December 07, 2022

Can CBD Help with Bad Back Pain?

Cannabinoids have been on the news now for some time as their healing properties become more apparent. Coupled with growing concerns about the safety of some conventional medicines, it is not hard to see why people are going natural.

But being natural doesn't necessarily mean being effective. That's why even as you try natural solutions, it's essential to heed your doctor's advice and keep taking your medications. That said, cannabis research is gathering momentum and should clarify the full range of cannabinoids' health benefits. 

Of the 100+ cannabinoids already identified, perhaps the most studied and better understood are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). This is good because we now have substantial information to know what these cannabinoids can do. 

In this article, we turn the spotlight on CBD. We explain what it is, how it works, and the different types of pain it might help resolve. Then, we also point you in the right direction for high-quality CBD.

Key takeaways 

  • CBD is a non-psychoactive major cannabinoid with numerous health-impacting properties.
  • This cannabinoid uses different pathways and mechanisms to exert its beneficial effects, e.g., ion channels, the endocannabinoid system, and GPCRs (e.g., opioid receptors), among others.
  • Its anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties are touted to help manage various kinds of pain besides relieving stress, and anxiety and improving sleep quality.

What is CBD 

CBD is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid that exists naturally in cannabis. It is the second most abundant cannabinoid after THC in landrace strains. But as its health benefits increasingly become apparent, breeders have focused on creating CBD-rich strains. So, getting strains with higher CBD content than THC is not uncommon.

Even though CBD's popularity has grown in recent years, this cannabinoid is surprisingly very 'old.' It was discovered in 1940 and isolated from C. sativa as an ester (3,5-dinitrobenzoate).

In 1970, Israeli scientists discovered that CBD was not psychoactive, kick-starting large-scale research on the compound's medicinal properties. Today, CBD is infused into almost anything – edibles, creams and lotions, oils and tinctures, and aerosols.

Another factor that has contributed significantly to CBD's widespread popularity is the 2018 Farm Bill. This bill legalized the cultivation of cannabis with no more than o.3% THC content. Cannabis and marijuana are essentially the same species of plant. However, hemp is basically cannabis with very low THC concentrations.

The Farm Bill effectively made hemp and its compounds federally legal in the United States. Moreover, years of research have proved the compound's beneficial properties, so much so that it has been removed from WADA's list of banned performance-enhancing substances.

How does CBD work 

Research shows that CBD mainly interacts with ion channels, e.g., transient receptor potential vanilloid 1 (TRPV1), G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs), e.g., opioid receptors, and serotonin 5-HT1A receptors.

  • The endocannabinoid system
  • Generally, cannabinoids work by binding to endocannabinoid receptors in the body's endocannabinoid system (ECS). There are many different types of receptors in the ECS, but the two most dominant are cannabinoid receptor type 1 (CB1) and type 2 (CB2). 

    CB1 receptors are mainly found in the central nervous system, i.e., the brain and the spinal cord. But they are also present in the peripheral nervous system though in small numbers.

    CB2 receptors are predominant in the immune system and the peripheral nerve terminals. These are found in the white blood cells, spleen, endocrine glands, and parts of the reproductive organs. 

    But CBD has a low affinity for these CB receptors, i.e., it prefers interacting with other types of receptors (non-cannabinoid receptors). 

    However, this does not mean that CBD strictly avoids CB receptors. Researchers have established that CBD can displace CB1 and CB2 receptor agonists like WIN55,212 and CP55940. Furthermore, it reduces the potency and efficacy of signaling of ∆9-THC and 2-Arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) molecules in the CB1 receptors.

    This cannabinoid displays antagonistic activity at both CB receptors, given the rightward shifts in dose-response curves, it produces with WIN55,212 and CP55940. This property enables CBD to neutralize THC's psychotomimetic effects in the central nervous system. In other words, CBD reduces the intensity of the 'high' and other adverse THC effects.

    CBD also functions as an enzyme inhibitor. For example, it has been shown to inhibit FAAH activity, the enzyme that breaks down anandamide (AEA). AEA is an endocannabinoid produced by the body and the primary agonist at CB1 receptors. By preventing the breakdown of AEA, CBD increases the concentration of available AEA to bind to receptors. 

  • Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors (PPARs)
  • Further, there is evidence that CBD exerts some of its effects via peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors (PPARs). This cannabinoid displays agonistic activity at these receptors, which are thought to play a role in insulin signaling and glucose metabolism in the liver and skeletal muscle.

    In fact, some drugs used to treat type 2 diabetes, e.g., rosiglitazone, are PPAR agonists. They trigger the release of fatty acids and insulin-regulating genes, thus helping restore the affected subjects' glycemic profile. 

    CBD's agonistic activities at the PPARs, specifically PPARγ, explain its positive effect on glycemic and lipid parameters in type 2 diabetes. Due to the efficacy of PPARγ agonists like pioglitazone in boosting learning and memory in animals and treating disease-related pathologies in animal models with Alzheimer's, scientists contend that CBD may have therapeutic value in managing Alzheimer's.

  • Ion channels
  • Another proposed target for CBD is the ion channels, specifically the transient receptor potential vanilloid 1 (TRPV1). CBD has been shown to displace capsaicin from TRPV1 and increase calcium ion (Ca2+) levels in heterologous cells just as effectively as capsaicin. In other words, it acts as a TRPV1 agonist – a feature tied to CBD's ability to modulate neuronal hyperactivity.

    Besides TRPV channels, CBD can also engage calcium and sodium channels. One of the observed effects of this interaction is enhanced sodium channel conductance and membrane fluidity. These two are vital components in managing hyperactivity syndromes such as epilepsy.

    CBD's modulatory properties on Ca2+ and Na+ channels are thought to positively affect neuronal excitability. Indeed, the use of a CBD-based medication (Epidiolex) to treat epilepsy is proof of its ability to control the various contributors to membrane excitability. 

  • Opioid receptors
  • Some of CBD's modulatory effects have been linked to its interaction with opioid receptors. For example, a study showed that THC reduced the ability of dihydromorphine to bind to opioid receptors in mice by reducing the number of binding sites. This demonstrated that cannabinoids interact with opioid receptors non-competitively, i.e., as negative allosteric modulators.

    Another study found that both THC and CBD negatively modulate opioid receptors because they accelerate the dissociation of specific proteins from opioid receptors [in mice]. Thanks to these properties, CBD is touted as a potential tool in drug abuse treatments and pain management.

  • Dopamine receptors
  • CBD is a partial agonist of dopamine receptors. More importantly, research shows that it prefers D3 dopamine receptors over the D2 receptors. Even though cannabinoids don't act directly on these receptors, they alter their signaling in the brain. 

  • Adenosine receptors
  • Alongside THC, CBD is an adenosine reuptake inhibitor meaning it can increase the concentration of this endogenous molecule in the body. Moreover, in another study, CBD treatment significantly reduced tumor necrosis factor (TNFα) in murine models with LPS. 

    Before the CBD treatment, the mice were pre-treated with the A2A adenosine receptor antagonist ZM241385. This compound has been shown to reverse the anti-inflammatory effects of CBD.

    In another different study, CBD induced antiarrhythmic effects in rats with arrhythmia. However, the administration of the A1 adenosine receptor antagonist DPCPX reversed the effects. The implication is that CBD appears to activate more than one type of adenosine receptors.

    How does CBD help back pain 

    CBD has many molecular targets for exerting its effects, so our understanding of how it impacts pain continues to evolve.

    To truly comprehend how CBD helps with pain in the human body, let's first address the receptors that process pain in the brain. The central nervous system has three types of receptors—kappa, delta, and mu-opioid receptors—which regulate how pain signals are transmitted.

    These are G-protein coupled receptors. When activated, they reduce the release of neurotransmitters and cell hyperpolarization, thereby minimizing cell excitability. We already know that CBD can interact with opioid receptors (in ways we still don't fully understand) to provide analgesia.

    Be that as it may, science shows that when endogenous opioids, i.e., dynorphins, b-endorphins, and enkephalins, bind to opioid receptors, the subsequent reduction in neurotransmitter release causes cell hyperpolarization and blocks the transmission of pain signals.

    This is a more robust explanation of how CBD may be involved in reducing pain via opioid receptors.

    Other research studies suggest that CBD may reduce back pain by reducing inflammation, lowering anxiety levels, and enhancing relaxation, thus making it easier to sleep.

    Generally, CBD/THC combinations (nabiximols) are perceived to be more effective than either  cannabinoid alone. This is attributed to the "entourage effect," where both cannabinoids synergize to enhance each other's effects.

