Pain is extremely unpleasant but unfortunately, it is also extremely necessary. We cannot live without it, as it is an important sensory alert that we receive from our bodies thanks to all the nerves located throughout the body that make up the nervous system.
When we experience sudden pain that is the body’s way of calling our attention to the presence of a potential injury or to the potential for increased harm from completing a particular activity.
Without pain signals, we would leave our hands on a hot stove or keep walking on a twisted ankle.
The Two Types of Pain
Pain is categorized most commonly by duration. So you can either have acute pain or chronic pain.
Cleveland Clinic describes acute pain as “sudden, sharp, and lasting no more than six months.” This type of pain can be brought on by a number of things such as falls, medical procedures, cuts, burns, or childbirth. If treated right, acute pain eases as the injury heals and will eventually go away.
Cleveland Clinic describes chronic pain on the other hand, as constant and lasting longer than six months. This type of pain is more often the result of nerve damage but it can also be caused by medical conditions like fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, endometriosis, and inflammatory bowel disease among others.
Acute pain can develop into chronic pain if ignored or not treated properly when diagnosed.
Chronic pain is further categorized as either nociceptive pain or neuropathic pain.
Nociceptive pain is the result of tissue damage. This type of pain is further classified by which tissue has been damaged. If the affected tissue is in muscles, joints, and bones it is referred to as somatic pain. On the other hand, if the affected tissue is in the internal organs, it is referred to as visceral pain.
People with somatic pain describe their pain as either sharp or dull. They may also experience a burning sensation. With visceral pain, the pain felt is mainly dull. Both types of pain are common among people with headaches, fibromyalgia, pelvic pain, or arthritis.
Neuropathic pain is the result of nerve damage. People diagnosed with this type of pain experience shooting pain that may also be accompanied by a burning sensation.
This type of pain can be caused by conditions such as diabetes, multiple sclerosis, stroke, alcoholism, or cancer. It is tough to treat because many times the site of the pain is not the same as the source.
The American Academy of Pain Medicine (AAPM) reports that chronic pain affects more Americans than diabetes, heart disease, and cancer combined and is the most common cause of long-term disability. It is also a global crisis. AAPM also reports that 1.5 billion people worldwide experience chronic pain.
Four Common Types of Chronic Pain
When chronic pain is diagnosed it is most commonly found in the lower back, in the head, in the joints and in the nerves.
• Lower Back Pain
Chronic lower back pain is the result of damage to the vertebrae, ligaments or muscles found in this area. Damage can result from injury, movement or disease such as degenerative disc disease, osteoporosis, or spinal stenosis among others.
Chronic headaches are said to occur more 15 days or more in the span of one month. The most common types include tension headaches, cluster headaches, migraines.
The symptoms experienced will vary based on the type of chronic head but they include nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound, mild to severe pain on one side or both sides of the head, nasal congestion, redness and tearing of the eyes, irritability.
• Joint Pain (Arthralgia)
Chronic joint pain can be the result of injury or disease to the joint or the surrounding tissue that supports it. Common types of joint pain include osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, bursitis, and tendinitis.
• Nerve Pain (Neuropathy)
Chronic nerve pain is the result of damage to the nerves. It is also referred to as neuropathy. There are four main types – Peripheral neuropathy, cranial neuropathy, autonomic neuropathy, and focal neuropathy. In addition to shooting or burning pain, this type of pain may be accompanied by tingling sensations and numbness.
Neuropathic pain is the leading cause of chronic pain.
Symptoms Linked to Chronic Pain
Apart from the actual sensation of pain, chronic pain sufferers may also experience symptoms ranging from fatigue, insomnia, depression, anxiety, decreased or loss of appetite, impaired mental function, nausea, poor coordination to dizziness among others.
The Science Behind CBD’s Pain Relieving Properties
Cannabidiol or CBD is one of more than 60, naturally occurring chemical compounds known as cannabinoids found in the Cannabis Sativa plant. It has anti-inflammatory and pain relieving properties among many others.
The human body also contains its own set of cannabinoids referred to as endocannabinoids. These help the body regulate functions such as mood, memory, appetite, pain, and sleep among many others.
The body is designed to respond to external cannabinoids through two receptors – CB1 and CB2. CB1 is mainly found in the brain and the central nervous system. CB2 is mainly found in the peripheral nervous system.
Unlike THC, which reacts directly with endocannabinoid receptors, CBD does so indirectly. For instance, it prevents the FAAH enzyme from breaking down anandamide. Anandamide is an endocannabinoid believed to help regulate pain and is linked to feelings of wellbeing and happiness. CBD also prevents the monoamine oxidase enzyme from breaking down serotonin which is related to mood, appetite, sleep, memory and learning, temperature regulation, among others.
In a nutshell, when CBD is used to treat chronic pain, it helps endocannabinoids that have pain-relieving properties hang around longer in the body than they are designed to do which helps ease the symptoms being experienced.
It has proven to be a safer option when compared against opiates that are commonly used to treat chronic pain. It is well tolerated in high doses, does not create dependency and it has minimal side effects.