No one likes to be in pain. Especially chronic pain. More than one in five adults experience chronic pain in the United States. Approximately 84% of Americans experiencing chronic pain are unable to work a normal job and activities of daily living are impacted.
Chronic pain is the number one cause of disability. The definition of chronic pain is persistent pain that lasts at least three months or longer. There can be many causes, from cancer to arthritis. It affects more than 50 million adults in the U.S. and costs the nation up to 635 billion dollars annually.
Chronic pain can cause mental and physical distress. Many people who suffer from chronic pain also have trouble sleeping and experience anxiety and depression.
Various medications exist to treat chronic pain. These vary from over-the-counter medications like Ibuprofen or Tylenol to oxycodone and morphine, which can cause a host of other problems in the body. But what happens when these treatments no longer work to decrease pain?
Medical Cannabis And Its Effects On Pain
Medical cannabis is becoming more and more popular. Cannabis is the leading cash crop in the U.S. However, most cannabis-based products do not have approval from the United States Food And Drug Administration and more evidenced-based-research is needed to confirm their safety.
Researchers have found substantial evidence that the cannabis plant is effective for treating chronic pain in adults. There’s also moderate evidence that cannabis can also improve short-term sleep disturbances experienced with chronic pain.
Medical Cannabis can offer relief for people suffering from chronic pain. Long-term use of these drugs can lead to drug resistance. It also serves as a complementary method for symptom management and relief from the side-effects of medications used for chronic pain.
Stigma Around Medicinal Cannabis
Cannabis has been used around the world to treat pain for many centuries. Around 2900 B.C. Chinese used it for many ailments. Other ancient civilizations also used medical cannabis to remedy maladies such as joint pain, muscle spasms, gout, and malaria.
More and more people are using medical cannabis to treat chronic pain as laws around its use become more lenient. Often there is a stigma that surrounds marijuana. Most of the use of cannabis is for pain management and not for recreational use.
A research study conducted in 2016 found that 84.6 % of people sustained a therapeutic pain relief effect when they used medicinal cannabis as a treatment option. The study also found that most people surveyed are using medical cannabis for therapeutic reasons.
Significant health benefits were reported from patients experiencing chronic pain in a study conducted in 2017. Two-thirds of the patients in the study with chronic pain reported improved pain management and sleep. The biggest limitation of this study was Pharmacoeconomics.
Cannabis contains tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Once THC is ingested orally, topically, or inhaled, the natural chemical in your body and brain are triggered to decrease pain and inflammation. These are called your natural cannabinoid receptors. The perception of pain can then be decreased. Greater relaxation is then felt.
According to the Americans for Safe Access Foundation (ASAF), a pro-medical marijuana advocacy group in Oakland, California, the natural form of marijuana contains many cannabinoids and delivers a therapeutic effect
Medical Cannabis Can Relieve Pain Associated To:
- Peripheral Neuropathy
- Migraine headaches
- Multiple sclerosis
- Muscle spasms
- Joint pain
- Pain-related to cancer
- Spinal pain, which includes neck and back
Dr. Pedro Oliveros, the medical director at the Physical Medicine and Rehab Center of Orlando, Florida states, “As a physician, I have constantly searched for treatment options for my patients’ suffering from chronic pain. I learned that marijuana not only has multiple potential medical uses, but it also has fewer side effects than traditional pharmaceutical treatments. In addition to pain relief, medicinal cannabis provides relief to common conditions such as anxiety and depression and insomnia. With medicinal cannabis, the pharmacological management of chronic pain can be simplified with less need to prescribe medications for anxiety, depression and insomnia.”
Physicians should educate patients about medical marijuana to ensure that it is used appropriately and that patients benefit from its use.
Does the Cannabis Strain Matter In Pain Management?
Due to limited research, it’s unclear which strains of cannabis work better for certain types of chronic pain. Strain-specific recommendations are not medically proven.
However, the results of an online survey featured in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine in 2014 preferred Indica strains for pain management, sedation, and sleep while they chose Sativa strains to improve energy and mood. For pain management, survey participants reported better results on decreased pain management when they used Indica for non-migraine headaches, neuropathy, spasticity, and joint pain.
Your Wellness Journey
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