The purpose of this article is to provide information to the reader. With many healthcare professionals starting to recommend Cannabidiol for certain maladies, being an informed consumer is now more important than ever. While healthcare professionals are discussing CBD for pain relief with their patients, any use of the product for such purposes should be a result of those professional recommendations.
The information contained herein should not be construed as a claim regarding any of the products referenced in this article, and there is no intention to make such claims. As always, we recommend consulting with your physician, pharmacist, or veterinarian when adding to or changing your personal, or your pet’s regimen. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any disease, and no claims regarding such are made.
For the millions of people with invisible disabilities, stress comes twofold. First, there’s the stress of the disability itself, whether that disability causes physical pain, psychological pain, or in many cases, a combination of both.
Second, stress comes from the invisible nature of the disability and society’s collective refusal to acknowledge it. Because some people can “hide” their struggles, they may have to fight harder -- even with their own doctors -- to have their conditions taken seriously and treated properly.
Chronic pain conditions are some of the most common invisible disabilities, and they can alter a person’s life drastically. While many people do find a successful treatment plan with medication and other forms of therapy, others struggle to find the right treatment plan, finding themselves frustrated over and over again. Still, others find themselves more susceptible to side effects than others, making some treatments nearly as unpleasant as the conditions they were intended to treat.
Some of these individuals, hopefully under guidance from their physician or pharmacist, have turned to CBD for pain relief. Before starting any new treatment, it’s important to do your research and make informed choices. This document can help you get started. Keep reading to learn more about the basics of CBD, why people choose CBD for pain relief, and how to figure out if CBD may be something you should discuss with your team of healthcare professionals.
CBD: An Overview and FAQs
If you want to try CBD for pain relief , you should know the basics. Here’s what you should know about CBD and how it works.
What is CBD?
“CBD” is short for cannabidiol, one of over a hundred compounds found in cannabis and hemp plants. It’s a natural substance that can be extracted from plants, separated from other compounds, and distilled into oils, tinctures, edibles, and other products.
Is CBD the Same as Cannabis?
Not quite. Some people hesitate to take CBD for pain relief because of stigma and misinformation. However, CBD is not the same thing as cannabis, although cannabis has been studied for its potential medicinal properties.
Although CBD can be found in cannabis, it’s not the same thing as the whole cannabis plant, nor does it cause euphoria or intoxication. In other words, CBD will not cause a “high.” As a matter of fact, CBD products in the US generally come from hemp, not marijuana plants.
The cannabis plant, as stated above, contains more than a hundred chemical compounds. The compound responsible for producing euphoria is called Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. Most CBD products in the United States contain less than 0.3% THC content, which is not enough to cause euphoria, and some CBD isolated products contain no THC at all.
Is CBD Legal in My State?
The short answer: Probably.
The longer answer is that CBD itself is legal on the federal level, provided that a) the CBD comes from hemp plants, not cannabis plants, and b) they contain less than 0.3% THC. CBD itself used to be classed as a Schedule 1 substance in the US, thanks to its association with THC. However, the 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp-derived CBD products that, again, contain less than 0.3% THC.
On the federal level, it’s simple. The state-level is where it gets more complicated. The vast majority of US states have also legalized CBD usage. However, as of late November 2019, CBD was still illegal in Idaho, Iowa, and South Dakota. For that matter, some states have particular regulations surrounding CBD. For example:
- The vast majority of states allow the allotted 0.3% THC content.
- Some call for 0% THC content.
- In some states, CBD is primarily sold in CBD/cannabis stores.
- Some states specifically do not allow for CBD to be sold in food or beverages.
- Some states have no CBD restrictions.
Vermont, interestingly, has specific rules about putting CBD in maple syrup.
Before you try CBD for anxiety or pain, take a look at your state laws and regulations. Ordering online may provide additional flexibility.
Pain and CBD
Many people take CBD for pain relief, but not all pain conditions are the same. However, many types of pain come from the same sources. The next several paragraphs will cover various types of pain, as well as why some people choose CBD for relief from these conditions.
Types of Pain
Pain comes in several categories, including acute pain, inflammatory pain, and neuropathic pain. The first is a temporary, sharp pain that comes from an injury. The other two categories are the reasons why people seek CBD for pain relief.
Inflammatory pain occurs when the body’s natural inflammatory response goes into overdrive. Under ordinary circumstances, inflammation is good and even necessary for humans. The body produces inflammation in response to damaged cells. It shields healthy cells from damage and encourages the elimination of damage.
However, inflammation is meant to be a temporary response to injury, viruses, and other things that can cause bodily damage. When the harmful stimulus goes away, the inflammation should also go away. Unfortunately, inflammation doesn’t work that way for everybody. In some cases, inflammation stays long after the need for inflammation has passed, and when that happens, it can cause severe pain.
