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What Types of Pain Can Cannabidiol (CBD) Treat?

March 18, 2019
CBD pain
Photo by @fallforvee
Pain, when used as an umbrella term, is more vast than the Pacific Ocean. Using CBD to treat pain can be effective only under the pretense that the type of pain is well-understood and properly diagnosed.

Most of us have crossed paths with the loud, piercing, cuss-worthy persona of acute pain: an elbow dings the edge of the table or a pinky toe that has found the bed frame yet again at 3 a.m. Other types of pain produce less shock value but are no less odious in nature.

For the sake of this article, I’ll simply go into the types of pain that CBD has shown to treat effectively: neuropathic and inflammatory pain.

Types of Pain

CBD treats neuropathic pain like Cinderella’s foot fit the magic shoe—a blissful, but unexpected, union. Neuropathic pain is largely created and sustained due to the glutamenergic system, which is a major excitatory neuronal pathway. Glutamate is the neurotransmitter that is responsible for turning neurons on, which is great, sometimes.

Inflammatory pain is related to neuropathic pain, except it is not limited to neurons. Examples of inflammatory pain include all types of arthritis, a few autoimmune diseases such as Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis, and simple conditions like headaches, cramps, muscle aches, and pains.

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For humans, communication is key, not only interpersonally but also molecularly. Problems arise in paradise when cells become damaged due to injury or chronic illness. When the body senses this damage, it cranks inflammation to HIGH and begins pumping inflammatory agents on its cells.

The point is to promote death of the damaged cell, otherwise called apoptosis. Our bodies don’t enjoy malfunctioning cells and would prefer that they throw in the towel—this is important in ridding ourselves of possible cancer and maintaining optimal functioning. However, when this becomes a chronic condition, it is named inflammatory pain.

How CBD Works for Pain

CBD inhibits glutamate release and other inflammatory agents, which makes it ‘neuroprotective’ and excellent at dulling the prickling, tingling and burning sensations that neuropathic pain is characterized for. CBD can be used as a supplement to help manage neuropathic pain, alongside other natural supplements such as magnesium glycinate.

Pain due to inflammation is not as easily characterized as other types of pain, mostly because its origins of pain vary and so does the experience. On the bright side, CBD is good at calming inflammation, no matter what the root cause.

The anti-inflammatory mechanism of cannabidiol is unique to cannabis. It doesn’t work like other anti-inflammatory drugs by inhibiting COX-1 and COX-2 receptors, which means you don’t run the risk of developing gastrointestinal ulcers or heart attacks, hooray! Some studies have shown that cannabinoids (CBD and THC) are up to twenty times more potent anti-inflammatory agents when compared to NSAIDs (eg. ibuprofen).

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When taken regularly alongside other natural anti-inflammatory supplements (eg. curcumin, Omega-3), CBD can provide systemic relief of inflammation. Usually taken three times per day, dosing at each interval depends on your unique needs. Typically patients start with 0.5 mg per dose and increase until maximum relief.

Cannabidiol can be an effective, non-psychotropic alternative to THC when used correctly. However, we are still in the infancy stage of incorporating CBD into health and medicine, so it is important to consult your physician when contemplating the use of CBD to treat pain.

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It’s important to remember that CBD, like other nutraceuticals, can interact with medications.

The takeaway? CBD isn’t effective in treating all types of pain—for that reason, it’s important to understand your pain: does it worsen with the weather, cause swelling, or is it persistent and stabbing? If you feel that you experience inflammatory or neuropathic pain, talk to your doctor. CBD supplementation could be right for you.

Katarina Kostovic's Bio Image

Katarina Kostovic

A writer and educator living in Toronto, Katarina has been studying the relationship between cannabis & physiology since 2012. She has also written educational material for GrowWise Health, Tokyo Smoke & Van Der Pop.

View Katarina Kostovic's articles

  • I do appreciate that CBD is getting the exposure as such an effective anti-inflammatory when compared to something like ibuprofen.

    The potential to help so many more people than it does currently is only at the tip of the iceberg in terms of research and findings.

    Great post, Kat! Admire how you got the ‘science’ on point there whilst still making it an easy read 🙂

  • Lydia McFadden

    How to sensibly buy LEGAL CBD oil? Because I got a letter saying customs have confiscated my package two times already and I’m pissed.

    • Katarina

      Oh my! Yes, I would not recommend buying from the states at this point in time. Alway get it from the OCS when you can (although we seem to be quite short these days…)

      Technically, hemp derived CBD is legal (in both countries). HOWEVER, there are no regulations that monitor the type of chemicals used to extract CBD from hemp and the levels are oftentimes so low that the effect is in fact, placebo. So do two things: check the potency and make SURE they are sensibly extracting the CBD so that you aren’t poisoning yourself.

  • Nancy Troche-Estess

    Thank you, Katarina for your work & sharing with us. Excellent share.
    Nancy

  • Katarina

    Thanks guys!

  • Dante-the-cat

    I find cannabis works a treat when it comes to muscle pain, but is way out of it’s league when it comes to pain caused by infection.