    CBD for muscle pain 

    Other areas where CBD might have a therapeutic effect are the muscles. Pain in the muscles, or myalgia, can be caused by several factors – infections, injuries, or health problems.

    CBD's potent anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties may help alleviate muscle pain. One area where CBD is used to this effect is in sports, with topical formulations giving other medications a run for their money. 

    Indeed, a 2020 study concluded that cannabinoids "hold promise of treatment for athletes with chronic pain conditions." But more research is needed to prove if this cannabinoid can genuinely help reduce muscle pain.

    CBD for stiff neck 

    A stiff neck is often characterized by difficulty moving the neck and soreness, especially when trying to turn the head sideways. Sometimes, it can be accompanied by pain in the neck, shoulder, or arms. 

    The most common cause of a stiff neck is soft tissue or muscle strain. Physicians typically treat this condition with anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen and acetaminophen. CBD is also a strong anti-inflammatory and consideration towards a strong CBD gummy might be a viable treatment option for this condition. 

    In fact, there are suggestions that it might even be more effective than NSAIDs since it does not have the side effects associated with their long-term use. In whatever form, CBD is even better because it may help with related issues like sleeplessness and pain.

    CBD oil for lower back pain 

    Lower back pain is a prevalent condition typically caused by strains in tendons or muscles in the back. Disk injuries, arthritis, and structural problems are other possible causes. When you lift something heavy or engage in some vigorous exercises, muscle tissue may over-stretch, causing microscopic tears. These often lead to inflammation and pain.

    CBD oil is a potent anti-inflammatory and analgesic. As such, it may provide relief against inflammation and pain. Indeed, the growing use of CBD oil in sports is due to its wide-ranging qualities, such as pain and inflammation relief.

    Apart from helping with pain and inflammation, CBD is also a natural skin nourisher. It contains antioxidants that reduce the effects of free radicals. This protects the skin against premature aging, making it look younger.

    Undoubtedly, CBD oil has numerous appealing benefits, and in our Balance wellness tincture, these are precisely what you get. Made with full-spectrum hemp CBD oil, this product is expertly formulated to help calm the central nervous system and reduce inflammation. Besides, it may also help with related issues like stress, anxiety, and pain, contributing to overall well-being.

    CBD balm for lower back pain 

    Besides CBD oil, balms are quickly gaining traction in the health and wellness community. These are equally effective against a number of skin conditions, including pain, soreness, inflammation, and discomfort.

    Like CBD oils, balms also have nourishing properties that provide relief against dryness and itchiness. 

    Though not precisely a balm, our Rest sleep support tincture contains premium grade CBD and CBN plus an assortment of adaptogenic herbs like passionflower, Schisandra fruit, and lavender for a more holistic, calming, and healing effect. 

    Initially designed to improve sleep quality, this tincture has ingredients that could help with pain and inflammation.

    How to use CBD for back pain 

    For localized pain and inflammation, CBD topicals are ideal. Apply the oil or balm to the affected muscle and massage for a few minutes. For best results, apply twice daily or as is convenient.

    Oral CBD is also great for pain because it addresses the root cause of the problem and helps alleviate related issues like insomnia and anxiety that tend to accompany the pain.

    Our Sleep Gummies are made to help in this regard. They contain cold-extracted premium hemp CBD and CBN to calm the mind and body and support better sleep.

    How often to take CBD for back pain 

    CBD dosing guidelines typically depend on several factors like CBD potency, the severity of the condition, metabolism, etc. The recommended dose is usually indicated on the label and as always, start with a lower amount if you are a newbie.

    You can up the dosage once you understand how your body reacts to CBD. However, with cannabinoids, more is not always better. If anything, lower doses are found to be more effective than higher doses due to a phenomenon known as the biphasic effect.

    How long does it take for CBD to work 

    This depends on the form in which you take it. CBD aerosols (vape carts and nasal sprays) work fastest, typically kicking in within 10-15 minutes. 

    Oils and tinctures taken sublingually are the next fastest method. Taken this way, expect the results within 30-45 minutes.

    Oral CBD takes slightly longer to kick in because it has to go through the digestive system. This method has the lowest bioavailability, meaning the amount of active ingredient that enters your system is quite low (roughly 6%). Via the oral route, the effects of CBD can be felt within 30 minutes to one hour.

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