Then there’s neuropathic pain, which can be caused by disease, injury, or infection. It often feels like tingling or burning, and it can range from mild to severe. This pain comes from the nerves and other parts of the sensory system, which is responsible for regulating how people recognize pain. It’s one of the most difficult types of pain to treat, which is one of the reasons why many people with neuropathic pain are looking into CBD for potential relief.
The Impact of Chronic Pain
When people take CBD for pain relief, including inflammatory and neuropathic pain, they seek relief from all of the ways in which pain can impact their lives. According to a study published by the CDC, about 20.4% of adults in the US live with chronic pain.
These pain sufferers know how much of a toll pain can take on a person’s life. Chronic pain limits the amount of activity that a person can enjoy and may prevent them from living life to its fullest potential. Pain often limits mobility, which may put certain activities "off-limits" for pain sufferers. People with pain conditions often have to plan their entire lives around their pain levels, avoiding pain triggers, and preparing for pain flare-ups.
Furthermore, the aforementioned CDC study points out a correlation between chronic pain and poverty. Because chronic pain can limit a person’s ability to work, that connection deserves more attention. Perhaps, in many cases, chronic pain is the cause or at least a contributing factor to low income.
The study also shows a connection between chronic pain and opioid addiction. As a result of the recent Opioid Crisis, Americans have gained more understanding about the dangers of opioids. While opioid medications are indeed effective, it turns out that they’re also quite addictive, a fact that too many American patients, doctors, and pharmacists did not realize until millions of Americans had already become addicted.
Studies have shown that CBD, however, may provide an alternative to opioid medication, and because CBD is not habit-forming, it presents a highly appealing option for many people.
Chronic Pain and Insomnia
Insomnia also increases pain, often contributing to a vicious cycle of pain and sleeplessness. The body has natural pain-inhibiting processes, but a lack of sleep can limit those processes, making pain less tolerable than it would be after a full night’s sleep. However, anyone who suffers from a pain condition knows that pain makes sleep difficult. Pain causes insomnia, and insomnia causes pain.
For some chronic pain sufferers, a twofold approach is best, meaning that their treatment should target both insomnia and the chronic pain at the same time. This approach can often help end the cycle, providing rest and relief. Interestingly, CBD users have reported taking CBD for both pain and insomnia.
CBD for Pain Relief
Many CBD users take CBD for anxiety, but a growing number of people have started taking CBD for pain conditions, too. Many of these CBD users have reported positive results from their CBD usage.
“There are also observational studies that ask why people use CBD and if it’s effective, and results tend to be quite positive,” said Dr. Keven Boehnke, as quoted by Kelly Malcom in a University of Michigan blog post.
To date, researchers are still looking for the exact connections between CBD and pain relief. So far, most of the research is in the preclinical stages, which means that researchers haven’t performed many tests on humans yet.
However, this slow research progression hasn’t stopped people from reporting their positive results and recommending CBD to friends and family. Below, we’ve listed some potential connections to those positive reports. As the research slowly but surely catches up, here are some of the early results that researchers have found.
CBD and the Endocannabinoid System
A lot of CBD-centered research focuses on CBD’s interaction with the human endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid system, or ECS, handles a lot of functions, including the regulation of how humans perceive pain. Overall, the ECS’s job is to help the body maintain homeostasis or an overall level of stability. Now, what does this mean for people who take CBD for pain relief?
The ECS consists of several receptors, many of which are located throughout the nervous system. Since the nervous system plays a big part in pain management, the connection has intrigued a lot of researchers who study the potential of CBD for chronic pain patients.
Researchers understand that CBD binds to certain receptors in the ECS. This bonding action may help the body maintain homeostasis, thus potentially reducing chronic pain.
Potential Impact of CBD
Again, most CBD research remains in the preclinical stage, but that research has shown potential in three key areas for chronic pain conditions: inflammation, glutamate regulation, and insomnia.
As determined above, pain has a clear connection to inflammation. Often, inflammation is the cause of chronic pain. Inflammation is the body’s natural response to injuries and certain illnesses. It wards off intruders and sweeps away damaged cells, allowing new and healthy cells to grow in their place. It’s a protective measure that helps the body keep all of its systems up and running.
However, inflammation is meant to be a short-term solution, and for some people, inflammation doesn’t go away. Because inflammation can make nerve endings more sensitive, it can also cause a lot of pain when it doesn’t leave on its own.
CBD may help reduce inflammation, which may lead to relief for those who take CBD for pain conditions. The reason is because of the endocannabinoid system we mentioned above. Once again, CBD interacts with specific endocannabinoid receptors throughout the brain and spinal cord, and those receptors, when stimulated, produce anti-inflammatory responses. Some researchers believe that this anti-inflammatory response may be responsible for CBD’s purported pain-relieving effects.
Next, there’s glutamate regulation, which may make a difference in nerve pain. Glutamate is a chemical that stimulates neurons, getting them ready for action. Humans need a certain amount of glutamate for learning and memorization, but too much glutamate can overstimulate the neurons and cause nerve pain. CBD slows the release of glutamate, which may be why many people report positive results when taking CBD for pain relief.
