It’s a system designed to protect us, helping us avoid injury. Nerve receptors across the nervous system are responsible for delivering these sensations. These are located in just about every part of the body. When we feel heat, pressure, cold or other stimuli they are activated and send signals to the brain that something is wrong.
Types of Pain
Pain comes in different forms which can make it difficult to treat. Generally pain is categorized based on its length of effect and how it affects the nervous system. It can be acute – where pain is short lived, occurs fast and typically goes away quickly once the stimuli or cause is removed. Chronic pain however is usually the result of an ongoing health issue, disease or injury that lasts months and can be debilitating. Pain can also be classified by how it’s caused and its effects in the nervous system. Generally there are three types of pain:
- Neuropathic Pain: this pain occurs in the nerves as a stabbing or shooting sensation. It often is tied to the touch sensation and can make the feeling of touch or pressure highly uncomfortable.
- Nociceptive Pain: is caused by injuries to the body’s tissue like muscle – for example being punched. It usually presents as an aching feeling or dull throb.
- Radicular Pain: pain that feels ‘radiating’ and affects the nerve roots – it’s usually a deep pain that is felt from the spine, inner legs, pelvis or hips. Frequently known as sciatic nerve pain due to affecting the sciatic nerves in the legs and buttocks.
Pain is experienced differently in each person – we all have different tolerances, perception and sensation of it which is important to be aware of.
How is Pain Treated?
Pain can be both actively treated in many cases or mitigated through lifestyle change, physical therapy and other treatments. It’s important to note that some forms of chronic pain can’t be cured for many, their only option is to manage it. How is pain typically treated?
- Lifestyle changes: this particularly applies for chronic pain. Many types of chronic pain are caused by diseases like arthritis in the joints. Changes to lifestyle – for example, dietary changes – can help in lowering overall inflammation and pain markers.
- Physical or psychological therapy: for many who become injured, physiotherapy, stretches, recovery exercises and similar physical conditioning can help to mitigate pain symptoms. Even those with severe injuries can see improvements in pain levels by adopting daily therapy practices. The same can be said for mental illness which can exacerbate many physical pains. Psychological therapy and counselling to manage issues with depression, anxiety or other mental problems can help to change our perception of pain.
- Medications (pharmaceuticals): many doctors swiftly prescribe opiate based painkillers or pharmaceutical anti inflammatory drugs to help with symptoms of pain. Common opiate based painkillers include codeine, oxycontin and tramadol. Each of these are highly addictive, taxing on the liver and can convey many unpleasant side effects. The other key category of medicines to combat pain are NSAIDS or ‘non steroidal anti inflammatory drugs’. Ibuprofen, aspirin and paracetamol are the most common medicines that fall into this category. They’re typically used by people with issues such as headaches, arthritis or certain chronic pain forms.
For many, pharmaceutical medicines are a poor option in the long term to deal with pain. CBD oil is providing an all-natural alternative to help mitigate both pain and inflammation for these individuals. Let’s take a look and why pharmaceuticals can lead to negative long term health outcomes and why people are seeking other options.
Risks and Side Effects of Pain Medications
Both opiate based painkillers and NSAIDS have a number of risks and side effects that make them problematic. They can also carry the risk of addiction – particularly for stronger opiates like oxycontin.
Typically prescribed to deal with topical pain issues or pain in an isolated area like arthritis in the joints, headaches or pain from strains and body aches. Common side effects of NSAIDS are:
- Stomach irritation, indigestion and stomach ulcers
- Dizziness and drowsiness
- Kidney damage
- Blood clots and blood pressure problems
Side effect risks increase the longer the drugs are used, as well as at higher dosages and usage frequencies. This makes NSAIDs particularly unsuitable for chronic pain or inflammation due to heightened risks over time.
- Pain Killers (Opiate Based)
Opiates are frequently prescribed for both acute and chronic pain, helping patients to relax and mitigate the uncomfortable sensations occurring from their nervous system. Unfortunately however, opiates are highly addictive. They can be dangerous due to substituting the body’s production of endorphins (the brain chemical making is feel pleasure) – making us feel unhappy when not using them. These are usually a final option when other forms of therapy or pain relief haven’t worked, or when pain is severe.
Side effects of this type of painkiller often include:
- Nausea and sickness feelings
- Dizziness and drowsiness – it can be dangerous to use these pain killers if driving or operating machinery
- Constipation and stomach irritation
- Mood and focus problems
The risks and likelihood of side effects increases with longer term use, higher dosages or higher usage frequency. They can also cause overdose if misused which can cause illness or death. Furthermore, opiate based painkillers can dampen the body’s natural breathing function and suppress the diaphragm, which can result in breathing problems. This can lead to reduced oxygen supply to the brain or cessation of breathing (particularly a problem during sleep). This makes them even riskier for those with existing breathing or lung conditions like asthma.
