Chronic pain affects more Americans than diabetes, heart disease, and cancer combined, according to the National Institutes of Health. It is also the most common cause of long-term disability. Chronic pain can stem from a number of conditions, including conditions associated with aging such as arthritis. Unfortunately, pain is also notoriously difficult to treat, and many common prescription medications have undesirable and severe side effects.
This has led many seniors to consider medical marijuana. Florida seniors can legally obtain medical marijuana by visiting a qualified physician. How effective is medical marijuana for pain relief, though? What should patients expect? To understand the potential medical marijuana house for relieving chronic pain, it helps to look at other common pain treatment options.
Common Chronic Pain Treatment Options
Pain is often caused by inflammation. To treat this inflammation, many patients use nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen. NSAIDs can be effective, but they may also have side effects that can be difficult to tolerate. These may include:
- Gastrointestinal issues. NSAIDs can cause ulcers and other stomach problems.
- High blood pressure. NSAIDs reduce the blood flow to your kidneys, which builds up fluids in your body, which increases blood pressure.
- Kidney problems. NSAIDs and high doses may cause permanent kidney damage.
- Allergic reactions. Some people are extremely allergic to NSAIDs. In particular, people with asthma tend to have allergic reactions.
People with severe chronic pain that doesn’t respond to over-the-counter medications may be prescribed opioids. Opioids treat pain by binding to receptors in the brain, blocking pain. There are many opioids on the market, including tramadol (ultram), codeine, fentanyl, hydrocodone, morphine, and oxycodone. Opioids can cause serious side effects, including:
- Vomiting and nausea
- Dependence and addiction
Addiction can lead to serious personal consequences, including fatal overdoses.
Given the side effects associated with common chronic pain treatment options, many patients are looking for a better treatment option. For many seniors, that option is medical cannabis.
Can Medical Marijuana Alleviate Chronic Pain?
In 2017, a comprehensive review of the health effects of cannabis and cannabinoids was released by The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The review considered more than 10,000 abstracts, and they concluded that there was substantial evidence that cannabis is effective for the treatment of chronic pain in adults.
Although the research is relatively new due to complications from marijuana being illegal on a federal level, cannabis has been used to relieve pain for thousands of years, according to Cannabis and Pain: A Clinical Review, which appeared in the Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research Journal. It is thought that the cannabinoids in marijuana turn on pain inhibition. Medical marijuana can also reduce inflammation, which in turn reduces pain. Although cannabidiol (CBD) is most commonly associated with medical cannabis, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) also has pain relieving qualities.
What Are The Best Strains For Chronic Pain?
Historically, a popular way to describe different medical marijuana strains used the categories: indica, sativa, and hybrids. Indica is generally considered to be relaxing, sativa is considered to be energizing, and hybrids are a combination of the two. According to a survey conducted by the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, patients generally preferred indica for pain management. However, there is some debate over the way cannabis strains are labeled (taxonomy), since there has been so much cross breeding among different plants. Thus, although the designation of indica vs. hybrid is useful when discussing sedative properties it should be noted that ALL strains of cannabis have analgesic, pain relieving benefits.
The best strain will depend on your individual situation. For example, one strain may work better for pain relief during the day and another might work better to relieve pain which disrupts sleep. Your medical marijuana doctor will make a recommendation based on your medical needs and your lifestyle.
What Should Patients Expect in Terms of Pain Relief from Medical Marijuana?
Research into medical marijuana’s impact on chronic pain is still in its infancy, and pain is also subjective. One person’s experience of pain is very different from another person’s. This means that It’s difficult to say exactly what impact medical marijuana will have on a given person’s chronic pain. With that in mind, though, study after study shows improvement in pain with medical cannabis use. It may relieve your pain entirely or it may make it more tolerable. Your experience will also vary depending on your dosage in the medical cannabis strain that you use.
To find the right dose for your pain level, Dr. Daniel P. Stein of Neurology of Cannabis typically recommends starting low and going slow. Start with a low dose of medical cannabis with the ratio of CBD:THC recommended by your doctor. Keep close track of your dosage and your symptoms and slowly increase the amount that you take until you find your desired level of pain relief.
If you do not find the relief you were hoping for, you may need to try a different strain or a different delivery method. It can take some amount of trial and error to find the right treatment regimen for your needs. Fortunately, most of our patients experience significant relief of pain, and are able to reduce or eliminate opioid analgesics, within the two months of therapy.
How Do I Get Started With Using Medical Cannabis For Pain Relief?
The first step to getting started with using medical cannabis for pain relief is to contact an experienced medical marijuana doctor, such as Dr. Stein at Neurology of Cannabis. Your doctor will review your medical records and your current medications and ask questions to get to know you and your situation. From there, your doctor will assist you in registering for the Florida Medical Marijuana Use Registry.
Once you complete your registration, you will be able to fill your orders with a medical marijuana treatment center. As you start your regimen, keep track of how much you take, when you take it, and its impact on your symptoms. If you have questions or concerns, contact your medical marijuana doctor.
Compassionate Care for Chronic Pain
At Neurology of Cannabis, Dr. Stein provides professional recommendations for medical marijuana. Florida seniors can find relief from chronic pain and other health conditions. We help people resume their daily activities and live pain-free lives. Dr. Stein is a board-certified physician with more than 26 years of practice experience. He provides compassionate care to every patient.
You do not need to live a life limited by chronic pain. Make an appointment with Neurology of Cannabis today to find out more about how medical cannabis can help you.