Cannabidiol (CBD) is a type of cannabinoid, a chemical found naturally in cannabis (marijuana and hemp) plants. CBD doesn’t cause the “high” feeling often associated with cannabis. That feeling is caused by tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a different type of cannabinoid. In this article, we look at how CBD works to relieve chronic pain.

Some people with chronic pain use topical CBD products, in particular CBD oil, to manage their symptoms. CBD oil may reduce:

  • pain
  • inflammation
  • overall discomfort related to a variety of health conditions

The research on CBD products and pain management has been promising.

CBD can offer an alternative for people who have chronic pain and rely on medications, such as opioids, that can be habit-forming and cause more side effects. However, more research is needed to verify the pain-relieving benefits of CBD oil and other products.

CBD and Epilepsy

Epidiolex, a drug prescribed for epilepsy, is the only CBD product on the market that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved.

There aren’t any FDA-approved, nonprescription CBD products and are not regulated for purity and dosage like other medications.

Keep reading to learn more about the potential benefits of CBD use for pain. You can also talk with your doctor to see if it’s an option for your condition.

CBD for Chronic Pain Relief

Everyone has a cell-signaling system known as the endocannabinoid system or ECS. Some researchers think that CBD interacts with a core component of the ECS — endocannabinoid receptors in your brain and immune system.

Receptors are tiny proteins attached to your cells. They receive signals, mostly chemical ones, from different stimuli and help your cells respond.

This response creates anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects that help with pain management. This means that CBD oil and other products may benefit people with chronic pain, such as chronic back pain.

One 2018 review assessed how well CBD works to relieve chronic pain. The review looked at studies conducted between 1975 and March 2018. These studies examined various types of pain, including:

Based on these studies, researchers concluded that CBD was effective in overall pain management and didn’t cause negative side effects.

CBD for Arthritis Pain Relief

2016 study Trusted Source looked at CBD use in rats with arthritis.

Researchers applied CBD gel to rats for four days in a row. The rats received either 0.6, 3.1, 6.2, or 62.3 milligrams (mg) per day. The researchers noted reduced inflammation and overall pain in the rats’ affected joints. However, there were no obvious side effects.

Rats who received low doses of 0.6 or 3.1 mg didn’t improve their pain scores. The researchers found that 6.2 mg/day was a high enough dose to reduce the rats’ pain and swelling.

CBD for Migraine Pain Relief

Studies on CBD and migraine are limited. The studies that currently exist also look at CBD when it’s paired with THC, not when it’s used alone.

However, results from a 2017 study indicate that CBD and THC can lead to less acute pain and less intense pain for people with migraine. In this two-phase study, some participants took a combination of two compounds. One compound contained 9 percent CBD and almost no THC. The other compound contained 19 percent THC. Doses were taken orally.

CBD Side Effects

CBD doesn’t pose significant risks for users, and most topical CBD products don’t enter the bloodstream. However, certain side effects are possible, such as:

  • fatigue
  • diarrhea
  • changes in appetite
  • changes in weight

Like other drugs and supplements, CBD may also increase your risk of liver toxicity. In addition, the anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects of CBD could potentially help people with arthritis. However, more human studies are needed.