Arthritis is the leading cause of disability in the United States, but everyone's experience with it is unique. We tend to think of arthritis as a single disease affecting different parts of the body, but there are over 100 forms of arthritis and other rheumatic diseases. And although we use the term "arthritis" as a catchall for various rheumatic, or inflammatory issues and other musculoskeletal diseases, it denotes joint inflammation specifically. It can mean rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, or numerous other forms.
Regardless of the form of chronic pain, however, many people have started using CBD products as a component of their treatment, and promising results are being seen in studies.
CBD Oil & Rheumatic Diseases
We've written about CBD and its range of potential health benefits before. CBD, or cannabidiol, that is legal for use is derived from the hemp plant, which has very low amounts of THC, the principal psychoactive component of cannabis from which a high is derived. THC binds to the CB1 and CB2 receptors, the former mostly found in the central nervous system, and the latter in our immune systems. CBD, however, blocks these receptors.
Blocking the CB2 receptor most heavily present in the immune system suppresses the immune response. This may seem counterintuitive, but inflammation is caused by the immune system directing a response when there's no disease to respond to. When these responses are frequent or long-lasting, cells can become damaged; this is the basis of the autoimmune side of rheumatic diseases, like rheumatoid arthritis.
Studies have yielded promising evidence that cannabinoids like CBD may reduce the quantity of immune system cells that provide response, and increase the quantity of regulatory immune cells.
CBD Oil & Chronic Pain
Even beyond rheumatic diseases like arthritis, there's indications that CBD oil may be effective for more confounding types of chronic pain. Treating chronic pain is notoriously difficult, as often no clear cause is evident. Many cases of chronic pain are neuropathic, related to damage or disease to the sensory nervous system, and involve dysesthesia, pain prompted by abnormal sources.
Many analgesic medications prescribed for severe pain involve strongly adverse side effects, as well as potential dependence and addition. This is a major factor at the root of the current opioid epidemic.
Aside from the effects CBD may have in reducing inflammation, studies suggest that it may also be able to alleviate pain. There is evidence that CBD binds to glycine receptors, which exist in the central nervous system and help to regulate immune response, and increases their activation rate. This slows the kind of response that sends pain signals to your brain.
These studies also suggest that CBD doesn't create a tolerance as a pain reliever, which means that it doesn't create the kind of dependence that opioids do. The side effects of CBD are also mild, largely being limited to changes in weight or appetite, and tiredness.
How to Use CBD Oil for Pain & Inflammation
Cannabidiol still demands more testing in areas of pain management, but studies have been encouraging, for the reasons outlined above. And importantly, it's easy and safe to incorporate CBD products into a treatment plan, due to their mild side effects. You'll still want to consult a medical professional, however, in order to ensure you're not taking any drugs that may interact with CBD.
There are two forms of taking CBD that are useful for inflammation and chronic pain: topical CBD and oral CBD.
Topical CBD: Cannabidiol can permeate the skin, so applying it to a sore area or especially one that's inflamed will allow the CBD to act directly where it's needed. This will not only help the CBD take effect more quickly and in a more focused way, but also can be a great introduction to CBD for new users. Topical CBD products like creams exist for muscle and joint pain, and are the form of CBD most suited to use for inflammation. For instances of rheumatic diseases like arthritis, topical CBD creams are a promising option.
Oral CBD: There are actually two methods of taking CBD orally, either sublingual consumption or ingestion. Sublingual consumption involves the CBD product, usually an oil, being held under your tongue, where it passes directly into the bloodstream through the mucous membranes. Ingestion involves swallowing a CBD supplement or food infused with CBD, which enter the bloodstream after a longer period, first being metabolized by the liver. Oral consumption of both forms allows for the CBD to interact with receptors throughout the body, including in the central nervous system. This makes oral CBD products a potential addition to treatment not just for rheumatic diseases, but for neuropathic pain and other forms of chronic pain.
Please consult with your doctor or other qualified healthcare professional before taking or stopping any medication, supplements, or beginning a health regimen.