CBD for Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS)
CRPS is shorthand for Complex Regional Pain Syndrome for which the most prescribed medications can be addictive or harmful if they are used for an extended period. Therefore, an increasing number of people are turning to CBD and medical cannabis to try to treat their symptoms of CRPS. CBD is not addictive, and a tolerance doesn’t develop over time. It is important to note at this juncture that CBD does not get you high or have any psychoactive impact on the user.
What is Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS)?
CRPS is a chronic pain condition that typically affects a single limb. If the pain persists beyond 6 months it is then deemed to be chronic. CPRS most commonly affects legs, feet, hands and arms. CRPS is more common in women than it is in men, but it can be diagnosed in anyone at any age. However, the peak risk bracket is those who are over 40 years of age. Very few children are diagnosed with CRPS.
How Do You Get CRPS?
The risk of being diagnosed with CRPS peaks at 40 and it is rarely diagnosed in elderly people. This pain syndrome typically develops after surgery or an injury, which could provide an explanation as to why so few children are affected by the condition.
It is believed that CRPS develops because of damage to the peripheral and central nervous system. The central nervous system is made up of your brain and spinal cord whereas the peripheral nervous system involves nerve signalling from the spinal cord to your brain and then onto the rest of your body. Approximately 90% of CRPS cases are linked to trauma and scientists are not sure what differentiates the patients whose condition is a result of trauma and those who develop it naturally.
What are the common triggers for CRPS?
The known common triggers of CRPS are:
○ Soft tissue injuries
○ Minor medical procedures
What are the Symptoms of CRPS?
The symptoms of CRPS can vary in severity and how long they last for. Some cases of CRPS can be mild and eventually cease, while other cases can be totally debilitating last for months or even years. There are various symptoms, you do not have to experience all the symptoms to be diagnosed with CRPS. The symptoms include:
○ Changes in the temperature of your skin
○ Changes in the colour of your skin
○ Changes in nails
○ Swelling in the problematic limb
○ Pain spreading from the injured area to the connected limb
○ Prolonged severe pain that feels like burning pins and needles
How is CRPS Diagnosed?
If you are in consistent pain, you need to see a physician to assess what the cause of the pain is. There is no specific blood test for CRPS, making it a more difficult condition to diagnose. You are reliant on a skilled doctor to recognise the condition as being the potential diagnosis. It is likely that you will have to have X-rays and MRIs to get an understanding of the root cause of the problem.
How is CRPS Treated?
After a doctor has ruled out other potential causes, a variety of treatment options will be presented to you.
Rehabilitation therapy is an exercise program for CRPS and helps to keep your limbs moving and improve blood flow. By increasing your blood flow, you can decrease the impact of the circulatory symptoms you are experiencing. These exercises can improve your strength, flexibility and the function of your limbs.
Psychotherapy can also help to ease the condition. Chronic pain can have a detrimental impact on your mental health and can even damage your entire family’s state of mind. Those who are diagnosed with CRPS can develop depression, anxiety, and PTSD.
Medication is another method that physicians often choose to implement when treating a CRPS patient. There have been no drugs approved specifically for CRPS by either the USA’s FDA or the MHRRA in the UK. Common medications for the condition include:
- Cortcosteroids – prednisolone and methylprednisolone
- Opioids – morphine, fentanyl, oxycodone – this has severe side effects
- Bisphosphonates – alendronate or intravenous pamidronate
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs- ibuprofen or aspirin
- Seizure & depression medication – gabapentin, pregabalin and duloxetine
One of the largest issues with these medications is how they impact the body and mind. Some pain medications can be extremely addictive, and patients need to take them under strict supervision.
CRPS can cause consistent pain for extended periods and certain medications should not be taken for the duration of the period the patient is dealing with the illness. People in severe pain are beginning to use medical cannabis and CBD to treat their symptoms and finding that the side effects are far less severe than using opioids or other pharmaceuticals.
What is CBD?
