CBD and chronic pain – how does it work?

Cannabidiol (CBD), a cannabinoid naturally occurring in cannabis, is being widely used in medicine. Its neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties attract great interest especially. Each one of them find support in scientific research. In this article, however, we will focus on the latter. We will try to show you how CBD and chronic pain work with (or against) each other.

CBD and an endocannabinoid system

Most animal organisms (including humans as well) have an endocannabinoid system and its receptors (CB1 and CB2) adapted to receive cannabinoids. Naturally occurring endocannabinoid, anandamide, has the greatest affinity for the receptors of the system, but plant cannabinoids also seem to work on it. Such cannabinoids are, for example, THC and CBD. While the first of these acts directly on CB1 receptors, the action of cannabidiol is only indirect (but unquestionable).

To what does CBD owe its analgesic properties?

CBD works in several ways. Most importantly, it affects the expression of the aforementioned anandamide, blocking its decomposition and removal from the endocannabinoid system. This is crucial because anandamide is a neurotransmitter that regulates, among others, our well-being and pain perception.

CBD also works as a so-called partial antagonist of the CB1 receptor (mainly located in the central nervous system). This means that it limits the possibility of connecting other activators of this receptor, and thus partially blocks the transmission of signals from it. This mechanism is also being attributed to its analgesic effect.

Some scientists also point to the cannabidiol’s affinity to serotonin receptors. CBD limits the performance of serotonin, which is known to cause greater sensitivity to pain.

CBD and neuropathic pain

neuropathic pain

As confirmed by numerous studies, CBD is effective in combating neuropathic pain, e.g. those associated with multiple sclerosis. It is often believed that the best effects can be obtained by using the synergistic effects of THC and CBD. This is the case of, for example, Sativex – a drug officially released for sale in 2005 in Canada, prescribed to patients with multiple sclerosis. It consists of two active ingredients – THC and CBD – in a 1:1 ratio. The substance is also being tested for potential reduction of neuropathic pain in the brachial plexus roots detachment from the spinal cord (and other pains related to peripheral nerve damage). It is also promising to investigate the use of Sativex in the case of neuropathy associated with HIV infection.

CBD and pain of other origin

The previously mentioned Sativex, from 2007, has also been officially prescribed to patients suffering from pain associated with anti-cancer therapies. Particularly good results are obtained in people who do not show the expected results while on standard opioid therapies (of course it is also much less invasive).

CBD also relieves pain associated with arthritis, reducing joints swelling at the same time. Interestingly, the use of cannabidiol with argan oil can be even more effective (potentially increasing its bioavailability).

Anecdotal (because not yet repeated) studies also indicate a strong analgesic effect in the case of a rare, genetic disease – epidermolysis bullosa. What’s more, affected people also report faster healing of the skin and reduced number of new blisters.

Let’s not forget about the beneficial effects of CBD on Premenstrual Syndrome. Many women using CBD oils, in addition to improving general well-being, also notice reduced sensitivity to lower abdominal pain and lower back pain.

Is CBD good for everyone?

Definitely, yes. Due to low toxicity and lack of psychoactivity, CBD is suitable for everyone. Some people may feel increased drowsiness, which may be an incentive to discontinue CBD using, but these are rare and harmless cases.

CBD children

CBD products and their administration routes are numerous, so everyone will find the right form for them. If you already know the potential of CBD in the fight against chronic pain and the theory behind it, it is worth to give it a chance and test it empirically. It is undoubtedly a healthier alternative to commercial medications.

Bruni N., Della Pepa C., Oliaro-Bosso S., Pessione E., Gastaldi D., Dosio F., 2018: Cannabinoid Delivery Systems for Pain and Inflammation Treatment. Molecules, 23(10), 2478
Haroutounian S., Ratz Y., Ginosar Y., Furmanov K., Saifi F., Meidan R., Davidson E., 2016: The Effect of Medicinal Cannabis on Pain and Quality-of-Life Outcomes in Chronic Pain. The Clinical Journal of Pain, 32(12), 1036 – 1043
Russo E. B., 2008: Cannabinoids in the management of difficult to treat pain. Therapeutics and Clinical Risk Management, 4(1), 245 – 259

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