What Evidence Supports the Use of Cannabidiol (CBD) in Chronic Pain Management?

As chronic pain continues to plague a significant portion of society, medical scholars have turned to an intriguing compound for relief: cannabidiol (CBD). Extracted from the cannabis plant, CBD is a cannabinoid that has been linked to numerous health benefits, most notably pain relief.

This article aims to review the mounting evidence supporting the use of CBD in chronic pain management. In doing so, we will sift through the studies available on platforms such as Google Scholar and PubMed, cross-referencing them with reliable data from health and medical sources. We’ll delve into the complexities of cannabinoids, their effects, and how they interact with the human body to alleviate pain. Let’s begin by understanding the nature of chronic pain and the role of traditional treatment methods.

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Chronic Pain and Traditional Treatments

Chronic pain can be debilitating for those who suffer from it. It’s a pervasive condition that persists for 12 weeks or longer, even after the injury or illness that initially caused the pain has healed.

The conventional treatments for chronic pain often include over-the-counter pain relievers, opioids, and certain types of antidepressants. However, these medications often come with a host of side effects, and the risk of addiction is high, especially with opioids. Furthermore, these treatments are not always effective, leaving many patients in search of alternative solutions.

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This is where CBD enters the picture. It offers a potentially safer and more natural approach to pain management.

The Endocannabinoid System and CBD

Understanding the role of CBD in pain management starts with a close look at the endocannabinoid system (ECS) in the human body. The ECS is a complex cell-signalling system that plays a crucial role in regulating a range of functions and processes, including pain.

CBD interacts with the ECS by influencing the receptors to produce their own cannabinoids, thereby potentially mitigating pain. Furthermore, CBD can also limit inflammation in the brain and nervous system, which can benefit people experiencing pain, insomnia, and certain immune system responses.

Clinical Studies on the Efficacy of CBD in Pain Management

As CBD has gained prominence in recent years, a variety of studies have been conducted to assess its efficacy in managing chronic pain. By examining databases like PubMed and Google Scholar, you’ll find numerous studies related to this topic.

For instance, a review of studies conducted between 1975 and 2018, available on PubMed, examined the use of CBD in chronic pain management. In most cases, CBD was found to effectively manage pain without causing adverse side effects.

In another study available on CrossRef, researchers found that CBD could reduce pain in patients suffering from conditions like multiple sclerosis and cancer. This study contributes to the growing body of evidence that suggests CBD can be utilized as a treatment for chronic pain.

CBD vs. THC in Pain Management

It’s important to distinguish between CBD and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the two primary active ingredients in cannabis. While both have medicinal properties, they function differently and have different effects.

THC is the main psychoactive compound in cannabis that produces the high sensation. It can be used to help with conditions such as muscle spasticity and glaucoma. However, it also carries side effects like increased heart rate, dry mouth, red eyes, memory loss, and slower reaction times.

On the other hand, CBD is not psychoactive, meaning it won’t get you high. It’s also believed to have broader applications than THC, with potential uses ranging from mental disorders to chronic pain. Given the side effects associated with THC, many patients and doctors prefer using CBD, especially if the intention is to avoid the "high" associated with cannabis.

Potential Side Effects and Considerations

While CBD seems promising in the treatment of chronic pain, it’s important to remember that everyone’s body reacts differently to cannabinoids. Some people might experience side effects such as nausea, fatigue, and irritability. Furthermore, CBD can also interact with other medications. Therefore, it’s always advisable to discuss with your healthcare provider before starting or changing any health regimen.

Moreover, while studies support CBD’s potential in managing chronic pain, the research is still in its early stages. Many of the studies currently available are based on animal models, and more human trials are necessary to fully understand the long-term effects and potential benefits of CBD usage.

As the body of evidence grows and becomes more robust, the use of CBD for chronic pain could become a mainstream medical treatment. For now, though, it serves as a promising alternative for those seeking relief from the debilitating grip of chronic pain.

CBD in Neuropathic Pain and Multiple Sclerosis

Neuropathic pain, a type of chronic pain, is often resistant to many treatment methods. It originates from injury or malfunction in the nervous system, making it a challenging condition to manage. CBD, however, has shown promise in alleviating neuropathic pain, according to some studies available on Google Scholar and PubMed.

A systematic review available on PubMed examined the effects of cannabinoids, including CBD, on neuropathic pain. The researchers found that medical cannabis presents a potential treatment option where conventional therapies have failed. The study highlights CBD’s potential in addressing the unmet needs in neuropathic pain management.

Similarly, CBD has shown potential therapeutic effects in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS), a chronic disease that affects the brain and spinal cord. A double-blind, placebo-controlled study, available on CrossRef, revealed that CBD-rich medicinal cannabis could significantly reduce muscle spasticity and pain in MS patients. These findings suggest a new horizon in managing the pain associated with MS.

However, while these studies underscore the therapeutic potential of CBD, more extensive, long-term studies are necessary to establish definitive evidence.

CBD in Managing Cancer Pain

Managing pain is a crucial aspect of enhancing the quality of life in patients with cancer. Here again, CBD has shown promise. A meta-analysis available on Google Scholar and PubMed looked at several studies examining the use of cannabinoids in cancer pain management.

The analysis revealed that CBD could effectively manage cancer pain, particularly when combined with THC. In some cases, this combination even proved more effective than opioids, which are typically the standard treatment for severe cancer pain.

One study remarked on the fewer adverse effects associated with CBD as compared to opioids. While opioids can lead to symptoms such as constipation, physical dependence, and vomiting, CBD use typically leads to milder side effects such as fatigue and nausea, which are usually temporary and subside with continued use.

While promising, these findings underscore the need for further research to fully understand how to optimize the use of CBD in cancer pain management and minimize any potential risks.


The journey towards understanding the role of CBD in chronic pain management is ongoing. The current body of evidence, drawn from sources like PubMed, Google Scholar and CrossRef, highlights the therapeutic value of CBD in managing chronic pain, neuropathic pain, pain from multiple sclerosis, and cancer pain. However, research is still in its early stages, with much of the evidence originating from animal studies and smaller human trials.

The potential side effects and interactions with other medications remain areas that require further investigation. Moreover, CBD’s comparative effectiveness to traditional treatments, such as opioids, calls for additional, large-scale, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies.

In the meantime, it’s crucial for individuals considering CBD for pain management to consult healthcare professionals. While the journey towards fully understanding CBD continues, its potential as a safer, more natural approach to chronic pain management is certainly promising. As more robust, comprehensive research emerges, we may soon see CBD becoming a standard part of chronic pain treatment.