Here we look at some of the many studies that support the idea of using CBD oil for pain management.
CBD – or cannabidiol – is a promising pain relief agent and a potential alternative to conventional pain killers. There is a great deal of scientific evidence in support of its role as a pain management therapeutic.
What is CBD?
CBD is a cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant. Commercial growers typically extract it from low-THC hemp grown in greenhouses and then sell it in various concentrated forms, including oils, balms, and edibles.
CBD oil can be purchased in broad spectrum, full spectrum, or isolate-based products. Broad and full spectrum products contain small concentrations of other cannabinoids, such as cannabigerol, as well as terpenes naturally derived from the cannabis plant. CBD isolate is pure cannabidiol mixed with a carrier oil, usually MCT.
Traditional remedies for pain
Traditional pain remedies, besides CBD, fall into two categories: pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical.
Traditional pharmaceutical remedies include opioids, aspirin, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories. Non-pharmaceutical remedies include lavender essential oil, turmeric, yoga, acupuncture, ginger, and capsaicin.
Evidence for CBD’s role in pain management
CBD, whether taken orally, topically or inhaled, may have pain-mitigating effects. Researchers believe that it works via novel mechanisms, offering an alternative to conventional painkillers.
Cannabis sativa – the Latin name for the cannabis plant – has a history of providing pain relief for patients that stretches back more than two millennia. It was licensed as a medication in the United States for more than 100 years until the American Medical Association removed it in 1999.
Patients typically use CBD oil for pain management. So far, there have been five major reviews of the literature investigating cannabidiol’s pain-relieving abilities.
The most extensive is by Penny Whiting and colleagues, based at the School of Social and Community Medicine at the University of Bristol, UK, entitled Cannabinoids for Medical Use: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Researchers amalgamated results from 79 cannabis clinical trials involving more than 6,462 participants and found that “most trials showed improvements in symptoms”, though they did not reach statistical significance in all trials. The authors concluded that there was “moderate-quality” evidence to support the use of cannabinoids, such as CBD, in the treatment of chronic pain.
Further reviews investigated the impact of CBD on the pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic inflammatory condition. For instance, Mary-Ann Fitzcharles, based at McGill University in Quebec, Canada, evaluated four short-term studies involving 203 patients to see whether certain cannabinoids (both plant-derived and synthetic), had any effect on pain, sleep, and quality of life. Her team concluded that CBD may have some therapeutic benefit in rheumatic conditions, but cautioned that researchers needed to conduct further studies.
Another study published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine supported Fitzcharles’s results. It found cannabinoid consumption suppresses inflammatory pathways linked to pain. Furthermore, it identified the mechanistic link between CBD consumption and pain relief. Unlike THC, it did not involve CB1 or CB2 receptors, but a novel pathway in the cell.
Compared to conventional pain-management drugs, the researchers concluded that it is unlikely that patients would build up a tolerance to CBD. Doses would not need to increase over time. Cannabinoids, such as CBD, could be a novel treatment for people with chronic pain since they could use them for years, without the risk of dependency.
Another meta-analysis by Michael Andreae at Montefiore Medical Center, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, New York, investigated whether CBD was effective against chronic neuropathic pain, one of the most common forms of pain that affect the peripheral nervous system (usually the nerves in the hands and feet). The paper collected high-quality trials that each tested the hypothesis that inhaled cannabis (either vaping or smoking) reduced neurological pain.
After pooling more than 178 participants and using a Bayesian statistical approach to evaluate outcomes, it was found with 99.7 per cent probability that cannabis inhalation was effective in offering patients pain relief. However, the authors caution that their study contained only a small number of studies and that outcomes are highly sensitive to parameter choices.
In summary, the evidence that CBD is an effective pain management agent is considerable.
High-quality meta-analyses of existing studies seem to confirm anecdotal patient reports that it does, indeed, help with pain management.
Browse our blog for more posts on the benefits of CBD for health and wellbeing.