You know how people talk about “safety in numbers?” Well, it probably won’t comfort you to know that according to the Centers for Disease Control, chronic pain affects approximately 50 million U.S. adults. “High impact” chronic pain, defined as persistent pain with substantial restriction of life activities lasting 6 months or more, affects roughly 20 million adults—or roughly 8% of the population.
When you have chronic pain, good company might not be so good. And yet there’s another group you might think about joining: the more and more Americans trying cannabidiol (CBD) oil for chronic pain for the first time.
How Does CBD Oil Help Chronic Pain?
CBD is a non-intoxicating chemical compound that’s isolated from the cannabis sativa plant (hemp). CBD works by indirectly acting on cannabinoid receptors in the body (the endocannabinoid system). There are two main types of receptors that CBD indirectly activates: CB1 and CB2.
CB1 receptors are primarily found in the nerves around the brain and spinal cord. When you feel pain, it’s CB1 that makes it possible for you to perceive it.
Your body actually produces its own cannabinoids (internal or endocannabinoids). But these cannabinoids don’t last as long as the ones we take in from external sources. When pain is sensed, our internal endocannabinoids do their best to maintain homeostasis (balance). Unfortunately, their effects on pain suppression just don’t last very long.
Enter CBD. Although CBD oil does not bind to CB1 receptors, it nonetheless plays a critical role in stimulating the endocannabinoid system—and its effects last longer, provided the CBD is good enough quality.
One way in which CBD is known to work for chronic pain relief, says Benjamin Gonzàlez, MD, Medical Director of the Atlantis Medical Wellness Center in Silver Spring, MD, is by interacting with the receptors of the amino acid, glycine, in the central nervous system. Glycine receptors are involved in the development of spinal pain sensitization.
Beyond this explanation, the truth is researchers aren’t 100% sure how CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid system in order to dampen the pain and inflammation response.
But for the untold number of people who have experienced positive outcomes in pain management, the why and how might not really matter.
Using CBD Oil For Chronic Back Pain
What does matter? Quality and quantity. Chronic back pain affects roughly 8 percent of all adults in the US. Unfortunately, many of these people have mistakenly tried cheap CBD products with very little actual CBD extract, and found little or no relief. Others may have used better products, but have unrealistic expectations that using CBD once or twice will yield miraculous results.
In order to treat debilitating chronic back pain, premium CBD should be used at least once a day. And this is by no means suggesting that CBD should be the only pain-relieving option; it can be part of a holistic pain-management regimen.
CBD Oil For Chronic Pain In Elderly Populations
Wondering if a parent or relative living in a nursing facility can legally use CBD? Dementia Care Central provides an excellent state-by-state resource for general usage of CBD. For instance, in Maryland, residents of nursing home facilities should be allowed to use it. However, Dementia Care Central cautions that because a licensed pharmacist reviews medications in Maryland assisted living communities, it’s best to check with residences for their individual policies on CBD.
Another problem with using CBD for pain in seniors, especially those living in care facilities, is that the best way to treat pain is by applying CBD oil to the affected area (see How To Use CBD for Pain below). Thus, it may be a logistical challenge to get an orderly or care facility staff to diligently apply it.
That being said, sublingual usage of CBD oil (drops under the tongue) may provide relief—again, provided that it’s a top-shelf product.
How Long Does It Take CBD To Work For Pain Management?
Onset of relief depends on several factors, including how long the person has been in pain, their body weight, and if there is, to begin with, a severe imbalance in the endocannabinoid system, which only recently has been shown to be a factor for arthritis, depression and several other health concerns.
So, some people may experience relief immediately, while for others it may take a few weeks.
Scholarly Articles on CBD and Pain Management
Most research studies on CBD have focused on the substance’s effects on anxiety and pain. The good news is that there’s plenty of evidence to suggest exogenous cannabinoids like CBD work for pain.
- For instance, this research study in Frontiers in Pharmacology concludes: “The evidence supports the use of cannabis in the treatment of chronic pain in adults.”
- A study looked at CBD’s effects in treating arthritis in mice. A 25 mg dose of CBD orally every day seemed to reduce arthritic pain.
- Another arthritis study evaluated the use of CBD gel or cream. Topical application of CBD was shown to manage symptoms of arthritis. CBD also prevented internal bleeding in the joints.
- A 2020 study suggested CBD works for rheumatoid arthritis.
- According to an article from 2020 on Harvard Medical School’s website, “CBD may prove to be an option for managing anxiety, insomnia, and chronic pain.” In addition, the article said CBD may offer an option for treating different types of chronic pain and referenced a study from the European Journal of Pain that showed that when cannabinoids are used topically, they may help lower arthritis-associated pain and inflammation and neuropathy.
What is the Best CBD Oil For Chronic Pain?
The answer: the one that works for you. But if you’re expecting miracles from a $10 CBD cream or lotion, you’re probably out of luck.
The pain mechanism is extremely complex and intricate. We know that CBD helps restore homeostasis to the body by indirectly activating endocannabinoid receptors. As such, CBD can block pain signals to the brain and relax overly-contracted muscles and constricted muscle tissue.
The best CBD oil for any health concern is one that contains pure CBD oil with all the phytocompounds that are naturally found in hemp. The synergistic effects of different plant compounds is a well-established fact. That means that the sum of all the compounds in full-spectrum CBD oil is greater than the individual parts.
How To Use CBD For Chronic Pain
If you find the taste of a pure hemp extract palatable, try dropping CBD oil under your tongue (sublingually). Doing so will quickly get the phytonutrients in the extract to cross the blood-brain barrier. In other words, the CBD oil won’t have to travel the length of the digestive system in order to exert its effects. Squeezing drops of CBD oil under the tongue won’t result in immediate effects, but in as little as 10 minutes or so, you should feel something.
For best results, take CBD both sublingually and topically. If you have a pain-relief lotion that hasn’t yielded the results you were hoping for, you can try adding 2-3 drops of CBD oil to it and then directly apply the lotion to inflamed or painful areas.
Want to learn more about using CBD for chronic pain? Visit Max & Steven’s Full Spectrum CBD Drops and click “usage.”
CBD is supported by research studies to be a safe and natural treatment for pain management. Unlike OTC pain medications and prescriptions, CBD has not been shown to cause serious side effects. And when you use CBD topically or under the tongue, the chances of drug interactions are thought to be much less in comparison to edibles. Speak to your health care provider about any meds you’re currently taking. And then you can take the next step to a pain-free life.