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The CDC estimated that about 50 million U.S. adults suffered from chronic pain in 2016 alone. Pharmaceutical painkillers, the traditional approach to pain management, are over-prescribed and frequently abused. Statistics published in 2010 estimated more than 45 prescription painkiller overdose-related deaths per day for a full year! Fortunately, easily one of the most promising potential applications in the field of pain management is CBD. If researchers can substantiate these claims, then pain relief, as we know it, will forever be revolutionized.
What is CBD?
Cannabidiol (CBD) is an organic plant-based compound present within hemp and cannabis. Researchers accredit cannabinoids, such as CBD, with a vast array of therapeutic effects and potential health applications.
Not to be mistaken for THC (delta-nine-tetrahydrocannabinol), CBD is a non-intoxicating compound. CBD therapeutics allow consumers a way to harness some of the medicinal properties of the cannabis plant with no sedative-like effects. Before discussing its potential for pain management, however, it helps to have a basic understanding of various types of pain.
How Does CBD Work?
CBD is a neuroprotective antioxidant, meaning that it helps inhibit the production and release of glutamate and other inflammatory compounds. These neuroprotective effects suggest the potential application of CBD to help effectively manage the tingling and burning sensation directly associated with neuropathic pain.
The potent anti-inflammatory effects of CBD are unique to the cannabis family of plants in the sense that they do not inhibit COX-1 and COX-2 receptors. Some studies demonstrate that cannabinoids such as CBD and THC, when used as anti-inflammatory agents, are up to 20 times more potent compared to ibuprofen and similar over-the-counter medications.
What Type of Pain Can CBD Relieve?
Not all types of pain are the same. For instance, CBD is ill-equipped to handle the sheering pain experienced immediately after stubbing your toe on the coffee table. In cases of diagnosed neuropathic and inflammatory pain, however, CBD demonstrates potential efficacy as a pain-management supplement. We will discuss the science behind these claims shortly. First, it is beneficial to have a basic understanding of both neuropathic and inflammatory pain.
- Arthritic pain: Researchers behind a 2016 study published by the European Journal of Pain concluded a significant decrease in arthritic pain and inflammation with no adverse side-effects reported. While consumers may find relief using CBD to combat arthritic pain, more in-depth research is required to confirm these findings.
- Fibromyalgia: A report published in 2011 aimed to learn whether CBD could be a potential therapy for the treatment of fibromyalgia. Results indicated that 56/112 participants experienced a significant reduction in overall pain, as well as a considerable decrease in other symptoms.
- Inflammatory Pain: Inflammatory pain is associated with tissue damage and refers to the increased sensitivity experienced as a result of the inflammatory response. Inflammatory pain is not limited to any one part of the body. Examples include all types of arthritic pain, some autoimmune disorders like ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s, as well as simple conditions such as headaches, minor muscle aches, and cramps. According to a study published in 2012 in the Journal of Experimental Medicine, CBD could potentially be an effective pain-management treatment for inflammatory pain. More in-depth research is required to confirm these findings.
- Multiple sclerosis (M.S.): The most commonly reported symptom of M.S. is painful muscle spasms. One research review published in 2017 suggests that CBD could potentially help reduce levels of spasticity. However, the results were modest. More clinical studies are required to verify these findings.
- Neuropathic Pain: Neuropathic pain predominately is produced and sustained due to the glutamatergic system. This fast-acting pathway is crucial for processing information within neural networks, particularly the hippocampus. Neuropathy is the result of damaged or destroyed neurons, which generates a burning or tingling sensation that primarily affects the hands or feet.
While CBD is not appropriate for all types of pain, it has demonstrated research-backed efficacy in helping alleviate and manage both neuropathic and inflammatory pain. Despite requiring more in-depth research to substantiate these claims, many first-hand testimonials from chronic pain sufferers claim to have had astounding success using CBD as a pain management supplement.