When people start looking into CBD, they’re often in some kind of pain. Emotionally, often with anxiety and stress, or physically, commonly suffering from arthritis, muscle pain or even skin conditions. As such, we hear many questions from people wanting to know exactly how CBD oil helps with pain.
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Many questions we hear are; Is it worth trying CBD oil for back pain? How are CBD patches for pain relief? And, how to use CBD oil for pain. Let’s take a look at some answers to these questions:
Although shop-bought CBD oil is not intended to cure or even treat any kind of pain or pain condition, certain CBD oil products are prescribed to chronic pain patients in the UK and cannabis-based medicinal product Sativex is licensed for MS patients, who experience a great deal of pain every day. But to answer the question ‘how does CBD oil help with pain’, it’s important to first understand the type of pain, what the pain is caused by, and the various ways CBD interacts with the body.
The CBD molecule is what’s called a pleotropic, which means it has multiple mechanisms via lots of different pathways in the body. These include an interaction with serotonin, dopamine, capsicin and GP55 receptors. And with the sprawling endocannabinoid system, which regulates pretty much all functions in the body (just to make things more complex!).
Further to this, full spectrum CBD oils, like ours, contain a range of other cannabinoids and terpene, which also have their own, unique interactions that are well worth knowing about. For example, our Water Soluble CBD products have extra terpenes added from the cannabis plant, like Myercine, Limonene and Curcumin (also present in Tumeric) that are known for their anti inflammatory properties.
When doctors are prescribing prescription cannabis oil for pain patients, they will almost certainly include THC as well, which is not included in any notable levels in over the counter CBD oils like ours. This is because there is a legal limit in the UK for the levels of THC.
A fairly recent study, published in Frontiers in Pain Research, assessed the possible benefits of medical cannabis for cancer-related pain in oncology patients. Researchers found, for most participants, pain measures improved significantly, other cancer-related symptoms decreased, the consumption of painkillers was reduced, and the incidence of side effects were very low and mild.
CBD supports the endocannabinoid system (ECS) by inhibiting the enzyme that breaks down our internally produced endocannabinoids, which results in higher levels of endocannabinoids and increased activation of the ECS.
The two ECS receptors we currently know most about are called CB1 and CB2.
CB1 receptors can be primarily found in your brain and spinal cord – and to a lesser extent, peripheral organs and tissues, as well as parts of your reproductive, gastrointestinal and urinary tract. These receptors control pain perception, mood, sleep, memory and appetite.
CB2 receptors mostly regulate the immune system, which plays a vital role in modulating inflammation – a common cause of aggravation in painful conditions.
As well as this, CBD directly activates serotonin receptors. This results in an immediate release of this neurotransmitter, which has a huge impact on many bodily functions – both mental and physical. SSRI medications, that also increase levels of serotonin, are regularly prescribed to treat conditions such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, bulimia and fibromyalgia. Many experts believe not having enough serotonin (a serotonin deficiency) has the potential to cause anxiety, depression, muscle pain, headaches, insomnia and more.
Capsaicin receptors (TRPV1) are also activated when you take CBD oil. These are also triggered by the active components in vanilla and capsaicin chilli peppers, as well as endocannabinoid, anandamide, and are well known in the scientific world for their role mediating pain perception, body temperature, inflammation and metabolism.
TRPV1 receptors actually work by inducing pain, as a form of signal from body to brain to respond appropriately. However, some studies show that prolonged activation through the use of agonists such as CBD, vanilla and capsaicin, has the potential to partially desensitise them, which equates to fewer pain signals and as a result, less pain felt.
Recent research has also indicated that increased activation of the TRPV1 receptors may be an effective treatment for chronic inflammation.
There are many types of pain that can be caused, triggered or worsened by inflammation, such as rheumatoid arthritis, IBD and endometriosis. Some inflammation is good – it’s a form of protection for the body and aids healing. But, chronic inflammation is now thought to be a leading cause behind all sorts of different diseases conditions and ailments.
Numerous cannabinoids and terpenes have exhibited antioxidative and anti-inflammatory properties in studies performed all over the world, partly via all three aforementioned mechanisms!
Of course, CBD doesn’t only come in oral form – there are plenty of creams, balms, lotions and even patches to choose from. Anecdotally, many people with arthritis swear by their CBD topicals (or, transdermals) – but is there any evidence to suggest this application has any effect?
An animal study from 2015 certainly demonstrates some promise for transdermal CBD (CBD products which include ‘permeation enhancers’ to allow the ingredients to pass through the layers of skin and into muscles, joints and blood stream).
In the study, rats with arthritic knee joints had CBD gel applied for 4 consecutive days. Results showed that the CBD gel ‘significantly reduced joint swelling, limb posture scores as a rating of spontaneous pain, immune cell infiltration and thickening of the synovial membrane’.
Examples of CBD transdermals include CBD gel and CBD patches. Want to know more about CBD patches for pain relief (a great way to apply CBD locally to areas like the lower back, neck and knee)? Head over here.
CBD and other cannabinoids have been demonstrated to be very dose dependent, which means they tend to have specific effects at specific doses. Interestingly, more doesn’t necessarily mean better!
But, most people find their dose with shop bought CBD to be quite individual, as it really depends on your blood volume, weight, age and reason for use, among other things.
The best way to ascertain how much CBD you should take for pain is to start low and build up slowly. Take 2-3 drops under the tongue two or three times a day, and keep adding a drop or two each week until you feel it’s working for you. Studies have been safely performed using up to a whopping 1500mg per dose, but the FSA recommend no more than 70mg per day.