Why CBD Offers an Alternative
While generally not as potent, CBD acts along similar pathways as NSAIDs in aiding in inflammation reduction. Primarily this is via the CB2 receptors in the body that act on the CNS to help dampen the feelings and symptoms of pain in the nervous system. As the nervous system is responsible for us feeling pain, CBD’s action on it helps to reduce our perception or experience of pain, particularly in isolated areas. Many of the cannabinoids in hemp like CBN, CBG and CBD are highly anti-inflammatory in the body and help to reduce markers of inflammation in cells. Oil from hemp also contains naturally occurring plant antioxidants which are both anti-inflammatory and assist in protecting cells. The key difference between CBD and pharmaceutical pain killers is its side effect risks.
CBD has minimal side effects. Those that are reported are generally very mild, even at high dosages daily. Some of the most common are dry mouth, mild upset stomach and drowsiness (although this can help with sleep). The body is able to absorb the cannabinoids from hemp very easily – they’re highly bioavailable and cannabinoid receptors in the body can bind to them quickly to absorb their effects. These receptors are generally also responsible for the anti-inflammatory properties of CBD that make it exceptional to help mitigate more mild pain issues such as headaches and back pain. We should note that CBD won’t be able to help you with severe pain and it definitely doesn’t work for everyone. It may be a good option to try and test however as a natural pain relief alternative.
What kinds of pain can CBD help with?
CBD oil helps reduce inflammation and pain via the body’s endocannabinoid system. Inflammation is a key factor in many types of pain, including arthritis pain, menstrual cramps, and headaches. There are three key types of pain CBD may be able to help with. If you are suffering from one of these – it may be worth trying CBD oil to see if it works for you. Before trying any new supplement or health product however it’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor.
- Back Pain and Aches
If you suffer from back pain, you’re not alone. It’s estimated that up to 80% of adults experience back pain at some point. Back pain can be caused by several different things, including muscle tension, poor posture, pinched nerves and injury. Back pain can strike anyone at any age, but it is most common in adults between 35 and 55. Anyone who has ever suffered back pain knows how debilitating it can be. Back pain can make sitting, standing, or even walking difficult.
You might be surprised to learn that the endocannabinoid system plays a role in back pain. The endocannabinoid system has receptors in the spine and back muscles. These receptors are responsible for regulating a variety of different functions, including pain and inflammation. CBD interacts with these receptors in the back to help fight pain and inflammation. Through this pathway it is thought to help in mitigating back pain and reducing strains or aches.
How to Take CBD Oil for Back Pain
When taking CBD oil for back pain, starting with a low dose is important. You won’t know how your body reacts until you test it with low quantities of the product. Increase gradually as you become accustomed to it – we recommend using up to 3 drops twice daily. It may take a few weeks to see results. If you don’t notice any improvement after a few weeks, you may need to increase your dose. The reason for this is that everyone responds to CBD oil differently. It’s also essential to choose high-quality CBD oil. Not all CBD oils are created equal. The quality of CBD oil will make a big difference in how effective it is. Higher quality products contain greater concentrations of cannabidiol and helpful compounds like terpenes, making them superior in delivering pain reducing results.
Your back pain won’t magically disappear after the first dose. But with consistency and planning you can achieve excellent results over time. Some people are looking for a magic bullet when it comes to pain relief. But unfortunately, there is no magic bullet. The best results will always come with a combination of lifestyle changes, therapy if needed as well as medication. If you’re not seeing the desired results after a few weeks, you must talk to your doctor. They may recommend increasing your dose, trying a different CBD oil or using an alternative pain relief option. You should also keep in mind that it takes time for CBD oil to work. So don’t give up after a few weeks if you don’t see the results you want.
CBD oil may help to prevent future back pain by reducing inflammation. You can think of it as a preventative tool, helping to heighten your resilience to the underlying inflammation that causes back pain in the first place. Chronic inflammation is a significant factor in many types of pain, including back aches. By reducing inflammation, CBD oil may help to reduce the incidence of back pain. However, more research is needed to confirm this.
- Arthritis and Joint Pain
Joint pain is a common problem, affecting millions of people worldwide. Joint pain can be caused by several different things, including injury, inflammation, and arthritis. Arthritis is the most common cause of joint pain. You or someone you know may be suffering from arthritis pain right now. There are many types of arthritis, but the most common are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis – its caused by the breakdown of cartilage which cushions the joint between bones. Rheumatoid arthritis is another type of arthritis. It’s a chronic inflammatory condition that can cause joint pain, stiffness, and swelling, typically caused by bacteria. Both conditions lead to degradation of the sheath which surrounds the knee, elbow or other joint that prevents friction between the bones.
Both of these conditions are the result of inflammation in the joint’s sheaths, which occurs when your body is attempting to fight off infection or repair injury. CBD oil is thought to help reduce inflammation as well as counteract symptoms of pain via analgesic effects. If your joints are stiff and painful, CBD oil may help to improve mobility through lowering inflammation markers that cause reduced movement range in the joints. You should notice an improvement in your range of motion after a few weeks of taking it. Multiple preclinical trials and studies in the US and Canada have experimented with CBD to deal with rheumatoid arthritis pain. In combination with THC, it’s already being used in medications like Sativex and Marinol and being prescribed for arthritis in the US.
