CBD for Pain Relief: What You Need to Know

Nowadays, you can’t go anywhere without seeing CBD – it’s seen in creams, salves, oils, tinctures, gummies, lozenges – you name it. It’s having a major moment as many people turn to herbal alternatives for treating a host of different conditions. Most people who use CBD use it for pain relief (in no small part because it’s not addictive, unlike many traditional pain relievers). But what exactly is it?

Of all the hundreds of products and ingredients on the market, is CBD worth the hype? If you are considering using CBD for pain relief, learn here about it so you can make an informed decision.  

What is CBD?

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Cannabidiol (CBD) is a naturally occurring compound found in the Cannabis sativa plant. It is one of at least 144 different cannabinoids identified in the plant, with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) being the most well-known and studied. Unlike THC, however, CBD is not psychoactive, meaning it does not produce the “high” associated with marijuana use.

CBD’s medicinal use dates back thousands of years, as this specific type of chemical can alter how you function or feel when taken into the body.

CBD has been found to have various potential therapeutic benefits, including pain relief, anti-inflammatory effects, and anti-anxiety effects. It is often used in various forms, including oils, capsules, creams, and gummies. CBD products are available over-the-counter in many countries, but the legal status of CBD varies widely depending on the country and its laws.

However, since it’s an herbal drug, it is completely unregulated. CBD is only FDA-approved for one drug named Epidiolex, which treats seizures associated with two rare and severe forms of epilepsy. It’s also difficult for scientists to study because any given sample can seriously vary from the next because it’s a plant. On the other hand, Epidiolex is made from a chemically pure CBD strain.

Also, whatever you buy at retail is mixed with other plant chemicals, which are often unknown, so it makes proving their effectiveness harder. Research has also found that the CBD content in about 70% of CBD-labeled products available online may be mislabeled.

With every CBD product, you don’t know what you’re getting. So, consume at your own risk and always consult with your doctor before trying anything.

Can CBD Make You “High”?

No, CBD (cannabidiol) is not psychoactive and does not produce the “high” associated with marijuana use. THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), another cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant, is the compound responsible for the psychoactive effects of marijuana.

While CBD and THC are both found in the cannabis plant, they have different effects on the body. Both CBD and THC interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system, which regulates many functions such as mood, appetite, and sleep. However, CBD does not bind with the same receptors in the brain that THC does, so it does not produce the same euphoric or intoxicating effects.

However, most CBD products sold legally in the United States must come from a plant that contains less than 0.3% THC, which is called hemp and is not enough to produce a high. Any cannabis plant with more than 0.3% THC is generally called marijuana, weed, pot, and sometimes cannabis. There is a bit of confusion and controversy with using the “cannabis” name, so don’t be alarmed if you’re stupefied.

It’s always important to carefully review the ingredients and potency of any CBD product before using it. It’s also worth noting that some CBD products may contain trace amounts of THC, which could potentially show up on a drug test or cause mild psychoactive effects in some individuals.

How Does CBD Relieve Pain?

CBD (cannabidiol) has been shown to have pain-relieving effects in several ways. Here are a few possible mechanisms:

  1. Reducing inflammation – CBD has been found to have anti-inflammatory effects, which can help to reduce pain and swelling.
  2. Interacting with the body’s endocannabinoid system – The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a complex cell-signaling system that helps regulate many bodily functions, including pain perception. CBD interacts with the ECS, potentially helping reduce pain by altering how pain signals are processed.
  3. Inhibiting neurotransmitters – CBD has been found to inhibit certain neurotransmitters involved in pain signaling, such as glutamate and serotonin, which can help reduce pain perception.
  4. Modulating immune system response – CBD has been found to modulate the immune system response, potentially reducing the inflammation and pain associated with conditions such as arthritis.

Types of Pain that CBD Can Help Relieve

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While experts may tell you that more research is needed to prove its efficacy in relieving pain, many patients have proven that CBD helps with pain related to a variety of conditions, such as:

1. Migraine pain

Migraine is a neurological disorder that causes debilitating headaches and other symptoms, including nausea, vomiting, visual disturbances, dizziness, sensitivity to sound, light, touch, and smell, and tingling or numbness in the face or extremities. Some small studies have looked at the combined effects of CBD and THC as treatment, and they found that the CBD-THC combo can reduce migraine attacks and the pain that comes with them.

2. Back pain

CBD is a top-to-toe treatment in most forms, which means it can’t target specific body parts. But there is compelling evidence that topical-based CBD salves, creams, and gels work better for back pain. You can apply these products to the affected areas for on-the-spot treatment. They also reduce the anxiety associated with pain, improving relaxation, which can be difficult for the chronic back pain sufferer.

