Treatments for pain relief rely more and more on medical marijuana, which has become a very popular alternative to drugs such as opioids. Marijuana is known to provide relief from the pain caused by nerve damage and inflammation, as well as other types of chronic pain.
Cannabis has been known by humans for thousands of years and one of its earliest uses was as a painkiller. Scientists suspect that cannabinoids are able to inhibit neuronal transmission in pain pathways, thus blocking pain. Cannabis oil is very popular among people who go through chemotherapy for cancer, since it alleviates the severe pain and inflammation associated with it. It is also very effective as a natural cure for fibromyalgia.
The most common cause of disability in the United States of America is arthritis. No effective cure exists for this disease and its symptoms can only be addressed with strong chemical painkillers that have several terrible side effects. Cannabis can reduce the pain, without such negative consequences.
Way before scientists accepted marijuana as a legitimate painkiller; many people were using it as a very effective cure for the extreme pain caused by arthritis. However, doctors have finally accepted its properties. Clinical tests on people suffering from arthritis have confirmed that cannabis can provide relief from both the pain and the inflammation.
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) are the two major cannabinoid compounds found in marijuana. Both have strong anti-inflammatory effects, which explain why cannabis can provide significant pain relief.
While both cannabidiol and tetrahydrocannabinol can treat arthritis pain and inflammation, only THC provides the euphoria side effect that has made marijuana a popular recreational drug. CBD actually seems to be a stronger anti-inflammatory agent.
The effect of THC on rheumatoid arthritis seems to be explained by the apoptosis triggered on the erratic immune cells that attack body tissues. As a result, an immune system that is more active than normal can be balanced. CBD has an antiproliferative effect that pairs very well with the properties of THC. The dangerous out of control immune cells are either killed or stopped from spreading, reducing inflammation and pain.
People who suffer from autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis have a very high number of cytokines, a type of signal proteins produced by immune cells that start inflammation. THC and CBD can directly limit the production of these chemicals.
CDB is able to bind with a number of receptors that are not included in the endocannabinoid system, which opens up many interesting possibilities. Such receptors might have important anti-inflammatory and pain-relief effects but have not been fully investigated yet.
Modern doctors are very often asked to treat chronic back pain, one of the most common problems of today's world. Back pain affects everyone at some point, for various reasons. Between the ages of 30 and 50 people start to have a sedentary life style that triggers this type of pain, also explained by the effects of aging. There are two major types of back pain: neuropathic or nociceptive. The first variety feels like a sudden stab or burn sensation and is caused by a damaged nerve. Nociceptive pain is different because tissues other than nerves are affected, so it is less intense and fells like a constant pressure or ache. Pinched nerves are an example of neuropathic pain, while the most common nociceptive pain is arthritis. Mixed pain is also quite often encountered, when both types are present at the same time.
Around half of all back pain patients have been involved in a vehicle crash, sports injury or another form of traumatic accident that is a clear cause of their issues. However, there is no obvious trigger for the other half of people with back pain. Several types of investigative procedures are available today; the most common are CT scans, MRI or x-rays. If the cause is not found, more complex options include injecting dye into the spinal cord for a better x-ray (known as a myelogram), or injecting the dye directly into the bone in order to scan for bone structure problems. Sometimes no cause is ever discovered.
Between six and eight weeks are usually needed for acute back pain to decrease or disappear. Chronic back pain is a more severe form that occurs at least three times per year or the episodes are longer and more serious. Patients with chronic pain are often unable to perform daily tasks such as walking, bending, riding in or driving a car, sleeping, sitting or even standing. Chronic pain can also expand to other parts of the body, for example the legs can be painful or numb. Many of these cases can’t be treated at all and the only option for the patients is to get used to the pain. This often has very dangerous side effects like insomnia, anxiety, depression or addition to painkillers like opioids.
People with chronic back issues can now use medical marijuana as a very effective solution to their symptoms. Several other options are available, mainly the group of NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications) that includes over the counter products like aspirin, ibuprofen or naproxen sodium. While these drugs are helpful, they cause digestive issues, gastric bleeding, ulcers, nausea and other unwanted side effects. Prescription medication is more powerful but the side effects are also more severe. Examples include Celebrex and other NSAIDS, as well as Vicodin, Norco and various other opiates. Opiates can eliminate the pain but the risk of addiction is very high, which is a major concern for chronic back pain patients. As a result, medical marijuana is becoming a very popular alternative to these drugs, since it is not addictive and causes no negative effects.
The first studies on the use of THC on cancer patients date from 1975. Even the early results showed that it can provide pain relief without any toxicity or side effects. Marijuana was later tested again for chronic pain, with the same results in the end: it is effective and doesn't cause any issues. An increased appetite is the only side effect ever reported by patients but no cases of ulcers, digestive trouble or addiction are known. The other side effects of marijuana are very well known: it improves the mood, reduces anxiety and causes euphoria. Most patients are happy about these effects, which make life easier when dealing with high levels of daily pain.