CBD for Pain: A Multifaceted Guide

CBD for Pain: A Multifaceted Guide

By Thomas Wrona

According to a 2018 survey, 44 % of US adults have tried CBD for muscle pain, 39% for chronic pain, and 38% for joint pain. If you think the math here doesn't quite add up, you'd be right - apparently Americans have all sorts of pain, and they expect that CBD could help with all of them, all at once.  

It seems they're walking away satisfied...and presumably more pain-free. After all,  36% of another survey's CBD users said that the compound worked "very well by itself".

In light of these stats, it's no surprise that public interest just keeps on rising. According to an even more recent (August 2019) study by the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA), 75 percent of American adults who are interested in the role of cannabinoids like CBD for pain relief believe that these natural compounds are safer than opioids.

An increasing number of medical professionals are voicing their belief in the same thing. In the future," says MD David Allen, "more people will be saved by the manipulation of the endocannabinoid system than are currently saved by surgery."

But what exactly makes CBD so effective for stubborn pain? And how can this cannabinoid's benefits be leveraged to work for you? In this article, we'll be taking a closer look!

Benefit #1: CBD may reduce chronic inflammation

Benefit #2: CBD may benefit the nervous system

Benefit #3: CBD has few side effects

Benefit #1: CBD may reduce chronic inflammation

Behind the various health crises raging through America hides an equally serious problem, something that lingers just behind the scenes.

That something is chronic inflammation. Unlike the volcanic nature of the obesity or opioid epidemics, chronic inflammation keeps itself at a slow burn...which is fitting because, from a biochemical perspective, a slow burn is exactly what inflammation is.

Inflammation is also pretty intangible. You can't see it, you can't touch it - but it's there. And it might even be the catalyst that causes more visible health problems to manifest. What if problems like obesity, chronic pain, brain fog, or even neurodegenerative diseases had out-of-control inflammation at their roots? Believe it or not, that's exactly what the science says.

Now for some good news: CBD is powerfully anti-inflammative.

It seems to reduce the body's conversion of fatty acids to inflammatory molecules (like the prostaglandins); interestingly enough, these same fatty acids can be converted to anti-inflammatory endocannabinoids. The human body is full of these types of dual pathways, and CBD could help optimize some of the other ones, too.

CBD may also help 'quiet down' the immune system as a whole. As one excellent review study says, "the endocannabinoid system is also involved in immunoregulation." More specifically, CBD has "been shown to induce apoptosis [cell death] in [...]   human T lymphocytes," which are a type of immune cell normally used to combat infections and cancers.

In other words: CBD reduces lymphocyte activity when it's not helpful or necessary. After all, chronic inflammation reflects an over-active immune system that's stuck in fight or flight mode, even when such vigilance isn't needed. Both inflammatory diseases and autoimmune disorders basically entail a battle against nonexistent invaders - and CBD's immune-calming qualities are something that can benefit them both.

Benefit #2: CBD may benefit the nervous system

While neuroscience has been around in its more primitive forms since the 1700s, cannabinoids like CBD were only discovered in the 60s. And the body's naturally produced endocannabinoids were discovered even later; their elucidation was wrapped up around 1994.

Suffice to say that our understanding of cannabinoids and their relation to the neuro-world has some catching up to do!

At this point, however, things look pretty promising. CBD seems to protect the nervous system from damage by helping keep its nervous signals (i.e, neurotransmissions) firing at a nice and steady pace, almost like an orchestra conductor keeps his musicians in sync with each other. A very recent study on endocannabinoids even found a restorative effect on the myelin sheaths that surround and insulate our nerves. Taken as a whole, these findings mean huge things for brain-based nerve pain - and CBD's potential role in alleviating them.  

Actually, for any type of pain, for that matter. According to pain researcher Dr. Lorimer Moseley, it all goes back to one's brain: "pain doesn't exist until it emerges into consciousness."

Much more research is still needed on exactly how CBD may ‘shift' the nervous system away from faulty pain signals. Yet that hasn't stopped some pretty influential groups from taking theory to practice. US government researchers have been investing in the study of CBD's neuroprotective effects since the late 90s, and today the Isreali Defense Forces authorizes its PTSD-affected soldiers to take medical cannabis and/or CBD.

Benefit #3: CBD has few side effects

In addition to its ability to reduce chronic pain, says cannabis expert Dr. Allen Frankel, "CBD is extremely safe and offers many other benefits to these patients, including calming effects, and relief of anxiety and insomnia."

Part of CBD's extremely safe nature is the compound's amazing lack of side effects. The worst thing most users experience is a little sleepiness or dry mouth. Others may experience nausea, but that likely stems from poor quality, unregulate CBD oils, not pure CBD itself.

As Dr. Dustin Sulak says, the lack of side effects associated with CBD - in fact, with nearly any plant cannabinoid - is possible because "we already have the organic infrastructure in place to receive them." In other words, we already have an endocannabinoid system, which interacts with CBD just as naturally as can be!

On a related note, CBD may be able to reduce the side effects of conventional pain medications. That means good things for people who want to take CBD alongside their current prescriptions. And while concurrent opioid and cannabis use has been tied to increased anxiety and decreased mental stability, opioids and CBD seem better (and safer) together.

Overall, dealing with pain can be tough. And though CBD's ability to reduce pain is real, so is the current status of your pain! So we couldn't blame you for being skeptical - or wanting to experience all these possible CBD-fueled benefits for yourself.  If that's you, we're here to help.


Thomas WronaThomas Wrona is a cannabis consultant, health + wellness advisor, and former professional athlete. He enjoys writing about all things CBD, both here and at Wrona Inc.


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