For those who have experienced neuropathy, they know the toll it can take on their daily lives. An intense pain with seemingly unrelated causes that is difficult to manage is typical of the disease. Patients suffering from the condition often seek relief, only to receive opioid pain medications like Vicodin. While pharmaceutical/conventional medications can be effective at reducing pain for individuals with neuropathy, the Center for Disease Control (CDC)1 notes that they pose a serious risk of abuse, addiction, and overdose. Aside from the serious side effects, these medications are costly and inaccessible to some people with low income. As a result, many with peripheral neuropathy seek out alternative, long-term solutions to alleviate their suffering and improve their general wellbeing.
One alternative that is becoming popular in recent years is CBD. There is a growing body of research on the role of cannabinoids (chemicals derived from hemp plants). In particular, cannabinol (CBD), a non-psychoactive cannabinoid has dominated medical news due to its potential to help many conditions, including neuropathy. Plus, an official report2 by the World Health Organization states that CBD is safe for consumption with “no adverse public health risks.” But, before exploring the benefits and effects of CBD, it important to understand the challenges faced by people suffering from peripheral neuropathy.
What is Neuropathy? – Definition and Causes
The Foundation for Peripheral Neuropathy3 describes neuropathy as a series of disorders resulting from the damage of peripheral nerves. “It occurs when nerves are damaged or destroyed and can’t send messages from the brain and spinal cord to the muscles, skin and other parts of the body.” People experience nerve pain differently – some report a burning, stabbing, electric shocks, tingling, numbness, or the sensation of needles. The pain from peripheral neuropathy can be experienced in many parts of the body and it is especially common in the hands, fingers, feet, and lower legs.
According to research data4, peripheral neuropathy affects more than 20 million Americans. The high prevalence of nerve pain in hands, feet, and throughout the body can be explained by the variety of possible causes highlighted below:
- Endocrine and Metabolic Disorders: Diabetes is the leading cause of peripheral neuropathy in the United States. In fact, up to 70% of diabetes patients suffer from autonomous, motor, or sensory nerve damage.
- Traumatic Injury: injuries from medical procedures, sports, falls, and automobile accidents are a common cause of single-nerve injury. Nerves are compressed, crushed, or stretched leading to neuropathy.
- Autoimmune Diseases: Diseases that directly or indirectly attack nerves such as rheumatoid arthritis, Sjogren’s syndrome, and lupus are common causes of neuropathy.
- Stress: Repetitive, prolonged, or awkward stress on different muscle groups may lead to damage or inflamed tissue, in-turn damaging nerves.
- Infections: Viruses such as herpes simplex, cytomegalovirus, West Nile virus, and varicella-zoster virus target sensory fibers and can cause neuropathic symptoms.
- Vasculitis: Conditions that decrease the supply of oxygen to peripheral nerves such as smoking, diabetes, and narrowing of blood vessels can cause damaged nerves in isolated areas – a condition known as mononeuropathy.
- Environmental: Influences such as exposure to toxins, vitamin imbalances (especially B12 and B6), alcoholism, and certain medication have also been shown to cause neuropathy.
How CBD Helps People with Neuropathy – Benefits & Effects of CBD
In a recent scientific and medical study5, researchers noted that CBD has broad therapeutic benefits, including relief for sleep disorders, depression, anxiety, and pain. But, how does CBD work in the body? When you consume CBD, it interacts with the body’s natural endocannabinoid system. Specifically, CBD stimulates receptors found throughout the body, including the central nervous system, peripheral nervous system, and immune system. These receptors help regulate the body’s reaction to stimuli and moderate responses for things like pain, inflammation, and sleep. The following research highlights the specific ways that CBD and the endocannabinoid system could improve the general wellbeing and pain tolerance of individuals with peripheral neuropathy and nerve pain:
- According to a study6 “analgesia is one the principal therapeutic targets of the cannabinoid system and many studies have demonstrated the efficacy of cannabinoid compounds in the treatment of neuropathic pain.”
- A study7 published in the International Association for the Study of Pain found CBD helps manage pain and reduce inflammation by helping regulate the absorption of chemicals that signal pain perception.
- Another study by a team of researchers8 concluded that “Cannabinoids suppress inflammatory and neuropathic pain.” This helps muscles relax and releases tension that may hinder day to day activities.
- People with nerve pain have a hard time sleeping due to the pain and discomfort experienced. A comprehensive study9 on CBD reviewed clinical trials and studies conducted between the 1980s and 2007. The results showed that CBD has significant potential for neuropathic pain and the author concluded that CBD helps improve the quality of sleep.
- Studies10 have shown that the endocannabinoid system is an important modulator of immune tissues, the endocrine system, and brain activities.
- “Clinical studies largely affirm that neuropathic pain patients derive benefits from cannabinoid treatment.” This was the conclusion by a study11 published in the Journal of Neurotherapeutics. The study also demonstrated a considerable improvement in the general wellbeing of the patients.
- Regarding the risk of addiction from using conventional opiate medications, a study12 appearing in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs claimed that “there is a growing body of evidence to support medicinal use as an adjunct to or substitute for prescription opiates in the treatment of chronic pain.” The author went on to suggest that “increasing safe access may reduce the personal and social harms associated with addiction, particularly in relation to the growing problematic use of pharmaceutical opiates.”
Final Thoughts On CBD For Peripheral Neuropathy
It is not easy to deal with neuropathic pain in your feet, hands or throughout the body. Patients are often in a desperate search for an effective and safe remedy. CBD is rapidly becoming viewed as an effective natural therapy for a variety of health issues, including neuropathy. CBD helps people with peripheral neuropathy by suppressing the body’s response to nerve pain. It also has the additional benefits of improving the quality of sleep and reducing inflammation that can limit normal movement. Plus, unlike conventional options, CBD appears to be a safe alternative without the risk of overdose, addiction, or severe side effects. If you are seeking an alternative to help with your peripheral neuropathy, CBD may be worth considering and you should speak with a medical professional. If you are ready to start trying CBD, we recommend you check out our CBD oils and CBD gummies which are available on our online store.