CBD oil and pain: 1 - understanding different types of pain
Now that CBD oil is readily available in South Africa a lot of people are asking the question: 'Can CBD oil help with my pain?' To answer this question we need to take a look at different types of pain.
In order to understand different types of pain, let's start with asking the question, 'why do we have pain?' To answer this question we will look at three pain categories and whether they are necessary to protect the body.
1: Acute physiological pain
- Main defence mechanism of the body - for example if you touch something very hot you will feel pain and quickly pull away from the heat that is causing the pain and this withdrawal reflex prevents any further damage.
-Very important and effective protective function.
- Pain is alerting us to potential or actual damage.
2.) Acute inflammatory pain
Acute inflammatory pain is occurs as an immediate response to trauma.
An example of this type of pain is when you have visited the dentist and received a local anaesthetic for the removal of a tooth. You have no pain during the removal but afterwards you experience pain which increases substantially.
Now we can answer the more complicated question - is acute inflammatory pain still necessary to protect the body? The answer is that sometimes it is and sometimes it isn't. Let's look at the specific tooth removal example:
You are experiencing a lot of pain which is a result of inflammation around the area of the removed tooth. The body responds to trauma or injury (for example caused by the surgical tooth removal) with the creation of an inflammatory response. The aim of this response if to heal the damaged tissue and it always causes pain, but in this case it is not protecting your body from anything. The acute inflammatory pain caused by a surgical tooth removal does not have protective value.
However, this is not always the case. For example, inflammatory pain is extremely important in terms of protective value when it comes to conditions like acute appendicitis. The severe abdominal pain that accompanies inflammation has served to signal something serious is wrong and protect the body. If there was no pain accompanying the inflammatory process the condition could go unnoticed and the appendix could rupture.
Another example would be a broken arm. Your body has created inflammation around the broken bone. Movement has the potential to cause harm to nerves, blood vessels or even neighbouring tissues. The pain therefore acts as a defence mechanism because it is telling your body to stop moving so that further damage is not caused.
These examples show that events of protective and non-protective pain accompanying acute inflammation can be experienced.
3.) Chronic pain
We have now covered acute pain and understand that in many cases acute pain has a protective function. Now let's take a look at chronic pain. A lot of people experience this type of pain. Generally chronic pain is pain which lasts or recurs for more than 3 to 6 months. There are many causes and symptoms of chronic pain which we will take a look at in another blog post.
When pain becomes chronic it has lost its protective and warning functions. For example, nerve damage often causes chronic pain. Let's look at a specific example:
Shingles is a painful rash from the reactivation of the Chickenpox virus. The rash will usually resolve itself and the pain will subside. However, in some people the rash will disappear but the pain can remain for months or even years. These people can experience spontaneous pain and another phenomenon known as allodynia where pain is experienced from something that is ordinarily painless (such as something like a light wind on the skin or running water). This is an excellent example of how chronic pain can have absolutely no protective qualities - gently running water (with a normal temperature) should not ever be considered threatening to the body.