CBD (cannabidiol) is a natural compound extracted from the hemp plant. It doesn’t get you high, it has zero harmful side effects, and is known for its mental and physical health benefits.
CBD works with your Endocannabinoid System (ECS) to keep all your systems operating at their best and maintain a healthy internal balance. CBD uses your ECS to organize messages from various sources in your body, prioritizing the important parts and filtering out junk mail.
CBD and the ECS interact with every system and function of your body, including pain management. This article will explore how CBD interacts with pain, what kinds of pain it’s most effective for, and when and how it should be used for best results.
Let’s start by defining pain. What exactly is pain?
Pain is a symptom.
It’s not the error itself. It’s just an error message.
Pain is a SHOUTING signal your body sends your brain to let it know there’s something wrong. Like all screaming matches, it’s usually indicative of a deeper, underlying problem.
If you put your hand on a hot stove, the nerves in your fingertips immediately send a yelling message to your brain that says, “OUCH!!!”
You can choose to respond to that message any way you like. You can leave your hand on the stove and pop an aspirin for the pain. You can put ice on your sizzling handburger while your fingerprints melt together (you may need a lot of ice.) Or, you can take your hand off the stove.
Meds for Pain
When you take pain medication, you’re choosing to only listen and respond to the “OUCH!!!” when what the message really means is: “SOMETHING’S WRONG, FIX IT!!!” You’re taking care of the temporary symptom and pushing the actual problem forward for Future You to deal with later.
Most over-the-counter pain relievers are like Band-Aids for bullet holes. They click the little ‘X’ above the error message and hope the actual error goes away too.
They hear “OUCH!!!” and they respond: “SHHHH!!!”
Unlike prescription medications, CBD targets the source of the pain, soothes it, and helps prevent it from happening. It also addresses the symptoms your pain may have caused, such as inflammation, nerve damage, and poor sleep.
CBD gives your Endocannabinoid System (ECS) the resources it needs to identify the dysfunction or imbalance that’s causing pain and helps bring it to balance. Since the ECS regulates all your body’s systems, this healing effect can reach every function of your body, including your pain management, immune system, energy, sleep, nervous system, and even your mood.
Not all pain is created equal.
We can classify pain with two useful scales: Damage and Duration (there’s some overlap between the two).
Pain caused by nerve damage is called neuropathic pain.
Pain that had a physical origin but has been prolonged by mental, emotional, or behavioral factors is called psychogenic pain.
Short-term pain is called acute pain.
Long-term pain is called chronic pain.
CBD is effective for most kinds of pain.
Unlike pain medication, CBD has zero harmful side effects and won’t damage your liver or other vital organs.
It’s also non-psychoactive, non-addictive, and you won’t have to keep escalating your dosage just to get the same effect.
Many current studies show CBD is better than placebo for treating nociceptive pain. That means the effects aren’t just in your mind.
CBD tells your body to pump a truckload of bliss-inducing endocannabinoids into the pain control center of your brain. At the same time, it disables the enzymes that usually break the endocannabinoids down, which helps the effect last longer.
You can directly control this effect by increasing or decreasing your CBD dosage.
Chronic and Neuropathic Pain
Where CBD really shines is with chronic and neuropathic pain. Cannabidol helps manage an important pain relay station in your spine that’s in charge of filtering pain signals from the rest of your body.
Most other pain medications work by just numbing the pain signal. CBD seems to work up and down the neural pathways in your brain and spine to find and soothe the root causes of these long-term pains.
CBD helps your ECS regulate your inflammation levels and maintain a healthy balance.
If you have an injury that causes pain, which causes inflammation, which causes more pain, CBD can help break that vicious cycle. Consuming CBD or rubbing it on an inflamed area can desensitize the nerve endings and help bring the inflammation under control.
One of CBD’s most well-documented superpowers is its preventative properties against the nerve damage that causes neuropathic pain.
Using CBD preventatively at the onset of a neurodegenerative disease has been shown to protect from a lifetime of excruciating chronic pain. CBD can help combat nerve damage from diabetes, osteoarthritis, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and even chemotherapy.
CBD helps with acute (temporary) pain, but stops short of blocking the pain signal completely. This means you won’t have to worry about accidentally hurting yourself without noticing.
There’s evidence indicating that CBD can work with a part of the brain that controls pain perception to help quiet psychogenic pain and keep acute pain from turning chronic (long term).
CBD is famous for helping with all kinds of sleep issues. It helps you fall asleep and get a full night’s rest in spite of your pain.
CBD may interact with certain medications, so talk to your doctor if you’re currently taking antidepressants, antibiotics, or any medication with a ‘grapefruit warning’.
There’s no lethal, harmful, or toxic dose of CBD.
A few people have reported minor side effects like nausea or diarrhea when taking large doses of CBD oil. These should be temporary, and studies indicate it might be from the oil rather than the cannabidiol itself.
CBD vs Neuropathic Pain
Pain perception is a two-way street. Ascending pain pathways go from your nerve endings, up your spinal cord, to your brain. Descending pain pathways start from your brain, go down your spinal cord, and end in your nerve endings. This allows both your king brain and your working-class nerves to have some say in how much pain you need to feel.
The Periaqueductal Grey (PAG) is the part of your brain that controls many of your descending pain pathways. CBD significantly elevates endocannabinoid levels in the PAG. This produces an antinociceptive (pain blocking) effect that directly correlates with the CBD dosage.
CBD vs Neuropathic Pain
An important relay station for neuropathic and chronic pain is the lamina II of the spinal dorsal horn. It’s responsible for filtering ascending pain impulses and integrating them with other important information. This area is teeming with α3-containing glycine receptors (α3 GlyRs). Intrathecal administration of CBD and DH-CBD has been shown to target α3 GlyRs in mice, producing a powerful inhibitory effect on chronic neuropathic pain.
CBD vs Chronification
Chronification is when acute pain turns chronic. Dysfunctional descending pain pathways play an important role in pain chronification. Elevating PAG endocannabinoid levels with CBD can help to bring your descending pain pathways back into homeostasis and avoid chronification.
CBD vs Pain: Rapid-Fire Round
CBD vs The Vicious Cycle of Inflammation
CBD vs Nerve Damage
CBD helps with various types of pain. It helps bring your body and mind into balance while soothing the source of the pain and preventing it from recurring.
CBD also addresses the symptoms your pain may be causing, such as inflammation, nerve damage, sleep issues, and mood imbalances.
CBD has zero harmful side effects and is a natural, effective alternative to pain medications.