How CBD Works with Pain Receptors

Maybe you’ve been reading up on the various properties of CBD, or perhaps you have a friend who swears by it for relief.  Either way, you have likely heard by now that a lot of people who use CBD do so for pain.  Cannabidiol, which is often abbreviated to CBD, is a compound derived from the hemp plant, and it’s the most prominent one in the plant’s chemical composition.  It is a unique type of compound known as a cannabinoid, and this uniqueness has a lot to do with the reason why so many people find that it actually gives them the results that they are looking for.

As you will see, CBD is unlike any other type of compound out there due to the fascinating way in which the body utilizes it, and how it interacts directly with pain receptors.

photo of small hemp plant next to dropper and bottle of cbd works with pain receptors
arm muscles shown relating to pain receptors

What are Pain Receptors?

Pain receptors are sensory receptors that have the job of perceiving pain.  Pain is a survival mechanism which tells us when something is wrong internally, or when we have been injured.  These receptors are neurons belonging to the nervous system, and they have nerve endings located throughout the body, in the skin, muscles, joints, and organs. [Source]

When pain receptors are activated, as in, when a person experiences pain, these receptors send a message to the middle region of the brain known as the parietal lobe.  This part of the brain gathers information to identify objects and recognize spatial relationships.  It also has the job of perceiving pain so that a person can know that they are hurt in some way.

The Role of Cannabinoids and Our Endocannabinoid System

Now, let’s take a look at cannabinoids, as they pertain to pain receptors.  Cannabinoids are compounds that are unique to the cannabis genus, which has given us both hemp and marijuana.  Cannabidiol is the dominant cannabinoid in the hemp plant, which actually contains over 100 unique cannabinoid compounds.

So, what makes cannabinoids unique from other plant compounds? 

Mainly, it’s how they interact with the body to produce specific desirable effects.  Cannabinoids are directly fed to the body’s endocannabinoid system, which is a complex system consisting of a network of cannabinoid receptors.

Cannabinoid receptors are in charge of regulating bodily processes adjacent to their location.  For instance, cannabinoid receptors in the intestines are tasked with regulating intestinal inflammation and overall digestive function.  This general process involves cannabinoids binding to cannabinoid receptors to force chemical reactions that allow regulatory effects to occur.  When we take a dose of CBD, the cannabinoid is actually being sent to cannabinoid receptors as they are needed according to the endocannabinoid system.

Overall, the endocannabinoid system is involved in the process of homeostasis.  This is a state of equilibrium throughout the body, in which each system of the body is operating at its maximum potential to allow a feeling of wellness throughout which can play a role in overall health.  Therefore, the regulatory tasks of cannabinoid receptors aim to enable the body to function in a more balanced way.

endocannabinoid system and cb1 and cb2 pain receptors shown
pain receptor nerve cell

The Connection Between CBD and Pain Receptors

Cannabinoid receptors exist throughout the brain and nervous system, which regulate, among other things, the sensitivity of pain receptors, as well as their communication to the brain.  Pain sensitivity is not static, as a person’s pain threshold can be dependent on circumstances ranging from immune health to mood. 

Furthermore, each person can have a unique pain threshold, which is determined by the relationship between pain receptors and the parietal lobe.

Because of their regulatory functions, cannabinoids may regulate this pain threshold by balancing this relationship between pain receptors in the nervous system and pain perception in the brain.  In theory, this could increase a person’s pain tolerance so that pain is not felt as acutely.

What the Research Says About CBD for Pain

CBD has been widely studied for years so that scientists can better understand what makes it so unique. 

Study #1: One property of CBD that comes up time and time again in research is its analgesic activity.  Analgesics are pain-numbing agents, which are not to be confused with anti-inflammatories.  While anti-inflammatories reduce inflammation that is responsible for pain, analgesics disrupt the communication between pain receptors and the brain.  However, it’s still worth noting that CBD offers unique anti-inflammatory activity as well.

The most popular type of analgesics would be opioids, which are narcotic drugs that are prescribed for severe pain conditions.  CBD acts in a gentler way on the body, and is considered nontoxic, unlike opioids, which can be deadly in high doses.  People do not feel a high after taking cannabidiol, but they may notice that they begin experiencing some level of relief in a natural, calming way.

Study #2: Because cannabidiol feeds the body’s overall endocannabinoid system, it may regulate mechanisms that indirectly affect pain tolerance as well, such as serotonin levels.  Low serotonin is commonly linked to heightened pain sensitivity, which is why those with clinical depression may have lower pain thresholds.

scientist research in labortory

Using CBD for Pain Receptors

So, since we have just covered the relationship between CBD and pain receptors, let’s talk about the best ways to utilize the hemp plant to maximize these potential effects. 

  1. When it comes to using CBD to treat a symptom, you should always have a conversation with your doctor, and mention any medications you are currently taking.
  2. To get as much benefit out of CBD as possible, consider combining an internal method, like a tincture or edible, with a topical. Topicals concentrate the properties of CBD to the area of application, absorbing into the muscles and joints after being applied to the skin of the affected area.  Meanwhile, internal methods work more holistically, working toward homeostasis via the endocannabinoid system.
  3. It is always ideal to take CBD daily for the best results. Cannabinoids work cumulatively thanks to the functions of the endocannabinoid system, and so consistent usage may increase effectiveness, while becoming more effective over time.
  4. Be mindful of the milligram strength that you choose. Higher milligram strengths are more effective because they provide stronger concentrations of pure cannabidiol per dose or application.

CBD: A Potential New Way to Help Manage Pain

CBD is a fascinating compound with many noted effects, which all relate to the way in which this hemp compound works with the endocannabinoid system in the body.  One of its most interesting properties relates to its role in balancing the function of pain receptors, acting as a potential analgesic that’s gentle on the body yet fully capable at the same time.  Again, if you want to explore this specific analgesic effect, consider starting a daily routine with a CBD topical as well as a product that has been taken internally.

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