CBD is shorthand for cannabidiol which is a chemical that is contained within the cannabis plant. CBD doesn’t get you high, unlike the most notorious cannabinoid THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). The primary difference between CBD and THC is that CBD doesn’t directly interact with the endocannabinoid system, which prevents it from causing the user to feel high or intoxicated.
CBD operates by indirectly interacting with the endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid system is what manages the entire body’s regulation and is responsible for homeostasis. The way the endocannabinoid system controls the body’s functions is through cannabinoid receptors and native endocannabinoids.
CBD for Inflammation
Heightened levels of cytokines, that cause inflammation have been found in the cells of people with CRPS. The has led to researchers to believe inflammation could be integral to the cause of CRPS.
By elevating the 2-AG endocannabinoid, CBD can help with inflammation with the same process it uses to help with pain and retrograde signalling. The 2-AG endocannabinoid tells the CB2 receptors to desist in sending out so many attack cells without compromising the strength of your immune system.
CBD for Pain Management
Although there are few studies that have specifically explored the relationship between CBD and CRPS itself, there have been a number of promising studies that have looked into cannabis and its ability to provide pain relief to sufferers of CRPS.
For example, one oft-referenced study dating back to 2013 and published in the Journal of Pain, examined the effect of vaping cannabis on neuropathic pain. While not all of the participants had CRPS-I, everyone at least had some description of nerve pain.
The participants were initially split into three groups and were given one of; a medium dose, a low dose or placebo cannabis to vape. Participants in the medium and low dose cannabis groups reported significant pain reduction with few, if any adverse side effects.
CRPS is an elusive illness which is hard to diagnose, and it is difficult to definitively treat. CBD and medical cannabis could present an excellent solution to CRPS patients, and the side effects are substantially less than horrific medications such as opioids. This means that the medication that the patient uses over an extended period does not have a detrimental long-term effect on their health and is not addictive.
If you would like to learn more about this, you can read our comprehensive guide to the side effects of CBD.
Does CBD work for CRPS?
Cannabidiol (more commonly known as CBD oil) is an extract of Cannabis indica and Cannabis sativa, the same plants used to make marijuana. From oils and nasal sprays to sweets and soft drinks, CBD is becoming increasingly popular in the UK for treating and helping to relieve various conditions.
CBD is said to provide relief for anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as pain relief, and there are said to be some key benefits that CBD oil may have when incorporated it into your daily life.
CBD and pain relief for CRPS
Formerly known as Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD), Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) is caused by an injury to the sympathetic nerves resulting in severe pain. The definition of CRPS has changed regularly through the years and there are now two separate recognised types:
- Type I – often known as reflex sympathetic dystrophy and shows no evidence of nerve lesions
- Type II – often known as causalgia and has clear evidence of nerve lesions and damage
CRPS is a chronic condition that is typically triggered by a traumatic injury to a limb, but the pain does not subside as would usually happen during a usual recovery. Those suffering from CRPS tend to experience pain that is greatly amplified and disproportionate to the severity of the injury itself and it can be catastrophic for many.
Cannabis has been used to treat pain for thousands of years, and in more recent history, scientists and researchers have uncovered that there are specific components of the marijuana plant, including CBD that are responsible for the pain-relieving effect that CBD can have.
Many people use CBD to relieve pain. CBD works in three main ways:
- reducing inflammation by decreasing the production of inflammatory chemicals called cytokines;
- by binding to and blocking receptors in the central nervous system that are associated with pain; and
- reducing anxiety associated with pain by binding to serotonin receptors and giving a natural anti-depressant.
There are few studies that have specifically explored the relationship between CBD and CRPS itself, however there have been a number of promising studies that have looked into cannabis and its ability to provide pain relief to sufferers of CRPS.
CRPS is a poorly understood condition and therefore difficult to treat. There is no known cure for CRPS, however, a combination of physical treatments, medication and psychological support can help to manage symptoms.
Is CBD legal?
