CBD Oil for Pain

For the 20% of adults living with chronic pain, it impacts all aspects of their lives, from their ability to move around to their overall sense of wellbeing. Chronic pain also increases their risk of anxiety and depression.

Many people turn to opioids to treat their chronic pain, but opioids are highly habit-forming and  can therefore be very dangerous. In 2017 alone, over 47,000 Americans died from an opioid overdose. Many of them were taking prescription opioids.

Due to the risk for addiction and overdose, along with other unpleasant side effects, many patients are seeking out alternative treatments for their chronic pain. One popular option is CBD oil.

As a natural anti-inflammatory and analgesic agent, CBD provides relief for many people living with chronic pain.

Does CBD Oil Really Work for Pain?

CBD (short for cannabinoid) is a compound naturally found in the cannabis plant. Unlike THC, another well known compound that’s found in marijuana, CBD contains no psychoactive properties. When CBD oil is extracted from cannabis, it contains 0.3% THC or less, so it doesn’t produce a feeling of being high. If anything, users experience a slight feeling of relaxation.

Researchers are discovering new benefits to CBD all the time, but one of the most promising thus far is pain relief. People are using CBD oil to treat all kinds of chronic pain, from back pain to arthritis.

Why is CBD so effective at treating pain?

It comes down to how CBD interacts with your body’s endocannabinoid system. Your endocannabinoid system is responsible for maintaining your body in a state of healthy homeostasis. It communicates with other systems in your body to do this, via cannabinoid receptors located in your central and peripheral nervous systems.

When you ingest CBD, it binds to cannabinoid receptors in your brain, called CB1 receptors. These work with your immune system to reduce inflammation, and change the way your brain perceives the pain. Studies of rats with arthritis have demonstrated that CBD can affect the pain response to stimuli. At the same time, CBD may also trigger the release of certain neurotransmitters. These produce an antidepressant-like effect, further helping adjust your brain’s response to the pain while boosting your mood.

CBD also interacts with CB2 receptors, which are located throughout your peripheral nervous system and your immune system. Some researchers believe that the way CBD attaches to these receptors may cause your body to produce more natural cannabinoids, helping reduce inflammation and associated pain throughout the body.

Because the CBD binds to both types of cannabinoid receptors, it’s able to relieve pain in targeted areas in the body as well as how your brain feels that pain. Beyond the pain itself, CBD can also relieve other, related symptoms that often accompany pain, such as an inability to sleep, or chemotherapy-induced nausea.

Multiple studies show that CBD oil can be effective at treating various types of chronic pain, including:

Some people also take CBD to relieve short-term pain, such as that caused by injury or menstrual cramps.

Is It Safe to Take CBD for Pain?

Many people are turning to CBD because it provides the same pain relief as traditional medication, without the uncomfortable side effects. In fact, it’s rare for people to experience any side effects when using CBD. If they do, tiredness is the most common side effect.

Other side effects, although rare, include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Dry mouth
  • Changes in body weight or appetite
  • Low blood pressure

When these side effects occur, it’s typically among people who are taking other medication. It’s not that CBD isn’t safe; rather, the side effect results from the interaction between the CBD and their medication.

Since people living with chronic pain are likely to be taking other medication to treat their primary condition (of which pain is a symptom), it’s important to speak with your doctor before using CBD oil. They can advise you of any potential side effects you may experience.

Generally, however, studies show that CBD is very safe and well-tolerated by humans, even in chronic use with doses as high as 1,500 mg/day.

Two groups that should avoid taking CBD for pain include children and pregnant or breastfeeding women. Not enough studies have been done yet to evaluate the safety of CBD in these groups. Unless your doctor or pediatrician specifically recommends it, it’s best to avoid taking CBD.

How Much CBD Should I Take for Pain? CBD Dosing Guide

When taking CBD for pain, the standard advice is to take between 1 to 6 mg for every 10 pounds of your body weight. For help translating that formula, here are some general CBD dosing guidelines for you to use:

Body WeightDose of CBD
100 lbs10-60 mg
110 lbs11-66 mg
120 lbs12-72 mg
130 lbs13-78 mg
140 lbs14-84 mg
150 lbs15-90 mg
160 lbs16-96 mg
170 lbs17-102 mg
180 lbs18-108 mg
190 lbs19-114 mg
200 lbs20-120 mg
210 lbs21-126 mg
220 lbs22-132 mg
230 lbs23-138 mg
240 lbs24-144 mg
250 lbs25-150 mg
260 lbs26-156 mg
270 lbs27-162 mg

Of course, the dosage that works for you will depend on you, your personal body chemistry, and the severity of the pain you’re looking to treat.

You may speak to your doctor about any dosing recommendations they have based on your condition and medical history. They may encourage you to use a particular form of ingestion (we’ll review these in the next section), or to take your dose at a certain time of day. Because CBD can make some people feel tired, some find it better to take a single dose before bed, while others will split up their dose to take it throughout the day. This way they can relieve their pain while reducing any tiredness.

When starting a CBD regimen, it’s best to start with a lower dose and gradually work your way up until you start to feel the effects. Once you find a dose that works, you can stop there. People don’t develop a tolerance to CBD, so as long as your pain or body weight doesn’t significantly change, you can stick with that dose.

