Pain is like an alarm in our bodies, telling us that something is wrong and may need care. Whether it may be because of an injury, an illness or an accident, pain is usually the first symptom that tells us we need help. Pain management is something many people deal with everyday.
We tend to seek countless forms of treatment to combat pain, which include numerous pain relievers (some even cause serious side effects). However, in the quest for the best treatment for pain, there is one natural remedy that has been overlooked by today’s healthcare industry… Cannabis.
Cannabis has been used for pain management and treatment since the ancient forms of medicine. The history of cannabis use for pain dates back to neolithic times, where China used cannabis to aid in childbirth.
We also see reports of cannabis being used in modern times in certain states and countries that allow the use of medical cannabis. Cannabis can relieve pain symptoms in conditions like migraines, seizures, cancer and various chronic illnesses.
In this article, I’ll discuss the different types of pain we experience and how cannabis can aid naturally in its relief.
The Different Types of Pain
Before we jump on to how cannabis can be used for pain management and treatment, let’s understand what pain is first.
Pain has different sensations that are felt via signals that travel to one of three pathways leading to the brain.
- Somatic Pain – Pain is felt where the injury is. Somatic pain signals travel from the peripheral nerves to the brain. This pain is usually felt constantly aching and dull in the injured area.
- Visceral Pain – It is felt in different areas of the body rather than coming from the specific source. This pain is usually caused by a stretching in the abdominal cavity area. Pain is felt by a class of receptors present on the gut, delivering signals to the brain.
- Neuropathic Pain – Pain is experienced as a burning sensation. This happens when the nerves themselves sustain the injury. This type of pain is very sensitive, even the slightest touch can cause a response to the brain that triggers pain.
Pain may be Acute or short-lived, and intense or Chronic – that may be experienced for days to years.
Conventional Treatment Using Pharmaceutical Drugs
Usually, acute pain can be treated with prescribed opiates, narcotic drugs that may be able to relieve the painful sensation. People who experience chronic pain on the other hand, eventually develop a tolerance to these opiates, and might require an increase in dosage over time.
Opiates often cause nausea and sedation in small doses, or if the dosage is increased.
In 2014, there was a death toll of 28,000 people who were killed because of an opiate-related overdose. There seems to be an obvious need for better medication to treat chronic pain… and that is where cannabis comes in.
How You Can Use Cannabis for Pain Management and Treatment
Cannabis can aid in the relief of chronic pain by acting as a ‘plug’. To give you a very brief explanation, the substance THC or Tetrahydrocannabinol found in cannabis is able to suppress or block the nerve receptors from sending pain signals.
The most common cannabis used for pain is the Indica strain, which gives out a body high experience relieving those symptoms related to pain.
Because each person’s biology is different, we have to take into consideration what type of cannabis is used and the dosage given that could cater in relieving chronic pain.
The long-term effects of cannabis in the body are insignificant compared to that of opioids. With cannabis, a person will not experience withdrawal symptoms as a long term effect. THC also works with the cannabinoid system in a way that helps strengthen a person’s immune system as well.
The causes of chronic pain are diverse and if cannabis is to be an effective treatment, it should be dealt with accordingly. Everyone’s case is unique and they may respond differently to certain strains of cannabis. The variables that need to be taken into account include,
- Method of administration
Medical Trials, Studies, and Initiatives on Cannabis for Pain Management
According to Mark Ware, assistant professor of anesthesia and family medicine at McGill University in Montreal, “about 10% to 15% of patients who are attending a chronic pain clinic, use cannabis as part of their pain management and control strategy.”
The study conducted by Ware and his team in 2010, evaluated 21 men and women who had neuropathic pain. They received three THC potencies and one placebo and the conclusion was, THC decreased the pain these patients felt overall.
Research regarding cannabis as a treatment for chronic pain is widely evident in cancer patients who experience moderate to severe pain. A study tested 30 cancer patients that were given 3 different treatments, THC, Codeine (a conventional painkiller) and Secobarbital (a short-acting barbiturate). Results gave out that THC actually worked as well as Codeine and better than Secobarbital.
