The World Health Assembly (WHA) – a subsection of the World Health Organisation (WHO) – has declared the month of September to be Pain Awareness Month.
And since a study published in July of this year indicated that 1 in 5 South Africans suffer from chronic pain, we think it's definitely a subject worth talking about.
So over the next few weeks, we'll be discussing the different kinds of pain from which people suffer - including post-surgical recovery pain, everyday pain like arthritis and migraines and female-specific pain like endometriosis and PMS.
And of course, considering CBD's well known ability to assist with pain relief, we're kicking things off by explaining how exactly this incredible cannabis compound works to help in the management of these conditions.
CBD FOR PAIN PERCEPTION
One way that CBD is thought to decrease pain is actually by reducing the body's sensitivity to the pain itself.
Researchers believe CBD may help to reduce pain by interacting with cannabinoid receptors - particularly CB2 receptors, which are usually found outside of the brain in places like the gut, spleen, liver, heart, kidneys, bones, blood vessels, lymph cells, endocrine glands and reproductive organs.
While scientists are still not exactly clear about how it works, it would appear that CBD is able to affect the way that various stimuli impact pain receptors, so that people experience pain differently when having taken the cannabis compound.
CBD AS AN ANTI-INFLAMMATORY
The other primary reason for CBD's ability to assist with pain relief is due to its potent anti-inflammatory properties.
As the pain symptoms of a multitude of conditions - including polymyalgia, migraines, arthritis, peptic ulcers etc - are rooted in inflammation, CBD can be an excellent way to reduce redness and swelling in limbs and organs, and thus provide relief from feelings of discomfort.
This powerful anti-inflammatory response is believed to be due to CBD's inhibition of eicosanoid enzymes (thought to cause inflammation), as well as the elevation of the anti-inflammatory cytokine molecules.
Traditional pharmaceuticals like NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs) and steroids work in this same way to reduce inflammation in the body.
But unlike these drugs, CBD does not have the same negative side effects that they can have, and so it presents a great natural alternative for treating inflammation and pain.
CBD AS AN ALTERNATIVE TO OTHER PAIN MEDICATION
Ibuprofen, for example, is a popular NSAID that many people use for treating pain and fever. But while very effective at providing treatment, many people are not aware that ibuprofen can also actually damage your stomach lining and kill healthy gut bacteria.
On the other hand, the potent anti-inflammatory that is CBD can strengthen your gut, and doesn't disrupt your healthy bacteria at all.
Another common pharmaceutical medication for pain is opioids, which are highly addictive drugs that many patients find themselves relying on in the months following an experience of intense, invasive pain, such as the period after surgery or a car accident.
The brain and body come to crave these substances, with people experiencing major withdrawal symptoms like nausea, anxiety and heart palpitations - often leading them to turn to illegal sources when their prescription runs out.
Luckily CBD is non-habit forming, and as a natural substance it does not have these severe side effects.
Opioids are frequently prescribed by doctors to treat chronic and ongoing pain. But they present a major risk for addiction and abuse - in the USA alone there is ongoing opioid crisis, with more than 130 people dying every day of an opioid overdose.
But since medical marijuana has been allowed in some parts of America, research indicates that these states have seen a 6% drop in opioid prescriptions, and a further 6% decrease on top of that in places where cannabis has been fully legalised.
Additionally, there was a 14% drop in the number of prescriptions filled for daily doses of opioids in states where medical marijuana was available, and a decrease of 7% in states where patients were only able to grow their own at home.
As cannabis is steadily embraced more and more by mainstream medicine, it is proving itself to be a reliable, natural and sustainable alternative for treating chronic pain.