3. Arthritis pain

Arthritis is a broad term for joint-related conditions and pains. Symptoms include joint pain, swelling, stiffness, and decreased range of motion, which may progress over time.

CBD is thought to help decrease joint inflammation and protect the nerves. It shows promise as an anti-inflammatory substance, which helps reduce arthritic pain and joint swelling.

4. Neuropathic pain

Neuropathic pain is caused by damage to the nerves or the nervous system. This type of pain manifests as numbness, tingling, muscle weakness, and a sharp, shooting, stabbing, or burning pain. It’s common in diseases like multiple sclerosis, infections like shingles, and injuries like herniated discs.

5. Chronic pain

Chronic pain is any pain that lasts longer than several months. CBD has been studied for use for general chronic pain, and multiple systematic reviews concluded that there is substantial evidence that CBD is an effective treatment for chronic pain in adults.

Studies have shown that CBD, often alongside THC, can effectively relieve different chronic conditions. In clinical trials, Sativex proved significantly successful for chronic cancer-related pain.

6. Fibromyalgia pain

Fibromyalgia is characterized by chronic pain all over the body and other related symptoms like fatigue and insomnia. While its cause is unknown, some researchers believe that fibromyalgia is a result of endocannabinoid deficiency syndrome.

Same as the cannabinoids found in cannabis, endocannabinoids occur naturally in the body. They manage a wide range of physiological processes, like regulating the immune system, affecting how we perceive pain, and influencing gastrointestinal functions. When the endocannabinoid system is too weak to carry out usual commands, the symptoms that come with fibromyalgia may come as a result. The theory is that taking plant-based cannabinoids like CBD and THC can help treat the deficiency and relieve symptoms.

7. Multiple sclerosis pain

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune condition that affects the entire body through the nerves and the brain. One of its most common symptoms is muscle spasms, which can be so strong that they can cause constant pain for some people. CBD oil has been found to reduce the pain that muscle spasms produce. It offers modest results, but many people reported a reduction in their symptoms.

In 25 countries, including Canada and the UK, a cannabis-derived oral spray named Sativex is approved for treating spasticity, or the painful and continuous muscle stiffness and involuntary contractions associated with MS. Sativex, which is made of equal parts CBD and THC, is designed to inhibit nerve impulses through the cannabinoid receptors in the central nervous system and in immune cells.

8. Cancer pain

CBD has anti-inflammatory and anti-anxiety properties, which can help minimize cancer pain. Aside from alleviating the spasms and pain associated with MS, Sativex can also help relieve cancer pain, particularly for those unresponsive to opioid therapy.

Possible Side Effects

While CBD is generally safe, it may cause mild side effects, which may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Upset stomach
  • Diarrhea
  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea
  • Irritability

The biggest concern about taking CBD are drug interactions, including those for migraine, heartburn, hypertension, and other conditions. It concerns how CBD is metabolized in the liver by a group of enzymes called Cytochromes P450 (CYPs). CBD can keep CYPs from metabolizing other drugs.

CBD may also interact with common drugs like acetaminophen, ibuprofen, anti-diabetic drugs, some anti-seizure drugs, statins, and more.

Who Shouldn’t Use CBD for Pain Relief?

While CBD (cannabidiol) is generally considered safe for most people, some individuals may want to avoid using it for pain relief or use it under medical supervision. These include:

  1. Pregnant and breastfeeding women – There is limited research on the safety of CBD use during pregnancy and breastfeeding, so it is recommended that women avoid using CBD during these periods.
  2. People taking certain medications – CBD can interact with certain medications, including blood thinners, anti-seizure, anti-diabetes, and some antidepressants. If you are taking prescription medications, talking to your healthcare provider before using CBD is important.
  3. Children and adolescents – There is limited research on the safety and effectiveness of CBD use in children and adolescents, so it is generally not recommended.
  4. People with liver disease – CBD is metabolized by the liver, so individuals with liver disease should use caution when using CBD and may require a lower dose.
  5. People with a history of addiction – CBD may have the potential for abuse, particularly for individuals with a history of addiction to other substances.

It’s always important to consult with a healthcare professional before using any new treatment for pain relief, particularly if you have any underlying health conditions or are taking medications.


While many studies have suggested that CBD is effective for pain relief, more research is necessary, especially in long-term human studies. But it does show promise as a treatment for pain, according to some scientific and anecdotal evidence. It’s especially promising because it doesn’t come with intoxicating effects and a lower potential for side effects compared to other pain medications.

Depending on the type of pain you have, CBD can be helpful. Although, there’s a lot to consider, especially if you have underlying medical conditions and are taking medications for them.