What is pain? When we describe pain, we often refer to the area of our body we are experiencing it in (Example: Low Back Pain, Neck Pain, Knee Pain). But what if you learned pain occurs in the brain? Would it change how you treated and managed your pain?
The sensation of pain is activated by brain cells. Those brain cells can also dictate how strong the pain signals are. There are two types of pain. People can experience pain with physical injury, or pain with no physical injury associated with it. Pain can also be acute (sudden), or chronic (persistent). Chronic pain is often referred to as an invisible disability. While there may be no cure to chronic pain, treatments focus on providing people a better quality of life.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report based on their 2016 National Health Interview Survey that estimated 50 million Americans (20%) report some form of chronic pain. A new study published in the Journal of Health Affairs reported 62% of medical marijuana users are using it to treat pain – and it may be working. A survey conducted by Minnesota health officials in 2018 showed that 60% of patients surveyed (2200) reported benefits from using marijuana to treat pain. The survey also reported 43% of doctors observed positive effects in patients who used medical marijuana to treat their pain. It’s also important to note that there were no reports of life-threatening side effects that required hospitalization in the Minnesota health official’s research.
How does it work? THC stimulates the brain’s cannabinoid receptors and provides relief from the sensation of pain. CBD also interacts with these receptors and offers additional anti-inflammatory benefits. By targeting both the inflammation that causes pain and the signals that travel to the brain, cannabis can provide relief.
Research has shown positive results in treating the following types of chronic pain:
1) Chronic Pain including Musculoskeletal and Nerve Pain
3) Pain related to serious illness such as Cancer, HIV and Parkinson’s
5) Anxiety and PTSD
6) Epilepsy and Seizures
While more controlled studies are needed, the results are promising. Medical marijuana may be an effective alternative to opioids for chronic pain management.