Can CBD provide arthritis pain relief?
Inflammation is the root cause of arthritis pain which is why CBD oil is thought to help with it. If you suffer from arthritis pain, you may notice a difference after taking CBD oil for a few weeks. However, it may take longer for some people to see results if your arthritis is more severe. It’s not unheard of for people to see results after just a few days. However, it’s important to remember that everyone is different. The relief you feel won’t be like turning on a light switch. Instead, you may notice a gradual improvement in your symptoms over time.
It’s recommended that you dose CBD oil daily for at least 4-6 weeks to work before you decide if it’s effective or not. If you still don’t see the results you want after six weeks, talk to your doctor to see if they recommend increasing the dose or stopping the treatment altogether. You may need additional therapy or other pain relief solutions.
Keep in mind that you’ll need to continue to take CBD oil after your joint pain disappears. CBD oil is not a cure for joint pain or arthritis. You should also not rely on it solely to reduce symptoms – it’s best employed with a healthy lifestyle, frequent exercise, plenty of sleep and a good diet to get the best inflammation reduction results. You may be able to reduce the dose over time as your symptoms improve.
- Nerve Pain
Nerve or neuropathic pain can be debilitating. It can make it hard to concentrate, sleep, and even enjoy life. This type of pain is often the result of an injury or inflammation. However, it can also be caused by diabetes, shingles, and fibromyalgia. Again, the mechanism by which CBD oil helps with nerve pain is by reducing inflammation. That means that CBD oil may be able to help both directly with the pain and discomfort associated with nerve pain.
Can CBD oil provide relief from nerve pain? Many factors will affect how much relief you’ll experience. These factors include the severity of your nerve pain, the cause of your nerve pain, and your individual physiology. All of these things will play a role in how effective CBD oil is for you – individual experiences and results can vary. Studies have tested the efficacy of CBD on certain types of peripheral nerve pain issues, these showed some beneficial effects but it was mostly effective for minor pain. It helped to reduce perception of the pain but wasn’t effective for severe cases.
How to tell if CBD oil is working to treat your nerve pain? The first thing you’ll likely notice is a reduction in the intensity of pain. This may happen within a few days or weeks of taking CBD oil. You may also notice an improvement in your ability to concentrate and sleep. This is because the CBD oil is reducing your perception of pain, and you’re no longer as distracted by it.
You may notice some minor improvements but will need to increase the dose to see more significant results. The best reductions in pain generally come at high dosage ranges of CBD. You may only need to take a small amount of CBD oil if you have mild nerve pain. If you have severe pain, CBD likely won’t be suitable – although it can still be worth a try. Always start with a small amount and increase gradually until you find relief from your pain.
CBD for Chronic Pain Relief
Chronic pain is defined as pain that lasts for more than three months. It can be caused by conditions like arthritis, fibromyalgia, and migraines. Many types of injuries and diseases however can result in pain as a result of poor recovery or healing, infections or other complications. Short-term or acute pain is defined as pain that lasts for less than three months (but generally it is encountered in much shorter timeframes). It can be caused by injuries, surgery, and menstrual cramps. Both types of pain can be treated with CBD . Certain sprays are already in commercial use in the US which contain both THC and CBD – these are being used to treat chronic pain from conditions like cancer. If you’re using CBD oil for chronic pain, you’ll want to take it daily. The best way to do this is to take it as a tincture. To use a CBD oil tincture, place the desired amount under your tongue and hold it there for 30-60 seconds before swallowing. The CBD will be absorbed into your bloodstream and will begin working to reduce inflammation.
Acute or Short Term Pain
If you’re using CBD oil for short-term pain, you can take it as needed. The best way to do this is to take it as a capsule or tincture. In either case the CBD oil will be absorbed quickly and work to reduce pain symptoms. You may need to dose for several days or even weeks before you see effects. Follow the dosage instructions on the product you’re using to ensure you’re taking the right amount. If you don’t see the results you’re hoping for, don’t be afraid to increase the dosage. There are generally little to no side effects, even at high dosage ranges.
By all accounts, it’s clear that CBD oil is already helping many users with their chronic or acute pain. It is renewing hope for many that they can get the support they need to help mitigate often persistent pain symptoms without having to resort to side effect prone pharmaceutical drugs. We’ve explored what pain is, how it occurs and its main forms. We currently rely heavily on often addictive and harmful products like opiate based painkillers and NSAIDs to tackle pain and improve the life quality of those it affects. CBD oil reduces inflammation and associated pain while being natural and having minimal side effects. It’s much better tolerated than pharmaceuticals and is non addictive. Whether you’re dealing with arthritis pain, nerve pain, back pain or migraines – it might be worth trying it to see if it can help reduce your symptoms. It won’t be a magic cure but you may see significant benefit.