5. Yamaoka G, et al. Different analgesic effects of adenosine between postoperative and neuropathic pain. J Orthop Sci. 2013;18(1):130-136.
Keep in mind that while CBD can have many benefits, it is not a cure-all and should not be viewed as an alternative to your other pain care treatments. Rather, CBD should be considered a complementary treatment to add to your pain management toolbox.
Vaping has become a popular form of taking CBD. Unlike rolling a joint, vaping involves a CBD oil cartridge that is inserted into a vaping pen. While some may assume that vaping is safer than smoking, there are dangers associated with both practices regarding lung health.
How does CBD help pain?
9. Nicholson AN, Turner C, et al. Effect of Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol on nocturnal sleep and early-morning behavior in young adults. J Clin Pshychopharmacol. 2004;23(3):305-313.
What’s more, CBD has minimal side effects and a low-risk, zero-addiction profile. But before you pop a gummy or ingest an oil, you’ll want to read on.
1. Corroon J, Phillips JA. A cross-sectional study of cannabidiol users. Cannabis Cannabinoid Res. 2018;3(1):152-161.
The (i)llegality surrounding CBD and medicinal marijuana (which are a whole other category, described in our medical marijuana for pain guide) can make choosing and using the right product confusing. Here is what you may find when you start searching the marketplace.
Most medical marijuana users take CBD for pain. But does it work?
“It’s frustrating,” says Boehnke. “Because we’re in this space where people are using these things all the time, but the science is pretty far behind the policy.”
What constitutes ‘pain’?
“I think there’s definitely a lot of excitement about [medical marijuana],” says Kevin Boehnke, Ph.D., research investigator in the department of anesthesiology and the Chronic Pain and Fatigue Research Center at the University of Michigan. “It’s always nice to have an extra tool in the toolbox, especially one that has been used for thousands of years and that people know to be relatively safe.”
As the NASEM noted in its 2017 review, “very little is known about the efficacy, dose, routes of administration or side effects of commonly used and commercially available cannabis products in the United States.” And that’s precisely why pain researchers like Boehnke care about testing the entire cannabis plant — all those hundreds of compounds may help explain if and how cannabis alleviates pain.
“Lastly, there is centralized pain, which has very recently been called nociplastic,” says Boehnke. “And that’s something more like fibromyalgia or some of the other chronic overlapping pain conditions — migraines, tension headaches — that have been more difficult to characterize scientifically and clinically because there’s not a specific pathology that you can identify on an x-ray or fMRI.”
In fact, the FDA has issued several warning letters to companies and individuals that market unapproved new drugs that allegedly contain CBD. The FDA has tested the chemical content of cannabinoid compounds in some of the products, and many were found to not contain the levels of CBD the manufacturers had claimed they contain.
Cannabis (most commonly obtained from the Cannabis indica and Cannabis sativa plants) has three major components: cannabinoids, terpenoids, and flavonoids. While there are over a hundred different cannabinoids, the two major components are tetrahydrocannabional (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). Historically more attention has been paid to the psychoactive (euphoric “getting high”) component of the cannabis plant, THC; there have been fewer scientific studies on the medical use of CBD, a non-psychoactive component of the plant.
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Beware of powerful testimonials
CBD is emerging as a promising pharmaceutical agent to treat pain, inflammation, seizures, and anxiety without the psychoactive effects of THC. Our understanding of the role of CBD in pain management continues to evolve, and evidence from animal studies has shown that CBD exerts its pain-relieving effects through its various interactions and modulation of the endocannabinoid, inflammatory, and nociceptive (pain sensing) systems. The endocannabinoid system consists of cannabinoid receptors that interact with our own naturally occurring cannabinoids. This system is involved in regulating many functions in the body, including metabolism and appetite, mood and anxiety, and pain perception.
If you ask health care providers about the most challenging condition to treat, chronic pain is mentioned frequently. By its nature, chronic pain is a complex and multidimensional experience. Pain perception is affected by our unique biology, our mood, our social environment, and past experiences. If you or a loved one is suffering from chronic pain, you already know the heavy burden.
Finally, there is anecdotal wisdom, when experiences by patients and health professionals have positive results. While the experience or medication could be beneficial, that doesn’t mean it is going to work for everyone. That’s because each and every person is unique, and what works perfectly for one patient could have no effect on another patient. This is especially true for pain, where many other factors (our mood and stress level, our environment and other medical conditions, and our previous experiences) can affect the perception of pain. Please be careful, and keep in mind that some of these incredible-sounding testimonials are merely marketing materials meant to lure consumers to buy more products, as the CBD market is expected to hit $20 billion by 2024.
So far, pharmaceutical CBD is only approved by the FDA as adjunct therapy for the treatment of a special and rare form of epilepsy. Currently, CBD alone is not approved for treatment of pain in the United States. But a combination medication (that contains both THC and CBD in a 1:1 ratio) was approved by Health Canada for prescription for certain types of pain, specifically central neuropathic pain in multiple sclerosis, and the treatment of cancer pain unresponsive to optimized opioid therapy. There is currently no high-quality research study that supports the use of CBD alone for the treatment of pain.