Can CBD Cure My Pelvic Pain?
In the last few years, it seems like every ’90s video store has been transformed into the neighborhood CBD shop. The laundry list of products containing CBD—AKA cannabidiol, a natural non-psychoactive compound found in cannabis sativa plants (yes, the same marijuana and hemp plants THC is derived from)—has grown to include face masks, tampons, coffee, bath salts, gummy bears and more.
CBD can help manage pain, inflammation and discomfort without the high associated with THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, according to a 2018 study published in the Canadian Urological Association Journal. People dealing with pain—from arthritis to digestive issues—have the option of avoiding potentially addictive opioids and experimenting with CBD products and dosages as an alternative method.
So, how does it work? Everyone has a biochemical communication network called an endocannabinoid system (ECS) that plays a role in regulating sleep, mood, appetite and fertility. The body naturally produces molecules called endocannabinoids, which bind to cannabinoid receptors throughout the nervous system to signal the ECS to act. Marijuana plant compounds can bind to those receptors just like endocannabinoids, and CBD, in particular, can activate certain receptors that influence mental health, brain function and inflammation. Because of this, researchers believe that pain management and pain relief can be linked to the use of CBD.
Chronic pelvic pain, which can be caused by a variety of conditions, involves pain below the belly button and above the legs that persists for at least six months. This makes the pain difficult to diagnose, especially since pain perception differs from person to person. The condition can disrupt a person’s life—impacting work, sleep and sex—and lead to complications when left untreated.
CBD can help manage pain, inflammation and discomfort without the high associated with THC.
Lara Parker, author of Vagina Problems: Endometriosis, Painful Sex, and Other Taboo Topics, first started to seek treatment for her endometriosis and pelvic pain at age 15. At the time, she didn’t know anything about holistic medicine and didn’t consider marijuana as a pain reliever.
“I started using both CBD and THC regularly in 2014 and now ingest some of each every single day,” she explained.
Parker not only has endometriosis but also struggles with chronic pain from vaginismus, vulvodynia, interstitial cystitis and pelvic floor dysfunction. While CBD isn’t a cure-all for her chronic pain, she said it takes the edge off.
“Suddenly the nausea I was experiencing was no longer at the forefront of my mind,” she explained.
Parker prefers to ingest CBD capsules, since nausea is one of her symptoms and CBD tinctures tend to have an intense taste.
“But I use CBD balms, lubes, suppositories, capsules, tinctures, bath salts, you name it,” she said.
This doesn’t mean you should douse yourself in CBD. Although, it won’t necessarily hurt you (a 2018 WHO report stated that CBD does not result in any public health problems). Building up slowly will help you understand what dosage you need to get symptom relief.
It wasn’t until 2019 that the first study of cannabis and chronic pelvic pain was published in the Journal of Minimally Invasive Gynecology. Researchers looked at 82 cases and found that after ingesting cannabis, 79 patients experienced improvements, three reported no change in symptoms, and no patients reported a worsening of pain. They determined that cannabis is safe for pelvic pain treatment and that it can reduce the usage of opioids. In addition, a 2015 study found that CBD can radically reduce anxiety and PTSD, issues that those who have chronic pelvic pain may also struggle with.
CBD won’t eradicate all pain immediately, and it may not work for everyone, but it might make your pain more tolerable.
Ana De-Jesus, 27, a fashion, travel and lifestyle journalist, said a dark rain cloud had been lifted once she started using CBD for her pain. De-Jesus began using CBD oil last year for menstrual pain she’s suffered from since starting puberty at 14 years old. De-Jesus’ side effects with contraceptives led to heavy, month-long bleeding (a condition known as menorrhagia) as well as nausea, bloating and cramps. She decided CBD oil may be a solution to her painful woes. After some research, she found a vegan blend of peppermint and clary sage with CBD.
“It's not a miracle cure and I still have heavy periods, but the CBD oil helps me manage my symptoms effectively,” she said. De-Jesus puts the CBD oil in her fennel or chamomile tea, which helps her relax and alleviates any discomfort and bloating.
Unlike pain medication, CBD won’t eradicate all pain immediately. And it may not work for everyone. But it might make your pain more tolerable. For those experiencing pelvic pain, visiting a specialist is recommended and you should always consult with your doctor before taking CBD for relief. Your treatment plan may incorporate a CBD regimen, physical therapy and/or other holistic measures.
Chronic pain can really cramp someone’s style. While Parker is right in saying CBD isn’t a cure-all elixir, there may be a good reason why everyone’s gushing about it. Pelvic conditions are difficult to diagnose and alternative methods allow a person to reclaim their body, ease their pain and start to feel good again.