Cannabidiol (CBD) has broad therapeutic value for anxiety, seizures, skin issues, and sleep. But many people, from athletes in their prime to older people struggling with arthritis, look to CBD for another reason altogether: to alleviate pain.
An abundance of anecdotal evidence showing the effectiveness of CBD for pain gives weight to the cannabinoid’s power. The legal hemp industry is relatively new with the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill, so cannabis research is still in the early stages. Some poo-poo cannabidiol for this reason, however, a growing body of clinical research supports people’s positive experiences using CBD for pain. Here’s what we know so far.
CBD for MS-related Pain
Multiple sclerosis is a painful autoimmune disease that eats away at the nerves’ protective coverings. A common and painful symptom of MS is spasticity, muscle spasms and tightness. About one-third of MS patients do not respond to the first-line anti-spasticity medications, according to an article in Multiple Sclerosis News Today. This has opened the door for CBD to be used as an alternative treatment.
A review of over 100 CBD studies in Frontiers in Neurology supports this idea. The review concludes, “CBD supplementation may be advisable for [MS] to reduce fatigue, pain, spasticity, and ultimately improve mobility.” In fact, in some countries, CBD is prescribed specifically for MS spasticity.
In the EU and Canada, a THC:CBD pharmaceutical called Sativex is used to relieve muscle tension and manage neuropathic cancer pain for patients who do not respond to opioids. The company behind Sativex, GW Pharmaceuticals, is in the midst of multiple trials in the United States. Due to the positive results in other countries, the CEO of GW is confident the studies will result in a new drug application (NDA) submission to the United States Food and Drug Administration soon.
CBD for Joint and Arthritis Pain
Animal studies have shown that CBD has therapeutic potential for arthritis pain and inflammation. In the study, a CBD topical reduced joint swelling, immune cell infiltration, and a thickening of the synovial membrane surrounding the joint cavity in rats. Human studies are still necessary, but many arthritis patients report positive results.
…three out of four respondents said CBD effectively relieved multiple symptoms, including physical function, morning stiffness, improved sleep and fatigue.
The Arthritis Foundation conducted a poll of over 2,600 arthritis patients (52 percent with osteoarthritis and 45 percent with rheumatoid arthritis). From that poll, over 79 percent of respondents said they were either currently using CBD or used it in the past. Of those using CBD for pain management, three out of four respondents said CBD effectively relieved multiple symptoms, including physical function, morning stiffness, improved sleep and fatigue. Forty percent said CBD improved their overall mental wellbeing as well.
CBD for Muscle Pain
The anti-inflammatory and pain relieving properties that make CBD so effective for treating arthritis also work to relieve milder symptoms like muscle aches. Anything from sitting all day at a desk to strenuous physical activity can cause muscle tension and soreness. When the body’s natural inflammatory response leads to prolonged soreness, CBD creams or other products may help to reduce pain and speed recovery.
CBD For Chronic Pain from Stress
CBD might help alleviate pain by other means as well. Chronic pain isn’t always caused from injury or illness. Everyone has experienced physical symptoms from mental distress, like sweaty palms or jittery legs. People with severe anxiety disorders will often suffer from chronic pain and headaches because the brain sends stress signals to other parts of the body. The physical discomfort can result in more mental strain, creating a vicious cycle.
Luckily, CBD is also thought to be an anti-anxiety as well. It’s a fitting option for stress-related muscle tension because it targets both the mental and physical symptoms. Its potential to alleviate anxiety may naturally affect the secondary issue of stress-induced physical symptoms. (CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties assuage bodily pain.)
While research continues to grow, CBD has shown promising effectiveness for pain relief. If you are considering using CBD for pain, be sure to purchase from a trusted source that tests products for purity. Anyone with a medical condition or taking other medications should always consult a doctor before using CBD.
Jamie Evans, aka The Herb Somm, is a trained wine scholar turned cannabis connoisseur. She was in the beverage industry for over 10 years and