Nerve pain can be incredibly debilitating and difficult to treat, and is associated with a number of conditions, including trigeminal neuralgia. But, like other sources of pain, cannabidiol (CBD) may play a role in alleviating this condition without the side effects associated with traditional pain medications.
What Is Trigeminal Neuralgia?
Trigeminal neuralgia is a chronic medical condition affecting the trigeminal nerve, which transmits sensation from the face to the brain. The condition is characterized by severe pain much like an electric shock that can be triggered by the slightest movement or touch anywhere on the face, particularly in the jaws, cheeks, teeth, gums, and lips.
The pain is typically experienced on one side of the face at a time and can start off with acute pain that is short-lived but can eventually develop into longer-lasting episodes of pain or burning sensations that can last for weeks or longer.
Is CBD a Viable Treatment Alternative?
There are currently a few different medical treatments available to help manage the searing pain that accompanies trigeminal neuralgia, including antiepileptic drug therapy. However, up to half of people with trigeminal neuralgia become intolerant to these types of medications or suffer from severe side effects, with few other drug options to choose from as an alternative. In these cases, surgery may be an option.
However, CBD may also have its place in the treatment of pain associated with this chronic medical condition. Individual cannabinoids in the cannabis plant, such as CBD, may be helpful in alleviating pain from this condition through their effects on neuron transmission in pain pathways.
While many new analgesics have been developed over the years, their significant side effects make them unattractive to those who desperately seek pain relief without trading it in for other negative symptoms. But CBD may be able to effectively reduce the neurological pain experienced as a result of trigeminal neuralgia without the side effects that traditional pharmaceutical drugs may have.
What Does the Research Say?
Studies that focus on CBD for neuropathic pain show that the cannabinoid may alleviate nerve pain. CBD has been shown to significantly suppress chronic neuropathic pain without causing any noticeable analgesic tolerance in pre-clinical models. This may be the result of CBD’s effect on glycine receptors, which play an important role in regulating pain in the spinal cord.
There is also evidence to suggest that the combination of both CBD and its psychoactive counterpart, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), can be an effective treatment option. A clinical trial of 125 patients with neuropathic pain showed that Sativex®, a THC:CBD oro-mucosal spray, significantly reduced pain intensity and sensitivity; those taking Sativex also more commonly experienced sedative and gastrointestinal side effects.
CBD therefore may have a promising role in the therapeutic approach of managing pain associated with trigeminal neuralgia. People with this condition experience severe pain that has been described as life altering, thus having a detrimental effect on quality of life. As current medications may not completely address pain associated with this disease, CBD and cannabis may be able to step in as a supplement, pending future study.
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- Liang, Y.C., et al., “Therapeutic Potential of Cannabinoids in Trigeminal Neuralgia,” Current Drug Targets: CNS Neurological Disorders, vol. 3, no.6, 2004, pg. 507-514.
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