Topicals include CBD creams, lotions, salves, and ointments. These are usually best to treat localized pain, arthritic pain, and neuropathic or nerve pain. 14 Applied directly to the skin, one advantage of topicals is that they do not seem to exert any psychotropic effects. Studies have shown potential benefit of topicals in the treatment of arthritic pain in particular.
10. O’Sullivan SE. An update on PPAR activation by cannabinoids. Br J Pharmacol. 2016;173(12):1899–1910.
Importantly, CBD is hydrophobic and lipophilic, meaning it will dissolve in fats. The dissolution helps it to be carried across the blood-brain barrier and affect your CNS, where it can have a broad range of positive effects on pain including:
Choose a CBD Product that Fits Your Needs
These days, it seems like you can purchase CBD just about anywhere, but if it’s an option, you may want to visit a medical marijuana dispensary. Buying CDB from a medical dispensary doesn’t guarantee the product’s quality but it’s a good place to start. Before you go:
CBD is a cannabinoid found in marijuana plants that has many beneficial effects, without the psychotropic effects of its cannabinoid counterpart, THC. (Image: iStock)
When we talk about CBD, we are typically talking about CBD products, such as topical creams and ingestible oils that are created by extracting the CBD compound from the marijuana plant. Although, some CBD products do contain small amounts of THC – which we will get to.
Scientists are still discovering the different ways in which CBD may help to fight disease and reduce pain and its related symptoms. They are also still working to understand the functionality of CBD as an isolated compound versus a whole plant. For example, you may come across product descriptions such as CBD isolate, Full Spectrum CBD, and Broad Spectrum CBD.
A type of pain triggered by damage to the somatosensory system (i.e., the system responsible for processing sensory stimuli), neuropathic pain often occurs in people with conditions like diabetes and multiple sclerosis.
Chronic pain is the most common reason for medicinal cannabis use, according to a recent survey. If you have a chronic pain condition and have not been able to manage it with standard treatment (or wish to avoid the adverse effects of other medications), you may be considering CBD oil for pain relief.
Some proponents suggest that CBD oil could provide a solution to opioid addiction as concerns over opioid overdoses continue to escalate.
Chronic Neuropathic Pain
The research on the side effects of CBD oil is extremely limited. CBD is the major non-psychoactive component of cannabis. Due to the lack of regulation, there is inconsistency in content and purity. The amount of CBD may not be consistent, and products can contain varying amounts of the psychoactive component THC.
The use of cannabis for pain relief dates back to ancient China. It’s thought that CBD oil might help ease chronic pain in part by reducing inflammation. In addition, CBD oil is said to promote sounder sleep and, in turn, treat sleep disruption commonly experienced by people with chronic pain.
For many people experiencing chronic pain, cannabidiol (CBD) oil is steadily gaining popularity as a natural approach to pain relief. A compound found in the marijuana plant, cannabidiol is sometimes touted as an alternative to pain medication in the treatment of common conditions like arthritis and back pain.
So far, much of the evidence for CBD oil’s effects on pain management comes from animal-based research. This research includes a study published in the journal Pain in 2017, in which scientists observed that treatment with topical CBD helped thwart the development of joint pain in rats with osteoarthritis.
Boehnke and Clauw recommend that people with chronic pain talk to their doctor about adding CBD to their treatment plan, and continue to use their prescribed medication. They offer the following advice for people wanting to try CBD:
So many people are turning to CBD as an alternative pain reliever, especially in light of the opioid crisis, that in a commentary published in Annals of Internal Medicine, Boehnke and Daniel Clauw, M.D., director of the Chronic Pain and Fatigue Research Center, provided advice for clinicians on how to counsel their patients about CBD and cannabis use.
Purchase from reputable sources. Like vitamins and other supplements, CBD products aren’t regulated or FDA approved to treat disease, so buyer beware. Look for products that have been tested by an independent third party lab “so you don’t end up with a product that has THC in it or a product contaminated with heavy metals or pesticides,” says Boehnke.
Want to learn more on this topic? Listen to this podcast from the Rogel Cancer Center on Medical Marijuana for Cancer Patients.
Much of the research literature around CBD in particular supports its use as a treatment for childhood epilepsy. Indeed, in 2018 the FDA approved the CBD-based drug Epidiolex as a drug for childhood epileptic conditions. In a substantial policy shift, Epidiolex was designated as Schedule V, which is the least restrictive drug schedule and indicates little potential for abuse.
The scientific evidence around CBD use is thin, a fact that is mainly due to politics. “Cannabis has been a Schedule 1 drug for a long time, which has limited the type of research needed to figure out how best to use it therapeutically,” says Kevin Boehnke, Ph.D., research investigator in the department of anesthesiology and the Michigan Medicine Chronic Pain and Fatigue Research Center. Under the U.S. Federal Controlled Substances Act, Schedule 1 drugs are defined as having no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.
Start low, go slow. Take a small amount and slowly increase your dosage until you start to get symptom relief over a matter of weeks. Track your symptoms to get a sense of whether or not CBD is a helpful part of your treatment plan.
LISTEN UP: Add the new Michigan Medicine News Break to your Alexa-enabled device, or subscribe to our daily updates on iTunes , Google Play and Stitcher .