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CBD and Pain

Of all the many reasons that people seek out CBD today, the most common is pain. CBD is effective for most forms of chronic pain, as well as many forms of acute or short-term pain. Many studies have shown the endocannabinoid system’s role in the processing of pain signals.1

CBD does not directly stimulate the CB1 receptors that are involved in pain perception (THC does), but it does have potent anti-inflammatory benefits, making it a great candidate for treating many types of pain. It can be used to reduce inflammation at the site of injury (a sprained ankle, for example), or for chronic pain caused by pinched, irritated, or injured nerves (called neuropathy).

One 2008 review assessed how well CBD works to relieve chronic pain. The review looked at studies conducted between the late 1980s and 2007. Based on these reviews, researchers concluded CBD was effective in overall pain management without adverse side effects. They also noted that CBD was beneficial in treating insomnia related to chronic pain.2 And, as we’ve outlined in other conditions covered in this chapter, CBD can be useful in treating the pain associated with:

A number of studies show that CBD can effectively decrease the prescribed dose of opioids for pain management, which is terrific news considering that so many people experience negative side effects or develop addictions to these medications.3 CBD can also lessen the symptoms of withdrawal from opioids.4

Anecdotally, many patients report that a combination of THC and CBD proved to be most effective for treating pain, and one study showed that the combination of the two are particularly effective for treating intractable pain (pain that is not responding to traditional medications) from MS and cancer.5

  1. Rosaria Greco et al., “The Endocannabinoid System and Migraine,” Experimental Neurology 224, no. 1 (2010): 85–91, doi:10.1016/j.expneurol.2010.03.029.
  2. Ethan B. Russo, “Cannabinoids in the Management of Difficult to Treat Pain,” Therapeutics and Clinical Risk Management 4, no. 1 (2008): 245–59, doi:10.2147/tcrm.s1928.
  3. Kevin F. Boehnke, Evangelos Litinas, and Daniel J. Clauw, “Medical Cannabis Use Is Associated with Decreased Opiate Medication Use in a Retrospective Cross-Sectional Survey of Patients with Chronic Pain,” The Journal of Pain 17, no. 6 (2016): 739–44, doi:10.1016/j.jpain.2016.03.002.
  4. Ethan B. Russo and Andrea G Hohmann, “Role of Cannabinoids in Pain Management,” Essay, In Treatment of Chronic Pain by Medical Approaches, (2013): 181–97. New York, NY: Springer.
  5. Jeremy R. Johnson et al., “Multicenter, Double-Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled, Parallel-Group Study of the Efficacy, Safety, and Tolerability of THC:CBD Extract and THC Extract in Patients with Intractable Cancer-Related Pain,” Journal of Pain and Symptom Management 39, no. 2 (2009): 167–79, doi:10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2009.06.008.