CBD & Chronic Pain
Chronic pain is defined as persistent or recurring pain lasting longer than 3 months that is characterized by persistent physical pain, disability, emotional disturbance, and social withdrawal. It is typically caused by a chronic progressive nerve disease, but can also result from injury, trauma, or infection. With neuropathic pain, the pain is usually not triggered by an event or injury like stubbing your toe. Instead, pain signals are sent to the brain unprompted and without any clear cause.
People with a chronic neuropathic pain condition can experience anything from shooting pains to burning sensations or throbbing that is often also accompanied by numbness or a loss of sensation. The pain may be constant or intermittent and is often debilitating, rendering the individual unable to work, exercise, or go about life’s basic activities, compromising overall health, and mental well-being. Not only that, but it can become especially difficult when you have to contend with other medical problems that tend to coexist with arthritis, like heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.
Chronic pain affects just under 28 million adults in the UK, and is likely to increase further in line with an ageing population. In the past the answer for those suffering has been pharmaceutical opioid medication. Consequently, the side effects can be dangerous with long term use and some even become dependent on the pain medication prescribed. It is not surprising therefore that now more than ever patients and practitioners are looking at CBD as an alternative for pain management. Arthritis is now the most commonly cited reason for using Cannabinoid (CBD).
Although CBD is just now becoming fairly mainstream, largely because of the debates surrounding medical marijuana, cannabis actually has a long history of providing relief in many different countries around the world. However, it is only in recent years that research has begun in human use.
What Does The Science Say?
The Arthritis Foundation conducted its own poll and found that 29% reported current use of CBD (mostly in liquid or topical form), and nearly 80% of respondents were either using it, had used it in the past, or were considering it. Of those using it, most reported improvement in physical function, sleep, and well-being and a small amount reported improvement in pain or stiffness.
A study from the European Journal of Pain, reported significant improvements in the anti-inflammatory benefits of CBD topicals. The review was conducted using an animal model, and there was significant improvement in inflammation from arthritis after just 4 days, demonstrating the mechanism by which CBD inhibits inflammatory and neuropathic pain. They concluded that “These data indicate that topical CBD application has therapeutic potential for relief of arthritis pain‐related behaviours and inflammation without evident side‐effects.”
While there are laboratory studies suggesting CBD may be helpful and animal studies showing anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects, there is a need for more research. There are currently medical reviews under way and planned research into osteoarthritis, knee pain and the effects of CBD as well as other trials. There has recently been a large trial of topical CBD for osteoarthritis of the knee which has been published, with mixed results.
Of course, there is anecdotal evidence and testimonials galore, including reports of dramatic improvement by people who tried CBD in its various forms (including capsules, oils, topicals, and vapes) for their pain relief. Medical evidence is still in its infancy in human research and we are still waiting for well-designed, scientifically valid, and rigorous clinical trials, to answer the question of just how CBD may be to people with chronic pain.
However, the positive feedback from research into multiple systematic reviews has thus far concluded that there is substantial evidence that CBD is an effective treatment for chronic pain in adults. A separate study in the Journal of Experimental Medicine also supports these results.