Chronic pain is a reason people use medical marijuana. According to a 2017 review, 62.2% of medical cannabis users use cannabis to treat chronic pain. If you look at the data on chronic pain, it makes sense that it would be a reason people use medical marijuana. Chronic pain is a huge, widespread issue here in the United States and in the rest of the world. The CDC estimates that 50 million Americans deal with some type of chronic pain. This means that one in every five people in the U.S. suffers from this challenging medical issue.
Chronic pain can drastically impact one’s quality of life. People suffering from unmanaged chronic pain frequently experience depression, insomnia, fatigue, and substance abuse issues. But for the millions of Americans who struggle with chronic pain on a daily basis, medical cannabis can offer relief. Those who are able to find reprieve from their chronic pain through the use of medical marijuana can see a drastic improvement in their quality of life.
So, medical marijuana is a popular way to address chronic pain. But how exactly can marijuana work on pain? And what types of pain does it work on? Below, we’re answering these questions and more as we take a closer look at using medical marijuana for pain management.
What is Chronic Pain?
Chronic pain is pain that lasts beyond the usual course of an acute (short-term) illness or injury. An issue can last for months, years, or a lifetime, and they may be constant or intermittent. It can also vary in severity from mild to severe. The reason is that it can be caused by a wide variety of issues that can affect each individual differently.
There are four general types of chronic pain:
- Neuropathic Pain: This type of pain is caused by damage or injury to the nerves. Nerve pain is usually described as feeling like a burning sensation. People suffering from nerve pain may also feel sensitive to the touch in areas where they have experienced nerve damage.
- Somatic Pain: Somatic pain is also known as musculoskeletal pain. This type of pain comes from injuries on the outer parts of the body, such as the skin, tendons, muscles, joints, bones, and ligaments, and it’s often caused by a joint injury or arthritic conditions.
- Visceral Pain: Visceral pain is related to organs that are inside a cavity. Such as in the chest cavity or the abdominal cavity. Visceral pain is often described as feeling achy. People typically have a hard time identifying the source of visceral pain. The reason is that it comes from deep within the body. It can also be challenging to identify the source of visceral pain because this pain may travel along the nerves to other areas.
- Central Pain: This type of pain is also sometimes called “mystery pain”. The reason is that it occurs without any evidence of a physical injury. The most well-known type of central pain is chronic pain condition fibromyalgia.
Every type of chronic pain can have a devastating impact on a person’s life. People with uncontrolled chronic pain conditions often feel like their lives are deteriorating. Since their physical pain and emotional distress may undermine all areas of their life. A chronic pain patient with severe pain may have extreme difficulties. Such as working, socializing with their friends, putting effort into their romantic relationships, or doing normal daily activities.
How Does Medical Marijuana Work for Chronic Pain?
The current cannabis research suggests that it may be an effective treatment for chronic pain. And some recent studies suggest that cannabis may be particularly good at relieving chronic nerve pain.
It’s thought that marijuana can help regulate pain by interacting with cannabinoid receptors within the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). It plays a role in modulating pain response. Cannabis contains organic compounds called cannabinoids that can interact with the endocannabinoid system. The two most well-known cannabinoids in cannabis are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). Studies have shown that when THC is ingested, it can activate CB1 receptors in the ECS. It appears to directly reduce the sensation of pain. There’s less evidence connected to how CBD may affect pain. Since most studies on marijuana and pain have focused on THC. However, there’s some evidence that CBD may modulate serotonin, which may have a positive effect on pain perception. However, we’ll have to wait for further research to fully understand how CBD and THC affect pain.
Who Uses Medical Marijuana for Chronic Pain?
People may use medical marijuana to ease chronic pain related to a wide range of medical issues and conditions, including:
- Accident-related pain
- Cancer pain
- Central nervous system conditions
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Chronic headaches
- HIV/AIDs-related pain
- Injury-related pain
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Lower back pain
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Neck pain
- Non-specific chronic pain
- Rheumatoid arthritis
Marijuana Use as an Alternative to Opioid Use and NSAID Use
Many people who use marijuana for pain are specifically looking for an alternative to prescription opioids. Opioids can be effective for the treatment of chronic pain. But they also come with the potential for adverse effects, including serious side effects. Opioids are highly addictive and overdosing on opioids can lead to death. In 2018 alone, prescription opioid overdoses killed almost 15,000 Americans (and nonprescription opioid deaths equaled double that amount). Marijuana can be seen as an alternative to opiates since it may offer pain relief.
Some people also turn to medical marijuana as an alternative to NSAIDs such as Advil or Aleve. Many people cannot take NSAIDs due to certain health issues (such as kidney problems, ulcers, or GERD). So they use cannabis as an alternative to these common over-the-counter pain medications.
Other Benefits of Medical Cannabis
The current research on marijuana suggests that it can relieve pain and a variety of other issues. There’s some evidence that medical cannabis may help treat:
- Appetite Loss
- Eating disorders
- Multiple sclerosis
- Muscle spasms
- Tight muscles
- And more
How to Use Medical Marijuana for Pain Management
If you’re interested in using cannabis to treat a medical condition, it’s always best to talk to your doctor first. If your doctor feels like medical marijuana would be right for you, you may want to get a medical marijuana card.
The type of marijuana that may work best for any one person’s chronic pain is extremely personal. At Essence Dispensary, we’re often asked which strains of marijuana are best for chronic pain. There certainly are some strains that are well-known for treating chronic pain, such as Master Kush. However, the best strain for your pain symptoms will depend on the type of pain you’re experiencing. Whether or not you also have other symptoms you’d like to address. Also, how your unique body responds to cannabinoid ratios, terpenes, and different cannabis products.
If you’re interested in trying marijuana for your pain management, we’d be happy to provide you with a personalized product recommendation based on your symptoms, your past experience with marijuana, and any guidelines your doctor may have provided. If you’d like to speak with one of our knowledgeable employees, you can reach out through our website or give your closest Essence Dispensary location a call during our regular business hours.