CBD is legal in the UK, however the law states that the product has to meet certain criteria to be lawfully available for human consumption. Primarily CBD oil must not contain any trace of THC to be legally sold in the UK (it’s the THC that’s present in the cannabis plant that gets you high). Many CBD products on the high street aren’t always properly authorised, therefore it’s best to buy them from trusted websites, pharmacies or stores and to speak to your doctor before taking CBD products.
To be legal in the UK CBD products must have no THC, so that they’re not psychoactive and won’t get you high. They are becoming increasingly popular for those suffering from various medical conditions, however with all supplements there are possible side effects which could affect you. Our understanding of the role of CBD in pain management continues to evolve and it is important to read the product information and packaging so you’re aware of what could happen and to speak to your doctor before starting to take CBD products to help relieve CRPS symptoms.
If you are suffering from fibromyalgia, CRPS, or any chronic pain condition as a result of an accident that was not your fault, and even if you have an existing claim, get in touch with Brian Barr Solicitors to see if we can assist. It is simple and hassle free to move your claim to Brian Barr Solicitors who are experts in dealing with chronic pain litigation. Call us today on 0161 737 9248 or visit our website (www.brianbarr.co.uk) to find out more.
We do not endorse any research, studies or sources mentioned within our blogs and comments. The blog is for information purposes only as we are not medical professionals, and it should not be relied upon as legal advice as cases may vary depending on the specific facts. We do not endorse any medical advice provided and would strongly recommend anyone seeking medical advice to contact their local healthcare provider before any changes to treatment and / or management of your condition is undertaken. Please note that local laws vary regarding CBD products.
Facts and Myths About CBD Oil for Pain Treatment
There’s a whole lot of information about CBD oil available, but the problem is, not all of it is reliable. Myths abound, and sometimes it’s difficult to know what’s myth and what’s fact.
Myth: Using CBD is the same as smoking pot
CBD stands for cannabidiol, and it’s a type of cannabinoid. Until fairly recently, more was known about another cannabinoid, tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, which is the compound in marijuana that creates a high.
CBD, however, does not result in a mind-altering state. For example, the Food and Drug Administration has recommended pharmaceutical-grade CBD for the treatment of some forms of epilepsy.
Fact: The research is lacking.
In some areas, and for some applications, such as a treatment for epilepsy, more studies are needed before we know enough about CBD to understand whether, how, and under what circumstances CBD is an effective treatment.
Research is still in the early stages, but right now, CBD oil as a treatment for chronic pain appears to have some promise. Studies in animals show that CBD oil can reduce pain and inflammation, but there aren’t enough studies involving humans. It may prove to be a good alternative to opioids for some people.
Myth: There are no side effects to CBD oil
It’s true that CBD doesn’t pose significant risks, but side effects are possible. You may feel nausea, be irritable, or experience sleep disturbances.
Withdrawal symptoms when you stop using CBD oil are extremely rare, especially compared to other types of pain relievers such as opioids.
Fact: CBD oil is unregulated
One of the issues with CBD oil right now is that it isn’t regulated by the FDA or any other regulatory body. Basically anyone can sell it and say whatever they want about it.
Myth: CBD is only legal where medicinal marijuana is legal
Right now, states differ on the legal status of CBD. In some states marijuana is legal for either medicinal or recreational use, and some states have laws relating specifically to CBD. The laws change frequently.
Another difference at the state level is that in some places, other treatments must have failed, and the concentration of CBD may make a difference in whether the oil is legal or not. To say that the legality of CBD is confusing is an understatement!
For example, in Florida, CBD oil that doesn’t contain THC is legal.
When you consider the various myths and facts related to CBD, it’s difficult to reach any real conclusions. Whether or not you choose to use it for pain relief depends on many factors. There’s little risk associated with CBD oil, but there also isn’t much evidence to support it — yet.
If you’d like to learn more about CBD as a treatment for chronic pain, book an appointment for a consultation with one of the providers at South Lake Pain Institute. We’re happy to discuss your specific situation and make treatment recommendations.
Booking an appointment is easy. You can book online or by phone, and we’ll help you explore your pain treatment options.
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