How CBD Helps to Manage Chronic Pain: A Primer


The world of CBD and Cannabis medicine may provide much needed non-addictive, natural relief for the large number of people in this country that live with chronic pain. The number of people living with chronic pain are alarming as reflected in the now ubiquitous opioid epidemic which has led so many down the destructive path of addiction. Luckily, CBD specific supplementation can offer pain relief without any psychoactive effects. But how?

To fully explain the ways in which CBD and other phytocannabinoids can be an unparalleled remedy for chronic pain, we must first understand how our own endocannabinoid systems work.

How does the Endocannabinoid System Work?

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a system that we humans, and all mammals for that matter, have in our bodies. If the ECS is unfamiliar to you, don’t fret---it wasn’t discovered until the 1990’s, and we’re only now beginning to understand the vastness and intricacies of its function. Our discovery of the ECS was made possible through human interaction with Cannabis, which contains phytocannabinoids that directly interact with the ECS. The human body also produces endogenous cannabinoids all on its own which, like phytocannabinoids CBD or THC, bind to and activate cannabinoid receptors all over the body.

Essentially, the ECS is responsible for maintaining homeostasis in the body, and its functions have been termed, colloquially, as “relax, eat, sleep, forget and protect.” It interacts with and plays an important role in other endogenous pain control systems in our body like the endorphin/enkephalin, nervous, TRPV, and inflammatory systems. However, our modern lives expose us to prolonged high levels of stress, exposure to pollution, and poor nutrition which can overwhelm and deplete the ECS of endogenous cannabinoids. This makes our ECS unable to complete its “relax, eat, sleep, forget, and protect functions,” which can lead to high levels of anxiety, inflammation, and you guessed it - pain.

Endocannabinoid Deficiency

Endocannabinoid deficiency seems to be a theme in several treatment-resistant pain conditions, the circumstances of which could therefore be helped greatly by supplementing with phytocannabinoids. A 2004 study of certain chronic pain conditions concluded that, “Migraine, fibromyalgia, IBS and related conditions display common clinical, biochemical and pathophysiological patterns that suggest an underlying clinical endocannabinoid deficiency that may be suitably treated with cannabinoid medicines.” Several studies have linked the dysregulation of the cannabinoid system directly to the onset of migraines, and have successfully treated the migraines with injections of Anandamide, a cannabinoid.

In addition, phytocannabinoids have been shown to be effective in several studies on nerve pain. One such study found that phytocannabinoids were “demonstrated to be effective in a range of experimental neuropathic pain models, and there is mounting evidence for therapeutic use in human neuropathic pain conditions.” Other well-known pain conditions aided by CBD and similar phytocannabinoid treatments include: autoimmune disorders, digestive issues, arthritis, ALS, MS, osteoporosis, rheumatism, and skin issues like psoriasis, or eczema. This is due to the ECS’s ability to control and reduce widespread inflammation in the body through phytocannabinoid supplementation. Since inflammation is such a major factor in most chronic pain conditions; supplementing with CBD or the like will almost certainly aid in reducing these, and any inflammatory conditions.

Using CBD for Chronic Pain

Overall, CBD -- especially full spectrum CBD, as other phytocannabinoids also aid the ECS in optimal functionality -- is a wonderful, legal option for chronic pain patients. Unlike opiates, CBD isn’t debilitating or psychoactive, won’t cause dependency or addiction, and is a good long term solution to a long term problem.

Those using CBD to cope with chronic pain should take a supplement at least daily; due to this, CBD oil in the form of sublingual drops or capsules may be the most convenient forms of consumption. Because each person’s needs and tolerance will be different, it’s best to work with an herbalist or natural medicine practitioner experienced in the use of CBD therapy. It’s always recommended to start with low dosages and slowly increase dosage from 5 milligrams up to find the best serving for you. Like any remedy or medication, CBD should be combined with other holistic lifestyle treatments such as stress reduction, a healthy diet, and exercise for optimal results. 


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