The Science Behind CBD Topicals for Deep Pain Relief
7 Minutes Read Time
Living with chronic pain can be debilitating and keep you from enjoying your day-to-day activities. While modern medicine's approach to pain management has been opioids, you, like many others, might be looking for natural alternatives. Studies suggest that up to 1 in 4 people has faced opioid addiction, and with countless others deal with other adverse side effects.¹
In recent years, CBD topicals, such as creams, lotions, and gels have gained popularity as a potential natural remedy for chronic pain. In this blog post, we will delve into how CBD interacts with the body's endocannabinoid system to provide relief and highlight key studies supporting its effectiveness.
CBD, Inflammation, and the Endocannabinoid System
CBD, or cannabidiol, is a non-intoxicating cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant. Unlike its counterpart THC, CBD does not produce a high feeling, instead, it offers potential therapeutic benefits like anti-inflammatory effects.
Inflammation plays a pivotal role in chronic pain conditions.² When there is excessive inflammation in the body, it can contribute to the development and perpetuation of chronic pain. It’s a natural response to injury or infection, but in some cases, the immune system triggers an inflammatory response without a specific cause, leading to chronic inflammation.
Chronic inflammation can result in ongoing pain signals being sent to the brain, causing frequent (if not constant) discomfort and hindering daily activities. That's where CBD and its relationship with the endocannabinoid system (ECS) come in.³
The ECS is a complex network of receptors, endocannabinoids, and enzymes that helps regulate various physiological processes, pain perception, immune response, and of course, inflammation. Your ECS also plays a balancing role within the body, helping to level out natural body processes like your body temperature, sleeping and waking cycle, appetite, and mood.
The two primary types of receptors in the ECS are CB1 and CB2 receptors. CB1 receptors are primarily located in the brain and central nervous system, while CB2 receptors are found predominantly in immune cells and peripheral tissues, including the skin. Activating these receptors with CBD creams, for example, may modulate pain signals and regulate inflammation.
CBD interacts with the ECS by influencing the receptors' activity, indirectly affecting the release of neurotransmitters, and promoting balance within the system. By doing so, CBD may help reduce chronic inflammation and, subsequently, alleviate pain.
Studies have shown that CBD's balancing effects on the ECS may reduce the production of inflammatory molecules and suppress inflammatory pathways, which may help address the underlying triggers of chronic deep pain caused by excessive inflammation.
Some studies also suggest that CBD may interact with other non-endocannabinoid receptors involved in pain regulation, such as glycine receptors. By targeting these receptors, CBD cream may modulate pain signaling and provide additional pain relief benefits.⁴
Does CBD Help with Chronic Pain?
In short, no. CBD creams or lotions don’t directly reduce pain. Instead, evidence suggests that it may work with the ECS to target the inflammatory triggers that contribute to pain. By modulating the ECS and its receptors, CBD may help restore balance, regulate inflammation, and alleviate the underlying causes of pain without treating the pain itself.
Since inflammation is a significant contributor to chronic pain, CBD may be a potential alternative for people seeking more natural pain relief options. Further research is still needed to determine the potential benefits of CBD for pain, so be sure to consult your doctor before adding CBD into your pain management routine. Of course, always consult with your doctor to rule out any potential complications with CBD, including drug interactions and exploring other options that may work better for you.
What Does the Science Say?
Numerous studies have shed light on CBD's potential to alleviate inflammation, which may, in turn, support chronic pain relief. One major study found that CBD offered both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.⁵ Antioxidants play a crucial role in combating chronic pain by reducing oxidative stress and inflammation in the body. Chronic pain often involves ongoing inflammation, which can lead to tissue damage and the production of harmful free radicals.⁶
Free radicals are highly reactive molecules that can cause oxidative stress, a condition where there is an imbalance between the production of free radicals and the body's ability to neutralize them with antioxidants.⁷ Oxidative stress can damage cells, proteins, and DNA, contributing to inflammation and pain.
The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory boost of CBD may counteract oxidative stress by neutralizing free radicals and preventing their harmful effects, which all contribute to chronic pain.
Additionally, some research suggests that CBD may be beneficial for people dealing with chronic pain associated with musculoskeletal and rheumatic diseases.⁸ Another study found that cannabinoids like CBD may target α3 glycine receptors to suppress inflammatory and neuropathic pain.⁹ These receptors are found in the brain and spinal cord and play a role in pain processing and modulation.
Which CBD Delivery Method is Best for Chronic Pain?
With so much potential evidence for the use of CBD for chronic pain and inflammation, you might be wondering which delivery method will work best for your pain points. There are lots of options to choose from, but we recommend using topicals over other versions, like sublingual tinctures, edibles or capsules, or vapes.
