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CBD oil is popular and commonly used for its potent therapeutic benefits, but what about its effect on pain? Here's what the research shows
CBD oil is a popular natural treatment for various physical and mental ailments. CBD, short for cannabidiol, is a naturally occurring phytocannabinoid compound found in the cannabis plant. Phytocannabinoids such as CBD can be extracted from the plant and used in various cannabis-based products that are available for purchase. CBD oil is an extract of CBD mixed with a type of carrier oil, such as hemp or coconut oil, and can be applied topically or taken sublingually.
Pain is felt when a signal travels through the nerves to the brain. The underlying cause of pain can be complex and come from many sources different factors. Pain levels can range from minimal to debilitating and can be of short or long duration. Chronic pain occurs when pain is continuous and persists for more than six months, even when the cause (illness or injury) has dissipated. Chronic pain can also have many underlying causes, although most commonly it is due to dysfunctional nerves or the inflammation.
Pain and CBD
Although studies on the benefits of CBD oil are very limited due to restrictions on cannabis use and the research that can be conducted, as cannabis legalisation increases, it is expected that more in-depth and long-term research will be conducted with human participants.
The endocannabinoid system
Most studies on pain have included numerous cannabinoids, such as THC or a combination of several, rather than just CBD. There are more than 100 different cannabinoids in the cannabis plant, each with profiles and slightly different effects. In addition to CBD, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is a notable cannabinoid and can produce psychoactive effects experienced as a 'high'. All cannabinoids interact with the endocannabinoid system (ECS), a cell signalling system present in all mammals.
The ECS is responsible for balancing and regulating bodily processes that control everything from mood, sleep, immune system function and metabolism. The ECS is made up of naturally produced cannabinoids, called endocannabinoids, and cannabinoid receptors scattered throughout the brain and nervous system. nervous system. Cannabinoids such as CBD can interact with these receptors and activate systems that alter the way the brain perceives pain.
Studies on pain and CBD oil
Although CBD does not create a euphoric 'high' like THC, its complex effects can help the body use its own endocannabinoids. A 2015 study suggested that CBD, along with other cannabinoids, can influence our body's receptor systems and the ECS. CBD has been shown to increase anandamide levels in our body. This compound has been associated with the reduction of pain perception and the improvement of people's state of mind.
However, recent evidence suggests that CBD does not totally reduce the intensity of pain, but makes it feel less unpleasant. A study conducted in early 2021 investigated the effects of cannabinoids on pain by safely inducing experimental heat pain before measuring how the nervous system reacts and responds. Using pure isolated CBD oil, the researchers found that while CBD did not reduce the volume of pain, it made it less uncomfortable.
While the results of these studies and many others remain promising, more research is needed to verify the benefits of CBD oil when it comes to pain relief.
CBD oil for different types of pain
As the underlying causes and symptoms of pain are complex, people can experience different types of pain.
Chronic pain is classified as high levels of pain that last more than a couple of months and do not go away even after recovery from injury or illness. Examples of chronic pain include back pain and frequent headaches. Although patients can control chronic pain with various treatment options such as acupuncture, medication and surgerySevere types of chronic pain usually cannot be cured and are controlled and maintained throughout the individual's life.
Due to the long-term nature of chronic pain, some patients are beginning to look for natural and alternative treatment methods to traditional medication, which are often associated with adverse side effects. CBD oil remains a popular choice, as studies have been favourable regarding the effects of CBD and how it can reduce the severity of chronic pain production.
"Pain is felt when a signal travels through the nerves to the brain. The underlying cause of pain can be complex and come from many different factors. Pain levels can range from minimal to debilitating and can be short or long lasting."
A report 2017 summarised the main findings of several studies and investigated the use of CBD for general chronic pain. After compiling the results of dozens of trials and reviews, the researchers concluded that substantial evidence suggested that cannabis could be a viable treatment option for adults experiencing chronic pain. Another study supported these findings, with researchers noting that cannabinoids such as CBD could offer a new treatment option for chronic pain patients by reducing pain and inflammation. Also discovered that patients were unlikely to build up a tolerance to the effects of CBD, meaning that there was no need to increase the dose over time.
The neuropathic pain is caused by irritation of the nerves due to damage. It is often described as a shooting or burning pain, and the affected areas are extremely sensitive to touch. Neuropathic pain affects the somatosensory nervous system, so symptoms of this type of pain include pins and needles, excruciating levels of pain and difficulty detecting numbness or temperature changes.
The causes and treatment available for neuropathic pain vary from case to case. Triggers for neuropathic pain include alcoholism, exposure to toxins and nutritional imbalances. Treatment may also vary depending on the severity of pain. In general, antidepressants and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can help relieve the patient's pain. However, many people will need stronger painkillers and will combine natural sources of pain management, such as CBD oil, with their traditional medication.
