If you or someone close to you suffers from chronic pain, you already know how pain can steal your joy. You’re not alone. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate more than 20% of all U.S. adults have chronic pain. That’s 50 million people. Another 8% — nearly 20 million — have “high-impact” chronic pain. The kind that seriously limits personal activities and work.
For a lot of these people, the options boil down to a lower quality of life or doctor-prescribed opioids. Fortunately, programs like the state of Illinois’ Opioid Alternative Pilot Program step in to help people get an Illinois medical cannabis card and get relief from medical cannabis instead.
But not everybody has access to medical cannabis and its pain-relieving properties just yet. No wonder pain sufferers are reaching for CBD. A recent Gallup survey found that twice as many U.S. CBD users use CBD for pain than for any other reason.
So, what does the research say? Can CBD deliver the pain relief you’re looking for?
The straight answer is “sometimes.” Many CBD studies are too new for solid results, and all the claims in the CBD marketplace make it hard to tell what’s hype or hope.
What we do know is that CBD works in harmony with cannabinoids, such as tetrahydrocannabinol (aka THC), and other compounds, such as terpenes, against pain. When that happens, over-the-counter pain meds like aspirin and ibuprofen take a back seat.
That pain-relieving entourage is at work in cannabis flower and other full spectrum cannabis products. It can also happen with full spectrum CBD. But researchers give most of the pain relief credit to THC.
When THC is removed, as in broad spectrum CBD, or when THC ratios are low to start with, like in hemp-derived CBD, that pain-fighting prowess drops significantly. The same is true with products that isolate CBD. But there’s still a lot that’s unknown.
More CBD answers are in the pipeline: On September 19, the National Institutes of Health announced they’re funding $3 million in grants to study CBD and non-THC cannabis compounds — specifically for pain relief.
Researchers seem optimistic about what they’ll find, based on three significant bright spots from earlier studies:
Topical Tip: Research suggests that CBD creams, lotions and other topicals that work through the skin may be your best bet for pain relief. They’re especially effective for inflammatory joint pain and migraine-related neck pain.
If pain has you reaching for CBD, do your research. Production of over-the-counter CBD products has skyrocketed since hemp — the favored source for U.S. CBD — was legalized at the end of 2018. Regulation and quality assurance are still catching up.
If you’re receiving medical treatment, chat with your doc before introducing CBD. Stick with reputable CBD companies, so you can trust that what’s in the bottle matches the label. And stay tuned into Pot.com for the latest on CBD and pain research.