The nervous system is an incredible feat of biology. It connects our brains to every other part of our bodies, from head to toe, and carries signals around the body in the form of physical sensations. The nervous system keeps us safe and allows us to function properly.
But sometimes, it can malfunction.
Nerve pain, also known as neuropathy, is a pain condition affecting the nervous system. It can manifest as tingling, numbness, or a ‘pins and needles’ sensation throughout the body or localised to a certain area. In more severe cases, it can feel more like a burning, stinging, or shooting pain. Neuropathy occurs when the damaged nerves become confused and send false pain signals to the brain, resulting in an often-chronic condition.
What Causes Nerve Pain?
Nerve pain is caused by damage, dysfunction, or injury to the nervous system. Interestingly, the biggest cause of nerve pain is diabetic neuropathy, caused by high blood sugar levels, which accounts for 60 per cent of total neuropathy sufferers.
Most other types of nerve pain are categorised as peripheral neuropathy, caused by damage to the nerves outside of the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord).
Nerve pain can also be caused by:
- Conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome, spinal stenosis, and disc herniation
- Certain types of cancer, including lymphoma and multiple myeloma
- Radiation and chemotherapy treatments for cancer
- Certain infections, such as shingles, Lyme disease, diphtheria, botulism, and HIV
- Low levels of certain vitamins such as B12
- Excessive alcohol consumption over a long period of time
- An underactive thyroid gland
- Inflammation of the blood vessels
- Chronic liver disease or chronic kidney disease
- Abnormal proteins in the blood
- Conditions caused by overactivity of the immune system, such as Rheumatoid
Arthritis, Lupus, Sjögren’s Syndrome or Coeliac Disease
How is Nerve Pain Treated?
Currently, there are a number of treatments options available to sufferers of nerve pain. However, many of these are unfavourable or can cause severe side-effects.
Botox injections have been used to reduce nerve pain, as well as NMDA-antagonist drugs such as ketamine or dextromethorphan. Another popular treatment is capsaicin, the active ingredient in chilli peppers, which is applied topically as a cream and works by changing the way in which the body responds to pain.
In some cases, nerve pain sufferers are prescribed anti-epilepsy or anti-depressant medications, which work by blocking the chemical reactions that cause the body to feel pain. The use of opioids is also widespread among neuropathy patients to reduce pain; however, these drugs are highly addictive and side effects such as nausea, vomiting, constipation, pruritus (itchy skin), dizziness, dry mouth and sedation are extremely common.
Unfortunately, neuropathy can sometimes prove to be completely resistant to pharmaceutical treatments, or long-term sufferers may build up a tolerance to pain-relieving drugs over the years. However, there are a large number of neuropathy patients who have reported that CBD therapy has succeeded where all else has failed.
Relieving Nerve Pain with CBD
While there have been many studies into the use of CBD for pain relief and inflammation, neuropathy is a very different condition, and the research into it is currently limited.
However, studies do show promise in the use of CBD to treat nerve pain, and many patients have reported favourable results from CBD treatments.
Most notably, a 2014 study on mice found that CBD reduced nerve pain caused by the chemotherapy drug Paclitaxel. It does this by reacting with the body’s natural Endocannabinoid System, namely the CB1 and CB2 receptors in the brain, to block the sensations of pain. Many pharmaceutical pain medications are also designed to bind with these receptors, but CBD does so in a more natural and effective way. Additionally, it does this with minimal, if any, side effects.
CBD has also been shown to bind with receptors in the pain pathways of both the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system, as well as the sensory nerves which send sensations to the brain.
Taking CBD for Nerve Pain
While topical application of CBD onto the affected areas can have an effect on nerve pain, oral usage is often more efficient, as this allows the CBD to work at the source of the pain within the nervous system.
CBD Oil taken sublingually (applied under the tongue and allowed to be absorbed by the body) is most beneficial for neuropathy relief. When medications are swallowed, a small amount of the ingredients are lost in the digestive process, leaving less available for the body to use. Sublingual administration allows hundreds of tiny capillaries under the tongue to absorb the oil directly into the bloodstream, meaning nothing is lost and the CBD can get to work within 20-30 minutes.