For patients living with chronic pain, the search for answers is often elusive. When one’s ability to work, to travel, or just to relax is disrupted by constant discomfort, it can become difficult to find hope that better days lay ahead. Fortunately, for many, medical cannabis has helped provide comfort and relief when they needed it most. In our experience working with chronic pain sufferers, the following tips and strategies proved useful in helping patients manage their symptoms.
Patients who’ve turned to medical cannabis frequently cite the difficulty of finding effective relief from prescription drugs as a primary reason for seeking an alternative. Furthermore, even when effective, many medications carry devastating side-effects and troubling risks that undermine holistic wellness. As we discussed previously in the blog:
…the risk of developing dependency, the prevalence of debilitating side effects, and especially the threat of a fatal overdose are concerns our patients communicate to us every day in explaining why they’ve chosen cannabis as an alternative. Sadly, the limited options available for treating serious chronic pain have often forced patients to choose between living with unbearable symptoms, or adopting a regimen of medications whose side effects disrupt their ability to perform basic tasks and enjoy their lives. Many have discovered that medical cannabis provides a middle ground, in which pain can be reduced while maintaining a mental and physical state that allows them to be comfortable, alert, and productive.
The analgesic properties of cannabis are believed to result from multiple functions, including its anti-inflammatory effects, mitigation of neurotransmission, and activation of the endocannabinoid system within the body. While our understanding of how and why it works is the subject of continuing scientific inquiry, evidence of its efficacy in pain management is considerable. As Leafly reports:
In a comprehensive, Harvard-led systematic review of 28 studies examining the efficacy of exo-cannabinoids (e.g. synthetic formulations or cannabinoids from the plant) to treat various pain and medical issues, the author concluded, “Use of marijuana for chronic pain, neuropathic pain, and spasticity due to multiple sclerosis is supported by high quality evidence.”
Of the studies reviewed, six out of six general chronic pain studies and five out of five neuropathic pain studies found a significant improvement in symptoms among patients. Notably, while most of the studies were limited to synthetic preparations of cannabinoids, three of the five neuropathic pain studies investigated “smoked” cannabis, while two examined an oral spray preparation.
Based on our experience working each day with patients who experience chronic pain from a broad range of injuries and conditions, it comes as no surprise that science is beginning to substantiate the benefits we’ve observed.
Product Selection and Dosage
Developing a treatment plan that’s tailored to your individual needs is the key to achieving satisfactory results. Chronic pain encompasses a spectrum of conditions with diverse causes and varied symptomatic response. Discovering which methods of administration, strain categories, and dosage parameters work best for your needs may require some research, but for many, the effort is well-rewarded. Here are a few tips based on our experience.
Dosage – Since tolerance to cannabis itself varies from one patient to the next, identifying the ideal dosage is an individual determination based on your judgement and experience. If you’re new to medical cannabis, starting slow is strongly recommended until you become familiar with how it affects you. More experienced patients may be comfortable with larger doses, but be advised that optimum dosage for achieving pain relief is usually found in the medium range. Large doses may produce side effects without increasing symptom relief.
Methods of Administration – A variety of cannabis preparations exist that can play a role in chronic pain treatment. Edible products are popular for providing long-lasting symptom relief from a single dose. Flowers and concentrates, when smoked or inhaled, provide fast-acting symptom relief and offer the benefit of precise dosage control. Topical products provide localized symptom relief for uncomfortable muscle and skin conditions. Understanding the product categories and how they interact with your symptoms will help inform your selection.
Strain Selection – Generally speaking, the strains available at the dispensary will be therapeutically beneficial for pain management. Individual preferences, however, may vary according to a variety of factors. Patients who require daytime symptom relief typically prefer the more energizing sativa strains. Indicas are popular for evening use to relax the body and assist with rest and recuperation. Strains with elevated levels of CBD are considered especially effective for treating neuropathic pain and are also popular among patients who simply find high-THC strains to be too intoxicating. Feel free to discuss your specific symptoms with dispensary staff, who may be able to relay product feedback from other patients with needs similar to yours.
Talking to Your Doctor – Many chronic pain patients are prescribed a variety of medications for their condition. Reducing consumption of opioid drugs, for example, is a common goal among many patients we’ve worked with. Be advised that reducing consumption of prescription pain relievers, though often very beneficial for health, can carry side effects such as withdrawal. Before and after initiating treatment with medical cannabis, be sure to communicate with your doctor about your health goals and the progress you’re making.
Chronic pain can result from diverse causes, but carries the shared consequence of reducing comfort, mobility, and quality of life among those living with this difficult condition. We’ve been encouraged to observe countless patients achieving beneficial outcomes through treatment with medical cannabis and it’s this aspect of our work that we find most rewarding. Our staff is always available to answer your questions and discuss your health goals to ensure that you discover the solutions you’re looking for.