For starters, CBD creams, lotions, and balms are specifically designed for external application to the skin. They offer a targeted approach to pain relief, allowing you to spot-treat specific pain points and areas of inflammation. They also provide longer-lasting effects than other methods and are easy to apply directly to the affected areas for concentrated relief.
Most CBD topicals are transdermal, which means they can penetrate deeper into the skin to interact with cannabinoid receptors in the underlying tissues and into your bloodstream, which might be helpful for joint pain, muscle soreness, and inflammatory skin conditions.
A German skin study found that your skin cells have a very high concentration of cannabinoid receptors in the nerve fibers and mast cells.¹⁰ This finding suggests that CBD topicals might be more effective against chronic inflammation than CBD oils taken orally. A study by a team of University of Kentucky researchers found that topical CBD reduced arthritis-related inflammation and improved the rats' mobility and overall quality of life.¹¹
It's important to note that the most effective CBD delivery method can vary from person to person, depending on individual preferences, the nature of the pain, and the underlying condition. Always work closely with your doctor to determine if CBD topicals may be helpful to you, and remember that CBD can't cure anything by itself.
CBD topicals are generally considered safe, with minimal risk of side effects.¹² However, it’s possible to experience mild skin irritation or an allergic reaction. To ensure your safety, always start with a small area of the skin and see how it affects you before applying CBD topicals to larger areas of the body. CBD topicals may help with inflammation for up to 48 hours. But if you're dealing with stubborn pain, you may need to reapply them more often. Feel free to reapply as often as needed.
If you find that topicals don't work for you, edibles, capsules, or tinctures may still help with inflammation, but they won't be able to directly target your pain points since they need to be absorbed or digested before they can start to work. Always start with a small dosage and gradually increase until you achieve your desired effects. You can always keep a journal to keep track of your serving size and pain levels as you find your sweet spot.
Pro Tips for Using CBD Topicals for Deep Pain Relief
By following this guide, you can maximize the benefits of CBD topicals for inflammation. Remember, CBD topicals are intended for external use only. Avoid contact with eyes, open wounds, or mucous membranes, and discontinue use if you experience any adverse reactions.
- Consult a Healthcare Professional:
If you have any underlying health conditions, are taking medications, or are unsure about using CBD topicals, talk to your doctor before you use topicals. They can provide personalized guidance and ensure the safe integration of CBD into your pain management regimen.
- Cleanse the Skin:
Before applying any CBD topical, cleanse the skin with water and mild soap to remove dirt, oils, or other substances that may hinder absorption, then pat dry.
- Patch Test:
If you're trying a new CBD topical or have sensitive skin, perform a patch test before applying it to larger areas. Apply a small amount of the product on a small patch of clean skin and observe for any adverse reactions or irritation. If no negative reactions occur, you can proceed with the full application.
- Target Specific Areas:
CBD topicals are excellent for spot-treating deep pain. Apply the product directly to the areas experiencing pain or inflammation for targeted relief.
- Follow Product Instructions:
Read and follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer for the specific CBD topical you are using. Each product may have specific guidelines for application, dosage, and frequency.
- Massage Thoroughly:
Gently massage the CBD topical into the skin using circular motions. This helps promote absorption and ensures even product distribution over the painful area.
- Allow for Absorption:
Allow sufficient time for the CBD topical to absorb into the skin. This can vary depending on the product, but waiting at least 15-30 minutes before washing the area or applying additional products is a good place to start.
- Be Consistent:
For optimal results, use CBD topicals consistently and as directed. Incorporate them into your daily routine or as needed to manage deep pain effectively.
Lazarus Naturals: Your Chronic Pain Companion
For your pain management toolkit, consider Lazarus Naturals CBD Oil topicals. Our topical suite of products is specially designed to cater to your specific pain management needs. Formulated with high-quality, full-spectrum CBD and other functional, skin-nourishing ingredients, our topicals are made to work as hard as you do.
If you're dealing with pain from fresh bruises or injuries, you'll love our Bruise and Injury Cream for reducing pain and inflammation with fresh bruises or injuries. For those with sensitive skin and mild discomfort, our Repair Cream is designed to support recovery while soothing sore muscles and joints.
If you're experiencing muscle and joint pain, our CBD Muscle Gel provides a cooling sensation and targeted relief for your discomfort. Lastly, for on-the-go relief from aches and pains, our Balm Stick is a convenient and portable option you can carry wherever you go in your purse or briefcase.
Whichever Lazarus Naturals product suits your needs, rest assured that you're choosing high-quality, lab-tested topicals that support your overall wellness at every step of your pain management journey.