Medical Marijuana for Chronic Pain
Medical marijuana is often lauded anecdotally for its pain management properties, but what exactly about cannabis makes it such a potentially effective pain medicine?
Keep reading to learn the science behind cannabis’ effects and what medical strains are best for pain relief.
Related: Marijuana for fibromyalgia: Does it work?
The Widespread Problem of Chronic Pain
Pain is a pretty ubiquitous problem. More than 100 million Americans, or roughly one-third of our population, experience chronic pain, or pain that lasts longer than 12 weeks. However, chronic pain isn’t the only elephant in the room.
Aside from chronic pain sufferers, nearly 18% of Americans experience some form of pain, and fibromyalgia effects nearly 5 million individuals in the United States alone. Luckily, for all of these sufferers, medical cannabis may be able to help
While it’s common to manage pain with prescription drugs like Percocet or Vicodin, these drugs often lead to dependency and addiction. Opioids have become a multimillion dollar industry, so much so that separate drugs are sold that reduce constipation that comes as a result of chronic opioid use.
Medical cannabis offers a new solution to pain management that doesn’t run the risk of dependency or physical addiction, or throwing off your regularity. In fact, studies have shown that medical cannabis may help individuals get off opioids.
But, how does medical marijuana work to fight pain? Continue reading to learn the science behind cannabis’ pain killing power and what types of cannabis are best for managing your pain.
Medical Cannabis and Pain Management
Pain Management and the Endocannabinoid System
The science behind cannabis’ supposed pain management efficacy concerns our body’s EC, or endocannabinoid system, a group of neurotransmitters which connect to receptor sites across the body that relate to pain sensation, mood, memory, appetite, and other physiological processes.
While everyone has an EC system in their body, we all react differently to cannabis, so cannabis may not be right for everyone’s needs when it comes to pain. That being said, your body’s EC system has receptors which, when binded to, typically reduce inflammation and sensitivity to pain.
For those with chronic pain, or fibromyalgia, their body doesn’t produce enough endocannabinoids on their own to bind to these receptors, and they end up hypersensitive to pain.
Cannabinoids, compounds found in medical cannabis, mimic the effect of your body’s naturally producing endocannabinoids. This means that when chronic pain sufferers use medical cannabis, they flood their EC system’s receptors with feel good cannabinoids that reduce their sensitivity to pain and lower any bodily inflammation.
Cannabis Indica effects are body focused and provides physical relief from pain as well as aid sleep
Pain Relief for the Body: Cannabis Indica
Medical cannabis can provide pain relief in different ways, depending on the type you use and what you want to get out of it. For instance, you may suffer from chronic pain, especially during nighttime, and seek physical relief.
A strong acting Indica will put you into a state of relaxation, and can even numb your pain and help you fall and stay asleep.
High indica strains are recommended for both chronic and acute pain where the user wants to mask the pain entirely, as well as rest and relax. Often indicas are associated with a “couch lock” or lazy effect, which make them perfect strains for combating physical pain and improving rest.
Pain Relief for the Mind: Cannabis Sativa
Cannabis Sativa is mind focused and provides mental relief from pain as well as anti inflammatory properties
While both Cannabis Indica and Cannabis Sativa have similar compounds, like THC and CBD, which contain anti inflammatory properties as well as analgesic effects, the two types manage pain in different ways.
When it comes to Cannabis Sativa, the couch lock, numbing, and sleep inducing effects are decreased, and the user enjoys an uplifting, energetic therapeutic effect that stimulates thinking and creativity.
This effect of euphoria, or “high,” tends to help patients with chronic pain get their mind off of the physical aspect of pain, and improve their well being. Users who have less intense pain, or whose pain is more psychological in nature, may benefit from a sativa dominant strain taking their mind someplace else.
Pain Relief Minus the High: CBD Strains If you want medical cannabis’ benefits, but don’t want to experience the euphoric “high” CBD strains are right for you
You may be on the fence about trying medical cannabis because you don’t want to experience any sort of impairment, whether for personal or work related reasons. You’re not alone.
Charlotte Figi, much like you, couldn’t use medical cannabis for her seizures because, at the age of 6 her parents didn’t want her impaired by cannabis. Luckily, a strain was developed for Charlotte and kids like her called Charlotte’s Web, which is low in THC but high in CBD.
CBD, the second most abundant cannabinoid found in cannabis, has the accompanying pain killing and anti inflammatory properties of THC minus the euphoric therapeutic effect, or “high.” This means cannabis professionals can create strains like charlotte’s web for those who wish to take advantage of medical cannabis without experiencing THC’s effects.
There are plenty of high CBD strains to choose from. These strains can be quite helpful if you want pain relief during work but cannot be impaired.
No one should have to go through their life suffering from pain. I hope this blog helped shed some light on why medical cannabis can be so helpful to pain sufferers, and what types of cannabis are most beneficial for pain relief.
Have you tried medical marijuana for chronic pain? Share your experience in the comments below.
If you have any questions or comments please feel free to add them below!
- Legalization of medical marijuana and opioid overdose
- Medications for fibromyalgia, too many don’t work
- Does marijuana work for chronic pain relief?
- CBD oil for improved sleep
Hailey Miller says
I have asthma for almost 2 months now, it starts when we have sports fest in our school. While we are playing truck and field I feel something in my chest, I’m having a hard time to breathe and I feel dizzy that time. Our coach told us that it’s better for me to try swimming because it will help me to breathe clearly. But my friend told me to try marijuana instead of swimming. Along the way, i came across this article that MJ can help me to reduce my hard time breathing. I don’t know who will I listen to. Has anyone tried marijuana as an alternative medicine for illness? Can somebody help me with my problem? Thanks in advance.
Hello Hailey – first of all you need to be examined by a doctor to rule out any other health issues. I was diagnosed with asthma when I felt a heaviness in my chest and had difficult breathing. I ended up in intensive care for a number of days. Asthma kills – it’s something you have to pay attention to and get good scientific advice from a doctor. My asthma is under management by use of an inhaler 2x daily and I carry a rescue inhaler in my purse or jean pocket in case I feel an asthma attack coming on. See a doc Hailey.