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A man holding the small of his back in pain.

CBD Oil for Pain: How Does It Work?

Since the 2018 Farm Bill was passed, which effectively legalized the hemp plant and hemp-derived products, it seems like CBD oil can be found everywhereMore than that, it seems like it can be used for just about anything. In particular, CBD oil has grabbed the attention of many for the purpose of pain relief. Preliminary studies have shown promising findings on CBD oil’s potential abilities to alleviate muscular pain…but how exactly does it work? And what even is CBD? Let’s find out! 

Cannabidiol (CBD) 

Cannabidiolcommonly referred to as CBDis a naturally occurring chemical compound found at high levels in the hemp plant of the cannabis genus. It is just one of over 400 chemical compounds found in cannabis plants but has some near-magical properties that make it stand out from the rest. That’s right—CBD is not just any old chemical compound…it is one of over 113 cannabinoidfound in cannabis plants. Cannabinoids are chemical compounds that are able to interact with our brain and affect varying changes.  

To break this down a bit, our brains have something known as an endocannabinoid system (ECS). Scientists are still working to more completely understand the ECS and the roles it plays. What they do understand is that it is has connections to our central nervous system (CNS), and is an intricate communication network made up of cannabinoid receptor cells. So far, scientists believe that the ECS plays a role in functions such as sleep, mood, and fertility. As a cannabinoid, CBD is able to interact with these receptor cells and signal reactions within the body. The exact method of interaction between CBD and the receptor cells is much different than another well-known cannabinoid known as THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol. THC is an arguably “stronger” cannabinoid because of the way in which it communicates with the cells in our ECS. Basically, THC binds strongly and directly with the receptor cells, while CBD binds weakly and indirectly, if at all. The result is two very different effects. 

THC produces an intoxication known as a “high,” while CBD does not. If we’re going to be all fancy about it, this essentially means that THC is psychoactive, and CBD is not. However, just because CBD’s more immediate effects are objectively “weaker,” doesn’t mean it has zero effects (and its potential benefits pack a powerful punch if you ask us)! Shortly after ingestion, many people report that CBD gives them feelings of calm, relaxation, a lift in mood and improved sleep quality. 

CBD oil is popular CBD product that has become especially helpful for people looking to alleviate pain. It is made by extracting what is basically a CBD rich paste from the hemp plant, and then refining it and adding it to a carrier oil. There are many different ways to extract and refine CBD oil, which all contribute to its purity and quality. Pure CBD oil is basically stripped of other cannabinoids to create the most concentrated of CBD possible. Bear in mind as we proceed, we’re strictly talking about pure CBD oil in the context of treating pain. 

CBD Oil for Pain 

Right off the bat we feel it is important to say that research on CBD oil’s benefits has only just begun, and much of what we know cannot be stated as a definitive conclusion. That being said, many of the findings (and particularly on pain) are promising and have researchers and people alike feeling quite optimistic—and while studies are preliminary, there have certainly been a lot of them! One 2018 review took a good hard look at studies conducted between 1975 and 2018, which assessed whether or not CBD was effective at relieving chronic painChronic pain is a bit of a blanket term, so to specify, the review looked at studies examining cancer pain, fibromyalgia and neuropathic pain. Based off of these studies, the review found that overall CBD was effective in pain management. Better yet, it did not cause any negative side effects often seen with pain medication. 

In particular, some studies have suggested that CBD oil can offer some impressive anti-inflammatory properties, which can be especially helpful for people who have arthritis. In one 2016 study, researchers assessed transdermal CBD’s ability to help treat arthritis in rats. It was found that the rats receiving transdermal CBD had a reduction in pain-related behaviors. It was also found that in those rats, there was a significant reduction in joint swelling and a strengthening of the joints against further damage. Given that rats have endocannabinoid systems just like humans, it is a fair assumption to say that the effects of CBD seen in rats may very well be seen in humans as well. 

Ultimately, the findings research has released so far, as well as personal accounts from your everyday individual, suggest that ingesting CBD oil may help alleviate pain, reduce inflammation, and encourage joint health.  

The Safety of CBD Oil 

CBD is an organic and safe substance, especially when comparing CBD to pharmaceutical or surgical options for treating pain. Medications and invasive procedures come with a number of serious risks, and in some cases the possibility of becoming addicted. CBD is not addictive, and from what we know at the moment, the side effects are mild and minimal. Among those that people do report is the possibility of nausea, diarrhea, fatigue, and a potential interaction with other medications, given that it has a slight change of raising one’s blood pressure. That all being said, research on CBD is still in the works, and we therefore do not yet know the longterm effects of using CBD. Furthermore, the safety relies heavily on the quality and purity of the CBD you are using. It is very important to speak to a medical professional before adding any CBD product into your routine. A medical professional can not only help you determine whether CBD is a viable option for you, but can also help you locate safe, reliable CBD products.