Medical marijuana for pain relief has been a common choice to supplement treatments for discomfort associated with cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and severe nerve damage. While marijuana is legal medically and recreationally in many states across the nation, it is still federally illegal. This has put a damper on some scientific studies relating to marijuana, but here is what we do know so far.
How Does Marijuana Address Physical Discomfort?
Marijuana contains both cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) compounds. These substances resemble compounds that occur naturally in our bodies and interact with our endocannabinoid system. THC and CBD stimulate the brain’s cannabinoid receptors to reduce pain signals. THC has a psychoactive reaction known as a “high”, whereas CBD does not. Along with its soothing benefits, CBD is also known to have anti-inflammatory properties that can help ease conditions like joint discomfort and arthritis.
Recent Research Studies
In 2016, a research study published in The Journal of Pain found that cannabis use was associated with better quality of life in patients with chronic pain. It was also found to be associated with 64% reduction in use of narcotic pain medication, fewer medications used, and less medication side effects in patients contending with ongoing pain issues.
Another 2016 research study looked at the effects of cannabis use on patients with frequent migraines. The research was conducted at 2 specialty clinics in Colorado with 121 participants. The results found that marijuana use was associated with a decreased frequency of migraine headaches in patients.
We can also look at scientific studies that have been conducted around the world for more perspective. This 2016 study conducted in Israel was published in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management and took a look at 17,000 cancer patients who used medical marijuana for pain and symptom relief. 70% reported experiencing improvement in their discomfort levels and general well-being after using cannabis.
Understanding Different Strains of Marijuana Strains & Effects for Pain Relief
There are three strains of marijuana that are available for purchase at dispensaries. These include cannabis indica, cannabis sativa, and hybrids. Research is limited on what the best strains of medical marijuana for pain may be, but we do have survey data collected from cannabis users.
In 2014, the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine featured the results from an online survey that had 95 participants. The results found that the indica strain was preferred when users wanted to ease discomfort and wanted help with sleep concerns associated with it. Whereas, the sativa strain offered more energy and mood improvement. Within this survey, medical marijuana for pain management was found to be most effective when used for non-migraine headaches, neuropathy, spasticity, and joint pain.
Alternatives to Marijuana Flowers
Marijuana used for addressing pain relief, anxiety, nausea, lack of appetite, and other conditions is typically smoked in its natural flower form, but there are also other methods of consumption. Marijuana can be infused with oils to create edibles like chocolate, gummies, cookies, beverages, and more. It can also be concentrated and extracted to become more pure and potent. These extracts can be vaporized, made into edibles, or added to natural flowers. Many people using recreational and medical marijuana for pain prefer the convenience of vaping a cannabis concentrate or discreetly eating THC gummies.
Is Marijuana Best for You?
While more research is needed to fully explore the therapeutic effects of medical marijuana for pain and other physical discomfort, there are many indications that it can be an effective treatment for chronic pain.
Each person has their own body chemistry and makeup that can interact differently with THC and CBD compounds. The best way to see if marijuana will help with your unique situation is to try it out several times. You may have the most positive results with flowers of the indica strain, or a single toke from a sativa vape, or perhaps edibles made from hybrid strains will best suit your needs. Note that this article is intended for informational purposes only, and if you are dealing with ongoing issues with pain, please consult with your primary care provider before adding any new treatment to your care plan.
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