Cannabinoids & Pain: How It Works
Whether it’s common back pain or any other form of acute and/or chronic pain, pain is one of the most common health complaints that people have. But cannabinoids (and CBD specifically) have an important role to play in pain relief. They have become increasingly recognized as effective analgesics (painkillers).
Cannabinoids provide pain relief in at least two important ways.
- They modulate inflammatory responses that cause pain
- They reduce nociceptive thresholds in the central and peripheral nervous system.
By modulating the inflammatory response, they stop pain at its source. And by reducing the nociceptive thresholds, they decrease the perception of pain.
Research on Cannabinoids & Pain
The most widely researched aspect of cannabinoids is in the area of pain and pain management. In both studies that investigate pain as their primary outcome, as well as studies that evaluate other primary outcomes (e.g. spasticity, HIV, cancer, etc) but evaluate pain as a secondary outcome, the findings are consistent: cannabinoids are effective analgesics. For example:
- Journal of the American Medical Association’s Systematic Review of Cannabinoid Analgesia concluded that cannabis therapy for marked pain relief and spasticity reduction is supported by high quality evidence1
- National Academies of Science, Engineering & Medicine Meta-Analysis found “conclusive or substantial evidence” of the efficacy of cannabinoids in pain relief, spasticity, and seizures2
- Petzke’s Systematic Review on Cannabinoids & Pain concluded that cannabinoids are effective for pain relief3
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- Whiting PF, Wolff RF, Deshpande S, et al. Cannabinoids for Medical Use: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. JAMA. 2015;313(24):2456–2473.
- National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; Health and Medicine Division; Board on Population Health and Public Health Practice; Committee on the Health Effects of Marijuana: An Evidence Review and Research Agenda. The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2017 Jan 12.
- Petzke, F., Enax-Drumova, E. K., & Hauser, W. (2016). Efficacy, tolerability and safety of cannabiniods for chronic neruopathic pain: A systematic review of randomized controlled studies. Schmerz (Berlin, Germany), 30(1), 62-88.