Treating CHRONIC PAIN with Medical Cannabis & CBD. What does the research say?

Updated: Aug 22, 2021

VIDEO below the article.

Chronic Pain is defined as persistent pain that can last from weeks to years and may be caused by inflammation or nerve damage or injury. To date the treatments have included: medication, acupuncture, electrical stimulation, cognitive behavioural therapy and surgery.

In this article we look at the scientific research on the treatment of pain using medicinal cannabis and CBD.

So what is the difference between medical cannabis and CBD?

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a type of cannabinoid found naturally in cannabis and hemp plants. CBD doesn’t have the psychotropic effects such as the “high” feeling associated with cannabis. This experience is produced by tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a different type of cannabinoid.

Some people with chronic pain use topical CBD products, in particular CBD oil, to manage their symptoms. CBD oil has been found to reduce pain, inflammation and other associated pain conditions. CBD has also been found to offer an alternative treatment for people who have chronic pain and rely on medications such as opioids, which are both addictive and may have significant adverse side effects.

CBD for chronic pain relief

The human body has a cell-signaling system known as the endocannabinoid system (ECS). Research has identified that CBD interacts with the ECS, via endocannabinoid receptors in the brain and this has a direct effect on the immune system. These receptors receive signals coordinating a cellular reaction, which initiates both anti-inflammatory and an analgesic medical response resulting in pain management.

CBD Usage

Roughly 14% of Americans report using CBD according to a Gallup poll in August of 2019, and the number one reason is pain. The Arthritis Foundation conducted its own poll and found that 29% of individuals reported current use of CBD and nearly 80% of respondents were either using it, were considering it or had used it in the past. Most people reported improvement in physical function, sleep, and well-being; however only a minority reported improvement in pain or stiffness.

CBD has been shown to benefit people with chronic pain, such as chronic back pain.

A 2018 meta analysis examined pain from cancer, neuropathic pain and fibromyalgia, and found that CBD yielded a high efficacy in overall pain management with minimal side effects.

An animal study in 2016 using CBD for arthritis and pain relief demonstrated a significant reduction in inflammation and overall pain in the subjects affected joints. What is so exciting is that the results also provided no recorded side effects. Also highlighted was the heavy importance of individuality regarding dosage. The subjects who were under dosed on CBD had no improvement in their pain-scores, and the subjects who were overdosed appeared to have little variation in pain relief. An optimal dosage (6.2mg/day in the animal trial) has been found to result in an optional reduction of pain and inflammation.

This study highlighted that a single CBD product (NIL THC) or under-dosage, may result in reduced efficacy for certain patients as individuals experience pain and respond to treatments in different ways. Variations of THC and CBD ratios, concentrations and specific terpenes, tailored to the patients needs, make the use of medical cannabis an extremely attractive proposition for the treatment of pain.

CBD for migraine pain relief

The results from a 2018 Migraine & CBD study found that CBD and THC can diminish acute and intense pain for migraine sufferers. Participants who received a combination of CBD and THC recorded a 40.4% decrease in the frequency of migraines with a daily dose of 200mg, and was measured more effective than a popular pharmaceutical. Cluster headaches also recorded a significant pain reduction with THC and CBD compound combination (in cases where there was a history of childhood migraines).

What are the Side effects of CBD?

While CBD does not pose significant risks for patients, there are some side effects of medical cannabis. They include: fatigue, diarrhoea, changes in appetite, and changes in weight. CBD may interact with certain medications both over the counter or prescription medication and various dietary supplements. In addition, there may be uncertainty about the potency or purity of CBD products (if they are not regulated as prescription medications).


  • Research has identified that CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid receptors in the brain resulting immuno-stimulation, anti-inflammation and analgesic (Pain management) responses; treating arthritic and neuropathic pain, and well as migraines and cluster headaches.

  • CBD products might be able to offer relief for many people who have chronic pain, all without causing drug intoxication and dependence and unpleasant side effects. There is a significant amount of anecdotal evidence to support the many benefits of CBD and Medical Cannabis, for not just chronic pain. Its early days yet on the studies being undertaken in Australia, but it's also very exciting times too.

If you feel that CBD or medical cannabis might work to treat your chronic pain, check your Eligibility for medicinal cannabis in Australia. You may also book a telehealth or in person appointment with a specialised Cannabis Doctor. Click Here for more information.

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