How Medical Cannabis Can Help in Pain Management
Pain is the most common reason that people seek medical assistance, often revealing to be the symptom of an illness or accident. Pain may have various causes such as muscular spasms, arthritis, or gastrointestinal disorders. Pain sensations vary based on one of three pathways in which the pain signals arise and travel to the brain:
Neuropathic pain arises from injury to the central or peripheral nervous system. Examples include neuropathy, trigeminal neuralgia, and radicular pain.
Somatic pain arises from the musculoskeletal system. Examples include bone fractures, joint pain, and connective tissue diseases.
Visceral pain arises from the visceral organs. Examples include phantom limb pain, appendicitis, gallstones, and pelvic pain.
The severity of pain may vary greatly from mild, sharp, and severe. Prescription medications are often used to treat pain, but often at the expense of unpleasant side effects. Medical cannabis may be used to provide mild to moderate relief from painful conditions.
Medical Cannabis to Manage Pain
Medical cannabis has been reported to have potential therapeutic effects for patients suffering from pain. The analgesic potential of cannabinoids may be utilized to treat pain, specifically delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) which interact with your endocannabinoid system (ECS).
Cannabinoids, specifically CBD and THC, have shown to reduce pain by interacting with specific receptors in the ECS to increase anandamide, an endocannabinoid created by the body to maintain homeostasis. Anandamide is involved in reducing the sensation of pain through regulation of the inflammation and neutron signaling. In fact, recent studies suggest that medical cannabis may alleviate symptoms of pain from inflammation in patients suffering from arthritis.
Clinical studies of high-THC strains have demonstrated its effectiveness for the treatment of pain as it relieves central and neuropathic pain. CBD in combination with THC is also demonstrated to be an effective method to treat pain. In 2012, researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine discovered that marijuana reduces pain. Patients who had consumed cannabis had reported a 50% decrease in pain perception, compared to those given a placebo.
In a recent study published in the Journal of Pain, nearly 50% of the participants indicated a reduction in headache and migraine after using cannabis, with little to none side effects. A preclinical study to assess migraine pain in rats also suggested that cannabinoids provides therapeutic effects on migraines.
The pain endured during cancer is often severe and resistant to opiate painkillers. Researchers are currently investigating whether medical cannabis has a different biological effect in the body compared to opiates. One study examined the effect of THC pills differing in doses from 5 milligrams to 20 milligrams – as well as a placebo- on 10 patients with advanced cancer. Patients receiving the highest doses of THC pills reported significant pain relief.
There is strong preclinical evidence to support cannabinoids as an effective therapeutic strategy to improve the quality of life for patients suffering from pain. More patients are turning towards medical cannabis to treat pain, as opposed to opioids and other prescription medications.
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