Cannabis as a treatment for Multiple Sclerosis is also evident in a survey that was conducted with 100 multiple sclerosis patients. Almost every patient who answered the survey says that marijuana has helped them relieve spasticity and limb pain.
Another case of cannabis treating chronic pain was seen in paraplegic patients. These patients outlined how smoking cannabis helped them with their headaches and phantom limb pain in a survey that was conducted.
With all this evidence, the real challenge medical cannabis advocates face is that the world still has an ongoing stigma. Funding is hard to come by for research and patients are not given access to the treatment they so desire.
What is the Best Way to Consume Cannabis for Pain?
The composition of the specific strain you choose and the method of how you will consume cannabis will affect the outcome for your pain relief. Trial and error is the best approach to discover what works for you and at what point you achieve effective pain relief from the treatment.
It is best to take note of:
- Choosing the strain, with the right combination of terpenes and THC
- The dose, how much THC are you capable of handling, less is more.
- Preferred method of administration, whether it be through edibles, oil, ointment, smoking or vaping cannabis.
It is also best to take note that if you are under opioid medication, a change in treatment should be done after consulting a physician.
Recommended cannabis strains for different types of pain
Wounds, Muscle and Back Pain
- White Widow – The White Widow strain is a well-balanced hybrid, a cross between Sativa and Indica. Its euphoric uplifting buzz can aid in acute pain, decreasing sensation and providing relief. It’s magic also lies in its terpene component called linalool. Linalool is also present in lavender and is a strong pain reliever and anti-inflammatory.
- Afghan Kush – The Afghan Kush is a 100% Indica strain that has high levels of THC. Because it’s a 100% Indica, the strain is mostly directed to give out a body high. This euphoric sensation that is felt throughout the body numbs pain away. It also has the terpenes caryophyllene that provides an analgesic and anti-inflammatory effect.
- Super Bud – From its name ‘superbud’, this strain of cannabis is a superstar in therapeutic terpenes. 100% Indica providing a body-felt euphoric sensation that can calm nerve related pain. With high doses of CBD and THC, it reduced inflammation in the brain and reduces pain signals. Terpenes in the superbud include caryophyllene, myrcene, and pinene.
- Jack Herer – This is a Sativa-dominant hybrid that is famous worldwide. Although chronic pain is more associated with the Indica’s, Jack Herer is on another pain fighting league of its own. It provides an analgesic effect and is also packed with pain-fighting terpenoids. These terpenoids usually ease the brain and make you forget about the pain.
What Patients Say
Linda Larson Bryle from Leafly.com
“ In 2011, I applied and was approved for Medical Marijuana in the state of Michigan due to chronic pain of lower back neck shoulder legs feet right arm and hand etc. due to 2-auto accidents neither was I at fault for…
I am now 56 I ran the gauntlet of medical tests pills injections all just a bandaid no cure I was never fond of medications the side effects hit me harder than most people but I could take Darvocet. Fortunately, this medication was taken off the market due to heart failure in patients lawsuits were filed that’s when I decided MM was the direction I would be taking…
My quality of life has increased big time. I thank God and all the wonderful people who have kept the cannabis plants alive God blessed the beautiful Cannabis buds to heal our bodies we need THC and CBD to heal our bodies.”
Eric Sheperd from Aporia, BDN Maine Network
“Twenty-five years ago, my life was altered by the onset of Fibromyalgia, a mysterious and poorly understood condition characterized by chronic widespread musculoskeletal pain, unrelenting fatigue, non-restorative sleep, cognitive difficulties, and a host of bizarre neurological complaints. Like many living with chronic pain or illness, I see my life in two sections – life before Fibromyalgia, and life with Fibromyalgia…
I’d tried everything under the sun, been examined by every “–ist,” and tried every “–ology,” with little to no relief… Three months ago, I began taking medical cannabis – legally and under doctor supervision… it has changed everything… the more I thought about it, the more I felt it was important to speak and write openly about my experience, in the hopes that other reluctant or skeptical sufferers of chronic pain might also find relief.”
Should the medical community be more open to the idea of using medical cannabis for pain management?
We would like to hear your thoughts below!