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How Does Medical Marijuana Help With Treating Pain?

figure bending due to back pain

Pain is the main reason why people seek out medical assistance. According to a report by the National Institutes of Health, chronic pain is more commonly found in Americans than cancer, heart disease, and diabetes combined. Because it is hard to pinpoint a specific source of pain, it can be even harder to treat that pain. If you have suffered from chronic pain, also known as intractable pain, the chances are that you have tried almost everything on the market to find relief. Luckily, those who live in Pennsylvania are now able to be prescribed medical marijuana to help relieve chronic pain.

What is Chronic Pain?

Chronic pain is a constant pain that often cannot be treated or controlled with many traditional forms of healthcare. When the pain is mild to moderate, it is commonly referred to as chronic pain and when that pain becomes more severe, it is referred to as intractable pain. These two types of pain are no different from each other except for how they are referred to regarding severity. Chronic and intractable pain can usually cause a bedridden or house-bound state and, if not adequately treated, can lead to death caused by the condition associated with the symptoms. Because there is often no cure, the goal of chronic pain is to relieve the patient’s discomfort as much as possible.

Common causes of chronic or intractable pain are:

  • Migraine headaches or tension headaches
  • Cancer
  • Arthritis
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Scoliosis
  • Lower back pain
  • Shingles
  • Nerve damage
  • Central pain syndrome
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • + many more

What is Medical Marijuana?

Medical marijuana is a plant-based medicine that utilizes the marijuana plant and its chemicals to treat specific diseases and conditions. In Pennsylvania, it is controlled under certain restrictions and government regulations, making it a safe alternative for approved patients. You are permitted to purchase medical marijuana with an approved medical marijuana card, for which a certified doctor can certify you after confirming that you have one of the 21 approved conditions in Pennsylvania.

Medical marijuana form of consumption:

  • Pills
  • Extracts
  • Liquids and tinctures
  • Topicals
  • Patches
  • Flower (also known as dry-leaf)

There are two main cannabinoids present in the marijuana plant that can be used for medical purposes. They are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). THC is known to increase appetite and reduce nausea in consumers while also decreasing pain, inflammation, and muscle control problems. THC is also responsible for the “high” effect that consumers feel upon using the plant. CBD does not cause psychoactive effects or a high feeling like THC, but is also useful for treating pain management, reducing inflammation, treating mental illness, treating addiction, reducing seizures, and more.

How Medical Marijuana Can Provide Pain Relief

In Pennsylvania, medical marijuana has been approved to treat patients suffering from pain with the following qualifying conditions:

  • Severe chronic or intractable pain of a neuropathic origin
  • Severe chronic or intractable pain in which conventional therapeutic interventions are found ineffective
  • Severe chronic or intractable pain in which opiate therapy is found ineffective

But how exactly does marijuana reduce pain? Pain is commonly referred to as a psychological phenomenon. The more a patient focuses on pain, the more severe it is going to feel. Oftentimes, the pain is too excruciating to ignore.

Medical marijuana also provides anti-inflammatory properties to its users. The body has an endocannabinoid system which is an electrochemical signaling system found in the nerves. The system has receptors throughout the body and helps the human body regulate itself. Both THC and CBD have been proven to reduce the body’s inflammatory response through the endocannabinoid system.

When marijuana is consumed by an individual, the parts of the individual’s brain affiliated with motivation and reward are more active. The brain begins to release more rewards-driven neurotransmitters, giving the consumer a sense of euphoria. Cannabinoids that are found in the marijuana plant are able to suppress peripheral nerve pain through a few different mechanisms. Additionally, marijuana consumption tends to make the user more easily distracted, shifting more focus away from the pain itself.

The Side Effects of Medical Marijuana Use

Common side effects, although usually never severe, that come from the consumption of medical marijuana include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Dry or red eyes
  • Dizziness
  • Short-term memory loss
  • Increased appetite
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Increased thirst
  • Euphoria

Although those may seem like a lot, they are very mild compared to the side effects that one may experience through other methods of medical pain relief.

Currently, the primary treatments for pain are medications, electrical stimulation, nerve blocks, and even surgery. Although many of these treatments are viewed as effective, it is rare that they come without harsh, negative side effects. Medication use, specifically pain-killing medications, are known to be highly addictive and may result in long-term consequences.

Why Medical Marijuana is the Safer Choice

As mentioned, pain-killing medications are the most common form of treatment for pain and are known to be incredibly addictive. Roughly 21% to 29% of those who are prescribed opioids for chronic pain tend to misuse them. In fact, opioid addiction was responsible for over 64,000 deaths in the United States in 2016, and that number is rapidly increasing as time passes. We are now starting to hear about an “opioid epidemic” in many parts of the United States. Marijuana consumption is not psychologically addictive like many painkillers.

The Journal of Pain has proven that the use of medical marijuana has been associated with a decrease in opiate medication use by 64% in patients who suffer from chronic pain. Medical marijuana has also been proven to provide an overall better quality of life for those who suffer from chronic pain. Additionally, due to the multiple ways that medical marijuana may be consumed, the patient is given a wider variety of options to determine which exact method is best for their pain treatment.

How Restore Integrative Wellness Center Can Help

Interested in learning more about the benefits of medical marijuana? We act not only as a marijuana dispensary but as a place of healing to enhance the quality of life of our patients. Our dispensary is a clean and relaxing environment, designed so you can be comfortable while receiving the care and education that you need. Please feel free to call us to book a phone consultation with our pharmacist and find the best treatment plan for you.

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