Cannabis: Offering Hope for a Breakthrough in the Treatment of Chronic Pain

For years, doctors have considered chronic pain to be a symptom, a troublesome but unavoidable side-effect of physical injury. Thankfully, this perspective has shifted. Currently affecting roughly 50 million Americans, chronic pain is increasingly being recognized as a medical condition of its own, one that has a major impact on our overall health and wellness. 

We think it’s about time for this reappraisal. But doing so suggests we reexamine the topic of chronic pain from the ground up, asking questions like “what is chronic pain?” from a fresh perspective. What’s more, it demands a fresh approach to a challenging medical condition. Is there a link between cannabis and chronic pain treatment? 

If you suffer from this potentially debilitating condition, we think you’ll find some truly exciting information in this article. We’ll focus on a few of the most important questions surrounding the use of cannabis for pain, including sharing some promising research on CBD and chronic pain.

Cannabis and Chronic Pain: Understanding The Roots of Pain

Today, a host of clinical studies suggest that cannabis can be a game-changer in the treatment of pain, providing relief from symptoms while reducing our dependence on objectively harmful pharmaceuticals, such as opioids.

But to understand how cannabis and chronic pain interact, we have to understand a bit more about pain itself. Far from there being a single type of pain, researchers now recognize no fewer than three of them:

  • Nociceptive Pain: This type of pain results from a physical injury; it’s often treated with anti-inflammatory medications such as NSAIDs.
  • Neuropathic (or “Nerve”) Pain: While this type of pain can also be caused by a physical injury, it refers specifically to a nerve injury. It doesn’t typically respond to anti-inflammatories.
  • Central Pain: Sometimes called “mystery pain,” this pain occurs in the absence of a physical injury. One example is fibromyalgia, a difficult-to-diagnose condition whose symptoms typically include central pain.

Cannabis and Chronic Pain: Using Cannabinoids to Manage Pain

Although each of these types of pain is different, studies indicate that cannabis may potentially treat all of them. How it does so largely comes down to the topic of cannabinoids.

Cannabinoids are all-natural compounds that exert various effects on the body. You’re probably familiar with THC, which is the cannabinoid responsible for the cannabis plant’s intoxication as well as its ability to help suppress inflammatory pain.

The second most prevalent cannabinoid is CBD. While it doesn’t impart a “high,” it has been linked to several important effects, including the ability to reduce inflammation. Knowing what we know about pain, here are some ways in which using cannabis products containing various ratios of THC and CBD might work.  

  • Nociceptive Pain: To treat this type of pain, many clinicians recommend using a cannabis product that contains a roughly balanced 1:1 ratio between THC and CBD. Because each one works slightly differently, you’ll get the maximum benefit of each one’s pain-fighting properties. And if you find THC’s euphoria distracting, the high proportion of CBD will help mitigate some of its intoxicating effects.
  • Neuropathic Pain: While some patients turn to THC for relief, CBD may actually be more useful here. One study found that CBD might be effective against neuropathic pain. And at this very moment, a groundbreaking study funded by the Dutch government is focused on finding definitive answers to the question of whether CBD and chronic pain have some interaction.
  • Central Pain: While many questions about this puzzling type of pain remain, there are also signs of hope. One study on 26 fibromyalgia patients found that cannabis offered relief. Another recent study came to much the same conclusion. That said, more research is needed to determine whether CBD, THC, or a combination are better for treating central pain.

Cannabis and Chronic Pain: In Conclusion

We’re excited by the possibility that cannabis may offer sustainable relief from chronic pain. But we also want to use this opportunity to point out a special characteristic of cannabis medicine: Cannabis is biphasic, meaning that its effects change depending on the dosage you ingest. 

While it may seem counterintuitive, research indicates that the majority of people experience greater relief from pain and other symptoms by using less cannabis, not more. That’s why we always suggest you use the least amount of cannabis needed to achieve your desired results. While it may take you slightly longer to find your ideal dosage, once you do, you can expect gentler, more effective, and more sustainable results.

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