Once again, insomnia contributes to and results from chronic pain. Many people report taking CBD for insomnia, and research suggests that these CBD users may have the right idea. Studies show that CBD may help improve insomnia symptoms, which may, in turn, improve pain tolerance levels.
CBD for Pet Pain Relief
Like humans, all animals have an endocannabinoid system, and that includes pets. Also like humans, unfortunately, pets can experience pain. Some people have started giving their furry companions CBD supplements to relieve pet pain conditions like arthritis. Presumably, CBD interacts with pets’ ECS in the same way that it does for the human ECS, producing anti-inflammatory effects.
If your pet suffers from a pain condition, use all of the same considerations that you would for yourself when trying a new supplement. Talk to your pet’s vet before getting started, find the right dosage for your pet’s size and weight, and monitor your pets’ symptoms and behavior.
Should You Try CBD for Pain Relief?
Now that CBD has gained more awareness across the US, an increasing number of Americans want to try CBD for pain relief. Could CBD be right for you and your pain relief needs? The next several sections will help you explore that question.
How to Try CBD for Pain Relief
Some people start by finding the nearest CBD provider, buying the cheapest product without researching it, and keeping their fingers crossed. Some may think that this is the easiest approach, considering just how much the CBD market has taken off since 2018. You can find CBD in almost anything, from coffee to candy. CBD seems to be everywhere. It’s no wonder some people get overwhelmed when they want to try CBD for themselves.
Having said that, we recommend taking a different approach. Don’t just commit to the first CBD products you find. Instead, slow down and make sure that you’ve chosen the best option.
Remember that the CBD market is a relatively new market with very few regulations in place. This means that not all CBD products are the same. Some have better quality than others, and some are purer than others. As more and more companies rush to profit off the CBD market, not every company will put in the time and effort necessary to create the best quality CBD products. They’re just hoping that by having “CBD” on their label, they’ll get your attention.
There’s another reason to take your time: dosages. No two people are alike, even when two people have the same health condition. Before taking CBD for chronic pain, understand that you have a unique metabolism, specific genetics, and other things that set you apart from the next person. What works for you may not work for someone else, and vice versa.
So, how can you make a decision about CBD for pain relief? You can start with the following steps. If you take these steps one at a time, you may find the process less overwhelming.
Work with Your Doctor
Before you start any new treatment or supplement, you should talk to your doctor. Ask your doctor whether or not CBD may be the right choice for your pain condition.
It’s important to let your doctor know about any supplements you take, including CBD. If you’re currently taking any medications, do not stop taking any of those medications without consulting your doctor first.
Do Your Research
Next, read up on CBD, including the potential risks and side effects of CBD products. Some of the most common side effects include weight changes, loss of appetite, stomach issues, and tiredness.
Pay careful attention to potential drug interactions, as CBD may heighten or reduce certain drugs’ effectiveness. Many sources warn against taking CBD if any of your medications come with a “grapefruit warning,” so keep that in mind as you do your research.
Find the Right Products
Once you’ve done your research and made sure that you and your doctor are on the same page, you can start looking into specific CBD products. When it comes to CBD for pain relief, you’ll want to look for excellent CBD providers. You’ll know that you’ve found a great CBD seller if that seller has all of the following traits.
- Fully focused on CBD. There’s a difference between a CBD provider and a company that happens to throw some CBD into a few products. The first one is completely dedicated to CBD and cares about their CBD’s quality. The second one is simply using a trend to sell more products.
- Made in the USA. Some companies have their CBD shipped from overseas to save some cash. The problem is that these companies don’t have full oversight over their own products, so they can’t attest to their products’ quality. If you want to try CBD for pain relief, look for a company that processes its CBD in the US instead.
- Full control over the production process. Being made in the US is one thing, but if you really want premium-level CBD products, find a company that has control over the full production process. If a company oversees its own growing, harvesting, production, and bottling, then they can vouch for their product’s excellence.
- Excellent growing standards. The best CBD products come from the best hemp plants, and the best hemp plants flourish with the best growing standards. Look for hemp grown on real farmland, not on isolated lots. Ideally, the hemp should be grown in soil that is also suitable for growing food. Hemp also flourishes in places with high altitudes because high altitudes expose the hemp to more sunlight as it grows.
- High purity standards. For those who choose CBD for pain conditions, purity matters. You don’t want any unnecessary fillers in your CBD. Purity means potency, so don’t cheat yourself out of quality CBD. Instead, search for companies that have high purity standards for their products.
- Third-party verified reviews. Reviews are a great place to start when comparing products. However, any company can hire a writer to post reviews for them. Look for reviews that have been verified by a third party so that you know those reviews are legitimate.
Start Small and Build Slowly
Finally, start with a small dosage, and slowly work your way up to a higher amount. Have patience, and give the product time to start working. By going slowly, you can take note of how you feel while using CBD for pain, and you may find a “sweet spot” dosage that works best for you.