Neuropathic pain is the worst. You can’t really treat it, its causes seem unrelated, and there’s seemingly very little you can do.
And what’s worse, besides showing patients a chart with pain symbols on it and prescribing vicodin, doctors don’t really have a solid method for treating this unpleasant, debilitating condition.
However, thanks to recent legalization efforts and a growing community of regular users, CBD oil is being used to help treat neuropathic pain.
With CBD oil, sufferers of neuropathic pain have a chance to help combat the onslaught of immovable pain they feel, thanks in part to the effects of the body’s endocannabinoid system, or ECS. Keep reading to learn more about how the ECS works, and how CBD for neuropathy just might be a practical option for you.
CBD Oil for Neuropathy: What is Neuropathy?
Neuropathy is essentially damaged or dysfunctional nerves. Certain conditions, such as diabetes or even leprosy, can cause cellular degradation of the nervous system, which is what leads to these dysfunctional nerves.
What then happens is that the damaged nerve cells send incorrect signals to your brain, accidentally causing you to feel the sensation of pain.
Though it is strange that a few damaged cells could cause such intense pain, it is sadly an unfortunate consequence of the way the nervous system works.
Pain is simply our body’s method of informing us that we are “damaged” in some way. To facilitate this feeling, nerve cells all across the body react to injury by sending an electrical signal to our brain, creating the sensation of pain. Without it, who knows how long you’d leave your hand on the stove?
However, damaged cells malfunction, sending pain signals erratically and without proper reason. This causes neuropathy, and explains why the pain seemingly comes and goes without reason.
There are several different types of neuropathy:
This form of neuropathy refers to your ability to experience sensations like touch or smell, especially in your extremities.
This is far worse than just an inability to smell; this can include a wide range of problems from a mild tingling sensation in your fingers all the way to not being able to walk on your feet properly.
This latter incident is especially common with diabetes sufferers, and is extremely dangerous as you might not notice real pain or any physical sensation.
Motor Neuropathy refers to neuropathic pain and degradation where it affects the nerves that control your movement. This can cause problems like muscle weakness, leading to you not being able to lift things or even carry your own body weight very well.
Autonomic Neuropathy is by far the worst of the bunch, as it concerns the nerves that carry information around your body. This includes things like regulating your heartbeat or bladder, controlling your sweat, and regulating your digestion of food.
The worst part about this is the fact that these are involuntary “survival” processes that are needed for normal functioning. If the nervous system is unable to send messages that tell the heart to beat, for example, the consequence could obviously be death.
So, what can you do about neuropathic pain, besides taking endless prescription medications?
CBD Oil for Neuropathy
CBD, the non-psychoactive cousin of THC, is an extract of the Cannabis sativa plant that could help treat neuropathic pain.
People have been using cannabis to help treat pain for millennia, but it is only recently that people finally have begun to understand what CBD is, and how it could help to treat pain.
CBD is a cannabinoid, which means it interacts with a system in the human body called the endocannabinoid system (ECS). This system controls a great deal of other systems in our body, including things like inflammation and cellular regrowth.
When we ingest CBD, it interacts with CB1 and CB2 receptors in the body, encouraging them to help heal the body through natural processes. As our CB1 receptors lie predominantly within the brain, and the CB2 receptors within the central nervous system and the skin, the endocannabinoid system is extremely efficient at helping deal with pain and nerve degeneration throughout the pain.
Despite its frequent reputation as a dangerous substance due to its association with cannabis, though, CBD has been demonstrated to be extremely safe. The official report conducted by the World Health Organization’s Global Expert Committee on Drug Dependence has recommended that CBD be classified and considered safe to use as a medicine, as it poses “no adverse public health risks.”
So we know it’s safe, but are doctors willing to use it to treat neuropathic pain?
CBD for Neuropathy: What are Doctors Saying?
Most any doctor will tell you that neuropathic pain is a very difficult form of pain to treat since it is caused by nerve damage rather than actual acute injuries. Thanks to this lack of specific locality, it’s very difficult to apply topical pain relievers like ibuprofen gel.
