Three Months Of CBD For Chronic Pain
I decided to start using CBD (cannabidiol, not to be confused with marijuana!) to manage my anxiety and mental health issues, which can be exacerbated by axial spondyloarthritis, and my constant chronic pain from AS. It took me a long time to make this decision, likely because I don’t smoke marijuana and because I don’t like feeling high.
Getting beyond the "marijuana" stigma
The thing is, there is so much (frankly, deeply unfortunate and wildly ignorant) stigma attached to CBD and cannabis in general. Just because a plant is used for recreational high (this is THC, or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) doesn't mean it's not also capable of healing. The plant world has so much to offer us. Stigma attached to marijuana (which is also super reductive, considering the benefits it offers) detracts us from the usefulness of alternative therapies. There's a good reason medical marijuana is legal in so many places. (And hey, I don't judge either way!).
CBD, on the other hand, is NOT medical marijuana and either does or does not contain THC. I use CBD because its benefits are amazing (and it doesn't get you high).
Some of CBD's benefits:1
- Reducing pain
- Reducing inflammation
- Controlling epileptic seizures
- Treating mental illness
- Treating addictions
How I got started with CBD
I started off by researching the companies that I could trust. I reached out to a nurse who had a lot of experience in the cannabis area and asked her what her favorite brands were. I ended up finding a brand (Bluebird Botanicals — and no, this isn't sponsored!) that provided batch reports for all of their products, which means you can see exactly what goes into it. I also read literally hundreds of reviews, including reviews from patients with arthritis. I watched dozens of videos to make sure that I wouldn’t be getting a high or any sort of psychotropic effect. I read science journal studies (I'm a wellness writer, after all).
I took the plunge and ordered a sampler three-pack, which came with three different kinds of CBD. They each had different properties. The different properties were either the oil that they were made with, like hemp or coconut oil or additions like frankincense and black seed oil, both of which are known to have amazing healing properties and have been used by people with arthritis.
What I was looking for in a product
For me, it was all about:
- Finding a transparent, award-winning, top-rated company
- Understanding exactly what is inside of the product
- Understanding how it would interact with my body (again, I don't like getting "high" or feeling weird)
The oil I bought were labeled "full-spectrum CBD," which means it contains the whole array of what is inside the plant — all the antioxidants and all the other terpenes and good stuff.
The CBD that I got does have a little bit of THC in it (0.3 percent, which is legal). The tiny, almost negligible dose of THC in the CBD goes a long way, but you don’t get even remotely a psychotropic high. This is because research suggests that terpenes or terpenoids, small compounds in cannabis plants, make CBD and THC more effective when taken together rather than alone.2 This is called the entourage effect.2
You should also know that many CBD products are formulated without THC! You can try both to see what works for you, but if you have a job that tests you for marijuana, the no-THC is the way to go!
My first CBD dose
The first time I took it, I started with about eight drops in a small cup of water. The recommended serving size was 15 drops. I felt an immediate sense of relief, especially in the realm of my anxiety. I was having very, very extreme anxiety, and the CBD really worked wonders — immediately. It changed my life. It isn’t that you feel completely different, it’s that you actively realize that you don’t feel bad. And that is really important to me!
Months into CBD use
As I got further and further into my CBD lifestyle, I started doing two-three doses per day. Each dose is between eight and 10 drops. I never go up to 15, just because I like to start smaller.
I discovered that if I took it too late at night I might have a little bit of a hangover in the morning, which basically feels like grogginess. I determine that if I take it when I wake up and also at around 9 PM, I get the most benefit. If I’m having an extremely anxious day I’ll just take a dose as needed.
I have been taking the CBD both in and outside of a flare so I have a really unique perspective on how it works with ankylosing spondylitis and my body.
When I take CBD, I noticed that my pain decreases. Period. If I’m in a flare-up (and I have been) and my pain is around a nine or a 10, it definitely reduces to about a five or six. Sometimes it goes away more than that.
I generally feel as though the heaviness and immobility and stiffness and pain is reduced when I use it, and that’s because CBD reduces inflammation, especially over time.3 I have lately been in a really horrible flare-up, so I’ve been increasing my CBD doses. It is cumulative, so the more that you take CBD the longer lasting the anti-inflammatory effect really is.
When I combine CBD with Advil I get a big, short-term boost. But over the past three months, CBD has improved my mobility, mental state, and quality of life.
I can’t predict what it will feel like for you because you might need a different dosage or even a higher dosage, so it’s very individual. Be sure to check with a doc, too, as CBD can affect how some medications work.
Everyone in the cannabis industry that I’ve spoken to says that you should try different brands and different dosages to find what works for you. The good news is that there is so much literature and scientific study around the benefits of CBD, and it backs up my anecdotal evidence.
I am a big believer in holistic self-treatment. And this is one part of my regimen that I truly will not do without going forward.
Can you tell when a flare is coming?