How to live with (or alleviate) chronic pain using CBD
Although each person feels chronic pain differently and in different body parts, several studies support the potential of CBD to treat it.
Curing or relieving pain is one of the most basic tasks for any medical specialist. Many people go to the doctor when they start to feel unusual pain. However, sometimes it is not easy to put an end to it, especially in patients suffering from chronic pain.
What is chronic pain?
Some questions are difficult to answer, and others whose answers may vary depending on the answerer. It is the case with pain, as it is a unique and personal sensation or experience for everyone. Therefore, we will consult with several expert entities to define chronic pain.
Definition of pain
The International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) was founded in 1974 and defines pain as «an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with, or described as being caused by, an actual or potential body injury.
For its part, the Clínica Universidad de Navarra says of pain that «it is subjective.» Furthermore, it maintains that «the difference with suffering is that this is the tolerance to pain.» Finally, one of the meanings of pain found in the dictionary of the Spanish language is the following: «annoying and afflictive sensation of a part of the body due to an internal or external cause.»
Types of pain
From the previous definitions, we can confirm that pain is an individual experience and that it can have multiple and different origins. Moreover, it encompasses emotional, sensory, and social aspects. Therefore, no one experiences pain in the same way.
In any case, medical jargon has several resources to describe the different types of pain. One of them is the length of time the pain lasts. Thus, we speak of:
- Acute pain: usually lasts a month or less. It persists if there is an injury or disease.
- Chronic pain: it persists once the origin of the pain has been resolved, lasts more than 3-6 months, or appears periodically for unknown causes.
It is also possible to differentiate between nociceptive pain (which affects a specific part of the body) and neuropathic pain (when there is a failure in the central or peripheral nerve structure).
Another difference between those two types of pain, is that acute pain acts as a warning mechanism or system that alerts us that our body is being damaged. While chronic pain serves no purpose, it is simply a nuisance that interferes in peoples’ lives.
We focus on chronic pain in this article, since it is known as an invisible disease because, although one in six people suffer from it, very few receive treatment due to lack of information. In Spain alone, according to data from the Spanish Pain Society, 17% of the population suffers from chronic pain.
Symptoms of chronic pain
It is complex to speak of chronic pain symptoms when it is defined as a very subjective and individual experience that sometimes does not have a clear origin and can have a variable duration, be constant or appear intermittently, etc. However, experts point out the existence of some symptoms associated with chronic pain:
- It interferes with the patient’s life
- It can cause depression and anxiety
- It can cause sleep disorders, loss of appetite, and weight loss, amongst others
- Possible repercussions on social relationships
For all of the above, we can say that chronic pain, beyond a sensation, it is both a medical and a social problem. In the end of the day, people with chronic pain are subject to endure it, making their daily routine more challenging due to its repercussions in the personal, professional, and familiar spheres.
How CBD helps with chronic pain
One of the features of chronic pain is that it is difficult to put an end to it with medication alone.
Types of chronic pain treatment
In most cases, drugs to treat chronic pain help for a limited period of time. Therefore, beyond analgesics and opioids, it is also appropriate to try alternative methods, such as medical cannabis or techniques focused on emotions and mood. We can specifically talk about three types of treatments:
- Pharmacological: analgesics and antidepressants. Some require a prescription, can cause addiction if not taken correctly, and often have limited efficacy.
- Therapy: encompasses everything from physiotherapy to low-impact physical exercise or psychological therapies to promote relaxation.
- Alternative: from massage to acupuncture, not forgetting the use of medical cannabis.
Cannabinoids against chronic pain
To understand how CBD (cannabidiol) helps as a treatment for chronic pain, it is necessary to remember that both cannabinoids and cannabis have certain effects in our body (both on organs and the central nervous system). Human body has the endocannabinoid system, formed by the cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2.
The endocannabinoid system is involved in several physiological processes. Some of them are precisely the regulation of pain perception or memory. In this regard, it is worth noting the scientific evidence showing that the endocannabinoid system is involved in the modulation of chronic pain and inflammation.
On the other hand, CBD is a cannabinoid known for its anti-inflammatory, analgesic, or neuroprotective properties, among many other therapeutic benefits. For all these reasons, CBD with THC can have a therapeutic effect. A study carried out in the United States points out chronic pain as the main reason why patients use medical cannabis.
How to take CBD for chronic pain relief
Although there are different ways to consume medical cannabis, in the case of chronic pain, the two options for taking CBD to relieve chronic pain are sublingual or topical.
CBD oil is the sublingual form of taking cannabidiol. It is one of the best ways to ingest CBD for treating chronic pain or any other condition suitable to be treated with medical cannabis.
The administration of cannabis via sublingual favors a more regular and constant effect. Another benefit of taking CBD orally, is that CBD oil can contain a very low or virtually zero percentage of THC. Therefore, the psychoactive effect is then voided.
CBD oil is used by administrating a few drops of oil under the tongue, and it is also possible to mix it with food or drink (infusion, tea, milk, smoothies…).
The sublingual route is the most recommended way to consume CBD oil for the treatment of chronic pain when it is neuropathic, i.e. it is not located in any specific area of the body but is linked to the nervous system.
Another common way of using medical cannabis is through topical products, e.g., creams applied directly to a specific part of the body. Therefore, CBD cream is the most recommended and useful option for people suffering from chronic nociceptive pain such as chronic pelvic pain, chronic low back pain, etc.
In case of migraines, it is more advisable to use CBD oil.
Whether we decide to relieve chronic pain with CBD oil or CBD cream, both can help relieve pain and, consequently, reduce some of the symptoms related to chronic pain: appetite loss, depression, and sleeping problems… All these symptoms usually improve with the consumption of medical cannabis as well.
- If it is the first time that CBD is used, it is better to start with a minimum dose, and gradually increase the amount taken depending on the improvement or the effects experienced.
- Note the dose, frequency, sensations, how it relieves symptoms, or if there are adverse effects.
- If CBD oil is taken, it is advisable to use the cannabidiol calculator to know how many drops to take.
Chronic pain is a very personal feeling and experience. The origins, intensity, and treatment of chronic pain vary from person to person. Therefore, there is no standard treatment for everyone. However, several studies have shown that CBD can relieve chronic pain.
People who choose to treat their chronic pain with medical cannabis experience improvements, and yet it is always advisable to be supervised by a specialist.