Instead, doctors frequently recommend a course of strong (often opioid-based) painkillers. These of course pose a number of problems, the worst of which is the sad reality of addiction and overdose.
It’s such a problem that the majority of opioid addictions in the US occur as a result of craving it after a course of prescribed medication.
Prescribed pain medication in the form of opioid is also flawed in that it is not typically maintainable for a long-term injury; neuropathic pain often doesn’t just go away, it becomes your new reality.
So, instead of taking opioids or other short-term solutions, you need an option that’s sustainable and can help you treat your pain over a long term. Can CBD oil for neuropathic pain really do this?
CBD Oil, Neuropathy, and How it All Works
CBD has been used as a pain reliever for millennia; long before cannabis was ever criminalized, ancient peoples were using this fast-growing plant as an herbal medicine or simple pain remedy.
However, now that we have the benefit of modern medicine and technology, we can extract the important substance – CBD – and suspend it in an inert oil. This is incredibly useful because otherwise, you’d have to smoke weed every single time you want to medicate your pain. Not everyone wants to get high all day, every day!
CBD as a pain reliever has been researched by numerous studies, for example in the famous study by Hill et al. which sought to explore the exact mechanisms of how cannabidiol affects pain.
The study concluded that, due to the way in which CBD interacts with the CB1 and CB2 receptors in the endocannabinoid system, pain was demonstrated to abate with regular use.
The reason for this appears to be two fold: Firstly, the CB1 receptors triggered indirectly by CBD are linked to the nervous system, and help control the release of a variety of hormones. This helps control the delivery of the sensation of pain; by taking CBD, the nervous system is encouraged to mitigate the feeling of pain gradually and naturally instead of “masking” the pain by deadening nerve cells (like with opioids). In other words, you are simply encouraging the brain to turn off the pain sensation.
Secondly, the CB2 receptors triggered indirectly by CBD interact with the body’s cellular regrowth system, allowing for the damaged nerve cells that cause neuropathic pain to actually be healed.
In a 2009 study published in Neurotherapeutics, researchers looked at objective and subjective measures of neuropathic pain in patients who were treated with both cannabis and CBD. The conclusions demonstrated a considerable reduction in pain, as well as an improvement in overall quality of life.
The study explained that CB2 receptors appear to help heal neuropathic pain due to its ability to help restore damaged nerve cells and cellular degradation. By encouraging the CB2 receptors and promoting healthy cell regrowth, the body is able to begin to heal itself and overcome the pain.
An additional study conducted by Dr. Ethan Russo looks at the pain relief abilities of both THC and CBD by comparing pure extracts of the respective cannabinoids against other forms of cannabis medications.
During the study, Russo concluded that the CBD inherent in the variety of medications he was testing was responsible for a great deal of the pain relief felt by patients.
All of these studies defy the common assumption that it’s the THC in cannabis that helps mask pain and cope with injuries. Instead, it appears that it’s the CBD that suppresses pain and improves your overall quality of life – especially when dealing with difficult-to-treat pain like neuropathy.
Final Thoughts on CBD Oil for Neuropathy
CBD, though previously distrusted due to its association with cannabis and getting high, is quickly becoming well-known as an effective natural therapy. Thanks to its apparent ability to help treat a variety of conditions, as well as its safety and ease of use, the idea of it being harmful has largely become a thing of the past.
With regard to neuropathic pain, CBD has been demonstrated to be an effective pain suppressant through its stimulation of the endocannabinoid system. This isn’t to say that CBD will entirely heal you, of course – its effects entirely depend on the severity of your condition. Some neuropathic pain is extremely severe, and can damage nerve cells faster than they can be repaired. In these cases, it’s all about improving your quality of life and mitigating the discomfort as best you can.
That being said, CBD for neuropathic pain has been demonstrated in many instances to be a safe and effective alternative to opiates, and may just be a viable treatment option for you. Neuropathic pain is never an easy thing to deal with, but it’s entirely possible that CBD could help make your life a great deal easier.
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