Cannabidiol (CBD) continues to gain attention in orthopedic and health care circles and is used in the treatment of anxiety and chronic pain, as well as other conditions. CBD plays a major corrective function in the endocannabinoid system (ECS), which may make it a viable treatment alternative for people experiencing back or joint pain.
What is the endocannabinoid system? To understand why CBD is getting so much love at the moment, it’s important to grasp the role of the ECS. Among other things, your ECS helps to regulate your memory, digestion, immune system, and appetite. Many of the systems regulated by the ECS are integrated with the musculoskeletal system, including your motor skills, inflammation, bones, and neural tissues. The ECS helps to protect these critical systems and plays a crucial role in the experience of chronic or acute physical pain.
Interestingly, the ECS is made up of three principal components: endocannabinoid receptors, endocannabinoids, and enzymes that synthesize or metabolize endocannabinoids. The first endocannabinoid receptor was identified in 1988, which is why this science remains so young. When the ECS is working well, it mostly goes unnoticed. Everything is in balance or homeostasis, and pain responses are dealt with accordingly by the brain and central nervous system.
What are cannabinoids? Cannabinoid is the name given to any compound that interacts with the ECS. When cannabinoids are made naturally by your own body, they are typically referred to as endocannabinoids, with “endo” meaning inside. When they come from cannabis and other plants, they are called phyto cannabinoids, with “phyto” meaning plant. There are over 120 phyto cannabinoids in the cannabis plant alone, with THC and CBD the most well-known.
While the ingestion of THC will get you “high,” the ingestion of CBD will not. Instead, it connects with specific receptors inside your body and helps to balance the ECS.
As we all know, sometimes the human body goes out of balance, and pain is often the result. For example, people who need joint replacement or back surgery frequently experience profound nerve pain, and surgery is often recommended as the only viable treatment. While surgery is valid in many cases, it can also be incredibly invasive, expensive, and risky. CBD can be used to help regulate the ECS in such cases, both before surgery and as a short-term alternative to surgery if the patient is not ready.
Who can benefit from CBD? While CBD is not a cure-all by any means, it can be incredibly valuable for people who are experiencing physical pain. CBD can reduce the pain and inflammation from arthritis and inhibit chronic inflammatory and neuropathic pain, both of which can be very difficult to treat. Another use of CBD is to help people recover from accidents and injuries, as it is proving useful in the treatment of back, knee, and hip injuries.
CBD is a fantastic regulatory tool in this context and may prove beneficial for a wide array of musculoskeletal problems. If you’re looking for a holistic and viable treatment for pain relief, CBD can help to support your immediate and long-term health needs.
David Duffner, MD, is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon and founder of the integrative practice Orthopedic and Physical Medicine Associates, Inc. (OPMA). He can be reached at (760) 340.2600.