Chronic pain is actually the leading cause of disability in the U.S., and the most common reason Americans go to the doctor. In fact, according to the National Institute of Health, [pain affects more Americans than diabetes, heart disease and cancer combined.
While many opt for dangerous and addictive painkillers to treat chronic pain, there’s a healthier alternative: cannabidiol (CBD). Scientific research and consumer reports agree that CBD is a safe and effective way to ease chronic pain.
Can CBD Help With Your Chronic Pain?
Chronic pain is a fairly common condition, but it has a lot of variation. Pain could arise from:
- Old injuries
- Joint conditions like arthritis
- Central nervous system disorders like fibromyalgia
- Digestive conditions like IBS
- Chronic tension headaches or migraines
There are too many causes of chronic pain to name them all. But for those who suffer from chronic pain, the result is similar: reduced functionality and a daily struggle to calm painful sensations.
For most pain sufferers, their doctor’s recommendations usually involve painkillers like opiates or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). But chronic use of painkillers can lead to some serious problems. Opiates alone kill over 42,000 people each year, and the rates are only increasing.
You may think over-the-counter painkillers like NSAIDs are a safe choice, but estimates have deaths from NSAIDs at over 16,000 a year. And hospitalization for complications caused by NSAIDs (like GI bleeding or liver damage) are in the 100,000 range.
Thankfully, CBD can help. With its own painkilling and anti-inflammatory properties, CBD can reduce pain and inflammation, and restore functionality. And unlike traditional painkillers, CBD comes with a very low risk of side effects.
And for folks worried about feeling high, don’t worry. While CBD can aid in relaxation, it won’t create the kind of euphoric or disorienting high that’s associated with cannabis’s most common chemical—tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
How CBD Works to Relieve Chronic Pain
So how does CBD relieve pain and inflammation without negative side effects?
It all has to do with how CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is a crucial system of neurotransmitters, which are found all over the body and control or affect some of its most important functions, such as:
- Stress response
- Memory building
- Muscle control
The ECS both produces and is activated by the body’s natural endocannabinoids. But plant cannabinoids, the medicinally potent chemicals in cannabis, activate it as well. CBD interacts with these receptors to produce both pain-relieving and inflammation-reducing effects (among other benefits).
When someone eats CBD, it enters the bloodstream after digestion, which allows it to affect the entire body. With topicals, however, CBD permeates the skin, activating receptors at the site of the application and imparting local pain and inflammation reduction exactly where you apply it.
Treating Your Chronic Pain With CBD
Curious about using CBD for your own chronic pain?
CBD works well for chronic pain when used in an edible or topical form. But which option works best may depend on your condition and personal preferences.
“I think the definition of chronic pain can be very different,” says Jessica Tonani, co-founder of Basic Jane, the only cannabis company in the U.S. that holds a license to research CBD.
“Somebody who has an inflammatory bowel disease may definitely prefer an edible versus somebody who has arthritis in their fingers and may prefer a topical,” Jessica explains.
Basic Jane’s product line was specifically designed to help people with everyday aches and pains, and the folks at Basic Jane have been able to gain a lot of insight through their research with chronic pain patients.
Timing can also be a consideration in choosing between topical and edible CBD. “If you take an edible, the amount of time it takes for it to take effect can be a longer duration,” adds Kersten Beyer, Basic Jane’s other co-founder. “The nice thing with the topicals is that you’re going to have fairly immediate relief.”
Topicals also allow for targeted relief, which doesn’t reach the bloodstream. So, it won’t interact with other medications you take orally, the way an edible could. And some people simply prefer to avoid taking any more systemic medications.
“We have quite a few elderly clients that are tired of taking pills, are tired of taking things orally,” says Jessica. “They’re thrilled to be able to get the relief that they need by putting on a topical application. It becomes part of their activities of daily living.”
If you’re looking to treat your own chronic pain with CBD, think about what would work best for you. You may need the widespread and systematic effects of edible CBD like:
Or maybe you’d prefer the targeted pain relief of a CBD topical.
Once you’ve chosen the best CBD option for you, give it a try. Pain relief could be just one dose away.
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If you’re new to cannabis and want to learn more, take a look at our Cannabis 101 index of articles. HelloMD can help you get your medical marijuana recommendation; it’s easy, private and 100% online.