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CBD for Pain

Chronic pain is an epidemic that affects millions of people in the United States alone. And with the negative side effects of so many pain treatments, from over-the-counter meds to opioids, alternative and complementary interventions can be very appealing.

Fortunately, using CBD for pain could be an effective option for many people. And it doesn’t have the nasty side effects that so many other pain medications have.

About CBD for Pain


CBD can reduce or eliminate acute or chronic pain.

Research Shows

Most pain studies in humans have tested CBD along with THC, so there’s not much data on CBD alone.

Just the Facts

More research is needed to establish how effective CBD is for treating pain. But when used in combination with THC, it seems to be effective for many people.

About Pain

Pain is a pretty universal human experience, and we all experience it at one time or another. It’s the unpleasant physical sensation that serves as a signal from the nervous system that something is wrong.

In medical terms there are two types of pain: acute pain and chronic pain. Acute pain is usually sudden, and is the body’s response to illness or injury. When you stub your toe or feel the aches that come with a case of the flu, you’re experiencing acute pain. This type of pain can often be treated, and will go away when the cause of the pain has healed.

Chronic pain, on the other hand, lasts over a long period of time, and may be more difficult to treat. Chronic pain sometimes starts as the symptom of an injury or disease, but then eventually becomes the disease itself.

How common is chronic pain? Well, the Institute of Medicine at the National Academies reports that about 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain. That means that it affects more people than diabetes, heart disease, and cancer combined.

How CBD Could Affect Pain

CBD, or cannabidiol, belongs to a group of cannabis-derived substances called cannabinoids. These substances interact with the endocannabinoid system, a network of chemicals and receptors found throughout the body. For example, these receptors are found in the brain, organs, and immune system cells.

Scientists believe that because the endocannabinoid system is so integrated into the body’s tissues and systems, it could affect a huge range of body processes. It plays a role in regulating mood, inflammation, and the life cycles of individual cells. That’s why the possible medical applications of cannabis are so varied.

So, how could CBD help to treat pain? Well, CBD increases levels of the neurotransmitters glutamate and serotonin, both of which may play a role in pain regulation. Studies also show that CBD has anti-inflammatory properties, and that may indirectly help with pain by dealing with its cause.

Research Highlights

2018: CBD for Cancer Pain

In this double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study, researchers looked at the ways that cannabinoids affected pain in patients with advanced cancer.

Specifically, this study looked at the cannabis-derived drug Sativex (nabiximols), which contains equal parts CBD and THC.

Interestingly, patients in the United States experienced more benefits from cannabinoids compared to patients in the rest of the world. The researchers proposed two possible reasons for this difference:

  • Doctors in the US prescribed lower doses of opioids to their patients compared to the rest of the world
  • Patients in the US may have had different cancer pain types than patients in other countries.

Ultimately, the researchers concluded that cannabinoids might be most useful for patients with advanced cancer who receive a lower opioid dose. This could be especially helpful for patients who can’t tolerate opioid therapy.

2018: CBD for Multiple Sclerosis

This review, which was published in Frontiers in Neurology, looked at the potential for using CBD to treat a variety of symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS).

Based on human and animal models, the researchers concluded that CBD might be effective in reducing fatigue, pain, spasticity, and ultimately improving mobility for patients with MS.

2017: CBD for Joint Pain

A recent study published in the journal Clinical and Experimental Rheumatology examined the results of animal and human trials of CBD for pain.

Ultimately, the report’s authors urged further study, but they did note that it’s abundantly clear that “patients like to self medicate themselves using herbal cannabis for joint pain.”

They cite an Arizona survey of patients with fibromyalgia, arthritis, or neuropathic pain who used cannabis for pain. More than half of the patients in each group reported “a lot or almost complete overall pain relief,” with most patients saying that cannabis helped them to reduce their other medications, including opioids.

Concerns About Using CBD for Pain

CBD is generally considered to be very safe to use. The World Health Organization (WHO) recently reclassified CBD. Their report noted that CBD has multiple potential medical applications and very little potential for abuse.

But because it’s derived from the same plant species as marijuana, people are often more nervous about using CBD than they might be with other plant-based supplements.

So, what should you be thinking about if you want to use CBD for pain?

Will CBD interact with other medications?

Patients in clinical trials have experienced very few adverse side effects when using CBD. The ones that have occurred, though, have often been the result of interactions with other drugs.

That’s because a group of liver enzymes known as cytochrome P450, or CYP, are responsible for metabolizing CBD. These enzymes also break down a lot of common medications. If you take one of these medications, adding CBD to the mix could change the way it affects you. Basically, the effects of your medication may feel more or less intense than normal.

That’s one of the big reasons that you should definitely talk to your doctor before you start using CBD for pain. If you’re taking other medications, your physician may adjust your dosage to compensate for CYP interactions.

Will CBD cause you to fail a drug test?

Another thing to think about is the type of CBD product you will be using. Most of the research on CBD for pain has focused on treatments that combine CBD and THC.

While the two cannabinoids could be most effective in combination, there are a few things that you should keep in mind if you choose a CBD product with THC.

If you work in a job that may subject you to random drug testing, you might want to be safe and avoid THC. This is especially true if you will be using CBD for chronic pain, as THC can build up in your body over time. Even if you choose a product that contains a very low quantity of THC, there is a small possibility that it could cause a positive result on a drug test.

There are alternatives, though. Look for products that use CBD isolate, and talk to your doctor about what will be most effective for you.

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The Author

Meg Kramer

Meg Kramer

Meg Kramer is the Managing Editor of CBD Hacker. She's a writer and editor who has covered topics in science, health, and education.

When she's not writing about CBD, you can find her playing with her dogs or perfecting her bagel recipe.