How Do You Take CBD for Pain? Common Methods of Ingestion

There are several forms of ingestion for CBD oil, whether you’re using it for pain or another condition. These include:

  • Tinctures: Many CBD oils come with droppers you can use to add CBD oil to your food or drink, or to place it under your tongue as a sublingual tincture.
  • Topicals: CBD creams, balms, salves, and lotions are used for massaging CBD over specific areas, such as inflamed joints or the lower back.
  • Transdermal patches: Transdermal patches work similarly to the ones people use to quit smoking. Placed on the skin, the patch slowly provides a continuous release of CBD into the body, allowing for steady pain relief over the course of the day.
  • Vape pens: These pens contain a CBD oil cartridge with a heating element, allowing you to inhale CBD oil. Vape pens help you quickly address acute pain, as inhalation is one of the fastest ways to get CBD into your system and start feeling the effects.
  • Vaporizers: Similarly, vaporizers use convection to heat up cannabis flower and allow the user to inhale CBD. These are best for high doses of medical CBD.
  • Edibles: CBD can also come in a variety of edible forms, including gummies and candies as well as baked foods. These are taken orally.
  • Capsules or powders: Finally, CBD can be taken like traditional medicine, in swallowable capsules or powder supplements. These are an attractive alternative for those who don’t like the earthy flavor or smell of CBD that’s often present with the other types of products.

The best method of ingestion is mostly a matter of personal preference. Some people find that topical creams and lotions are soothing to rub into the skin and massage over the area where they feel pain, while others prefer to simply drop oil below their tongue as as a sublingual tincture. Studies have found that various forms of CBD are all effective at treating pain relief:

  • Transdermal CBD gel applied in various doses reduced joint swelling and inflammation in a study of rats with arthritis—without any negative side effects. Another study of rats with osteoarthritis similarly found that local administration of CBD effectively blocked pain.
  • A clinical trial of Sativex, an oral spray containing both CBD and THC, demonstrated promising results in alleviating rheumatoid arthritis pain.
  • CBD sprays appear to be particularly effective for cancer patients. In one study, CBD extract sprayed under the tongue was more effective than opioids for patients with advanced cancer, while even lower doses of CBD spray improved both their pain management and sleep.
  • CBD taken orally, even on a short-term basis, was found to improve spasticity among patients with multiple sclerosis.

How Long Does It Take to Feel Pain Relief After Using CBD?

The form of ingestion also dictates how long it will take for you to feel the effects of the CBD oil.

  • Longest: CBD products consumed orally can take up to 90 minutes, as the CBD has to go through your digestive system first. You’ll also have to take a higher dosage of CBD when you take it orally, as some of the CBD gets absorbed during the digestive process.
  • Shorter: Sublingual tinctures also enter the bloodstream quickly, bypassing the digestive system. These can take a bit longer to produce the effects, but will be felt within 5 to 20 minutes.
  • Shortest: CBD products that are inhaled or applied topically deliver effects the fastest, within a few minutes, as they enter your bloodstream almost immediately.

A quick note on inhaled CBD products: While inhaling CBD allows you to feel the effects almost immediately, the effects last the shortest amount of time with this method of ingestion—only a few hours at most. For longer-lasting effects, you’ll want to use one of the other methods.

Other Things to Consider When Using CBD Oil for Pain

When selecting a CBD oil for pain, there are a few more questions you’ll want to ask to ensure the safety and efficacy of the product you buy.

What is the concentration of CBD?

The strength of the CBD dictates how effective it will be at relieving your pain, and what size dose you need to take. Make sure the CBD percentage meets what you’re looking for. Carefully review the other ingredients, too, to ensure you’re okay with ingesting them.

Is the CBD sourced from hemp or marijuana?

CBD can come from hemp or marijuana, and this distinction is important. Hemp CBD products will contain 0.3% THC or less, while marijuana-based CBD can contain more, usually between 5% to 20%.

THC can cause other side effects, including an intoxicated feeling of being high, and in some cases anxiety or paranoia—any of which you may not want to experience. Plus, depending on where you live, marijuana may be illegal.

Is CBD legal where I live?

CBD products sourced from hemp are now legal at a federal level. The legality of CBD products containing more than 0.3% THC, however, varies from state to state. Review laws in your state before you purchase CBD products containing higher concentrations of THC or any sourced from marijuana.

Is the CBD pure or synthetic?

Pure CBD products sourced from hemp tend to be the safest, as they’re less likely to contain other ingredients. The CDC recommends avoiding synthetic products, as they may also cause adverse side effects.

Do you want full-spectrum or isolate?

Hemp-sourced CBD can contain up to 0.3% THC. CBD isolates, on the other hand, contain no THC at all.

There’s also full-spectrum CBD products, which contain more cannabinoids besides CBD, including up to 3% THC. Many people prefer these products for pain relief because they feel the additional cannabinoids create an “entourage effect” which is more effective at engaging the endocannabinoid system.

What is the manufacturer’s reputation?

The best way to avoid side effects is to find out from other consumers whether they’ve experienced them. Read reviews about the CBD oil you’re considering and ask questions in online forums like the CBD subreddit or CBD Forums.

Also take a look at the manufacturer’s website and see if they are transparent about their ingredients, clearly explain their third-party testing, and display safety certifications. Only buy products from manufacturers who use a third-party lab to test their products. These labs test and confirm the strength of CBD and safety of other ingredients.Not all manufacturers accurately label the concentration of CBD vs. THC in their products, according to a study of over 80 CBD products sold online. This is where reliable third-party testing, a strong reputation, and trustworthy online reviews can help reassure you that you’re making a safe choice.

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