Research on CBD and neuropathic pain is contradictory. A review in 2017 analysed different trials with more than 1,000 participants comparing selected cannabinoids in their treatment of neuropathic pain. The researchers found that CBD could help with chronic neuropathy pain in humans. However, researchers at a review of 2018 concluded that while cannabis-based medicine shows promise, this may be outweighed by its potential harms. The review examined more than 16 studies that looked at the effects of cannabis-derived medicines, including CBD-based products. This suggests that more research is needed to understand the role CBD may play in relieving and treating the symptoms of neuropathic pain.
Pain in cancer treatment
One of the most challenging stages for individuals with cancer is dealing with the numerous side effects of cancer treatments. Cancer treatment options vary, but the most common are hormone therapy, immunotherapy and chemotherapy. These treatments can cause a number of side effects, such as pain, vomiting, nausea, and lack of appetite.
Cancer patients often experience chronic and persistent pain. Research on CBD oil and oral sprays and their effects on the treatment of cancer pain has been promising. Researchers have investigated CBD oil and its role in reducing inflammation and general discomfort due to health conditions such as cancer.
A study in 2013 involving advanced cancer patients with cancer-related pain analysed how THC-CBD extract, together with opioids, produced more effective pain relief than opioids alone. Another review 2018, which analysed studies conducted between 1975 and 2018, assessed the effects of CBD in relieving chronic pain. It examined a range of pain conditions, including cancer and neuropathic pain. The researchers concluded that CBD was effective in overall pain management in different types of pain with minimal side effects experienced.
CBD oil and inflammation
Pain and inflammation go hand in hand. Elevated levels of inflammation cause inflammatory pain due to an inappropriate immune system response, which is associated with diseases such as arthritis. CBD has shown promise in reducing inflammation in the body, particularly in the nervous system and brain. This may benefit people who experience chronic pain and have trouble sleeping, leading to insomnia and specific immune system responses.
Inflammation can be chronic or acute. Acute inflammation usually follows an illness or infection and results in redness and swelling of the affected area. Chronic inflammation is the result of a prolonged inflammatory response. Increased oxidative stress may be detrimental to the organs and tissues.
"Chronic pain occurs when pain is continuous and persists for more than six months, even when the cause (illness or injury) has dissipated. Chronic pain can also have many underlying causes, although most commonly it is due to dysfunctional nerves or inflammation."
Studies investigating the relationship between CBD and arthritis have mainly been conducted on animals. A study in 2016 investigated the effects of CBD in rats with arthritis. The researchers observed a significant reduction in signs of pain and inflammation with a decrease in swelling without adverse side effects. While the anti-inflammatory effects of CBD may be beneficial for arthritis patients, more human studies are needed.
The side effects of pain
Pain is complex and is caused by different factors that often combine to transmit information to the brain. In many cases, pain is caused by a specific injury or health condition, but in others, the underlying reasons may be less obvious or completely unknown, requiring numerous tests (20). Whatever the cause, pain can be very debilitating and create additional ailments or side effects that are often overlooked.
The most common side effects associated with pain are:
- Decreased mood.
- Changes in appetite.
- Depression and anxiety.
- Decreased quality of sleep.
Our physical and mental health are intrinsically linked. People with high levels of pain are more likely to develop depression and anxiety. Chronic pain can also lead to decreased sleep quality or even insomnia, as the intensity of the pain prevents the patient from getting a restful night's sleep. All these side effects can spiral and create a feedback loop that worsens the level of pain.
Anxiety and depression
CBD has shown promise in improving mood and promoting levels of "happy hormones" within the body. Researchers believe this effect is caused by CBD's positive impact on serotonin receptors in the brain and its response to serotonin. Although several factors can cause depression, low serotonin levels are strongly linked to mood, anxiety and depression.
A 2018 review analysed existing studies and concluded that CBD has anxiolytic and antidepressant effects, which can improve mood when experiencing stress.
Quality of sleep
CBD may be able to help improve sleep quality in patients with high levels of pain. A 2012 study investigated CBD dosage and sleep duration and found that individuals who received 160 milligrams of CBD were able to sleep longer than those who received a placebo. The reason for this may be due to the interaction between CBD and ECS, which promotes anxiolytic effects. However, researchers have also linked CBD intake to reduced cortisol release.
Individuals with insomnia are known to have elevated levels of cortisol, also known as the stress hormone, at night, which prevents them from falling and staying asleep. Researchers in a 2019 study found that cortisol levels decreased significantly when taking CBD oil, suggesting that CBD affects cortisol release and can be taken as a potential sedative.
The final result
While there is no conclusive evidence to support CBD and CBD oil as a preferred option for pain management in patients with high levels of pain, the researchers conclude that CBD has a lot of potential.
CBD is well tolerated; however, people should always discuss CBD with a health professional before using it for the first time.