Managing Chronic Pain with Cannabis: A Guide to Using CBD and THC for Pain Relief
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Pain problems are common in Thailand – and many people are starting to consider using cannabis for pain relief.
While there are different types of chronic pain, the fact remains that it is quite common in society. One study suggests that up to 30% of the general population suffers from low back pain. Another study looked at pain as a whole and found that roughly 20% of Thai people have some form of acute pain.
As medical cannabis is now legal in Thailand, it has become a promising option for managing pain. Here’s a handy guide to help you get started.
Medicinal marijuana for pain: the scientific understanding
Scientific research on the health effects of cannabis on pain has produced diverse findings. This is largely due to the complex nature of the marijuana plant.
Various clinical trials and studies have examined whether medical marijuana can help with pain relief.
The following sections summarise the main findings from these studies. More clinical evidence is needed to determine its potential long-term effects.
Endocannabinoid system (ECS)
Cannabinoids, such as CBD and THC, interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS plays a crucial role in regulating various physiological processes, including pain sensation and inflammation. By supplementing the ECS with cannabinoids, it is thought that pain and inflammation can be managed more effectively.
CBD and THC in pain management
Both CBD and THC have shown potential for helping chronic pain patients, courtesy of their anti-inflammatory properties.
CBD, being non-psychoactive, is preferred by many due to its lack of intoxicating effects. Studies have shown that CBD can be effective in managing chronic pain, surgical pain, neuropathic pain, and inflammation.
THC, on the other hand, has been found to be effective in managing severe pain associated with conditions such as multiple sclerosis, cancer, and neuropathic pain. THC’s psychoactive properties, however, may limit its use in certain cases.
A 2018 systematic review published in Frontiers in Pharmacology found that cannabinoids could be effective in treating various types of chronic pain, including neuropathic pain, inflammatory pain, and mixed pain conditions such as fibromyalgia, migraines, and arthritis. Patients reported a reduction in pain intensity, better sleep quality, and improved quality of life.
A 2018 review published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews found that cannabinoids, including THC and CBD, can be effective in treating neuropathic pain associated with conditions such as multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury, and diabetic neuropathy.
A 2016 systematic review published in Arthritis Care & Research found that cannabinoids, including THC and CBD, demonstrated efficacy, tolerability, and safety in the treatment of rheumatic diseases, such as arthritis. This supports the potential use of cannabis for managing arthritis pain.
Cannabis-based medicines, particularly those containing THC, may provide effective relief for cancer-related pain when compared to placebo – as noted in a 2020 systematic review published in the Journal of Pain Research. This suggests that cannabis may be a viable option for managing cancer pain.
Cannabinoids and terpenes
Research has shown that the combined use of cannabinoids and terpenes, also known as the “entourage effect,” can provide enhanced pain relief compared to the use of individual cannabinoids. Terpenes, the aromatic compounds found in cannabis, can interact with the ECS and other receptor systems in the body, enhancing the overall analgesic effects.
An alternative to opioids
Using cannabis for chronic pain relief can help reduce the need for opioid pain medications in some cases. This means that people may not have to rely on opioids as much to manage their pain. This can help lower the risk of becoming addicted to opioids or overdosing on them.
While research on the use of cannabis as a medical treatment for pain has made significant strides in recent years, there is still much to be learned. It is important to note that using cannabis for pain relief should always be discussed with a healthcare professional.
Cannabis for pain management: Products to consider
Cannabis products for medicinal purposes come in various forms, making it easier for individuals to find the most suitable option for their specific needs. The following sections outline different cannabis products that can be used for pain relief.
Cannabis-infused topicals, such as creams, balms, and salves, can be applied directly to the skin for localised pain relief. They are absorbed through the skin, targeting the affected area without causing side effects or the psychoactive high. Topicals containing CBD, THC, or a combination of both can be effective in addressing joint pain, muscle soreness, and inflammation.
Tinctures and oils
Cannabis tinctures and oils can be taken sublingually (under the tongue), mixed with food and beverages, or applied to the skin.
They allow for precise dosing and produce the effects quickly. They are available in various forms, including CBD-only (like SEYA 2,000 mg or Midnight 2,000 mg), THC-only, and balanced CBD: THC ratios, to cater to individual preferences and pain management needs.
Edibles, like THC/CBD gummies, chocolates, and brownies, offer a tasty and easy-to-consume method of taking cannabis for pain relief.
They usually take longer to take effect compared to other methods but provide longer-lasting relief. It is essential to start with a low dose and gradually increase it to find the optimal dosage for effectively treating pain.
Cannabis flowers are the most traditional method of consuming cannabis for pain relief. They can be smoked or vaporised, providing immediate relief.
Buds come in various strains, each with a unique combination of cannabinoids and terpenes that can cater to specific pain management needs. Some popular strains for pain relief include ACDC, Harlequin, and Blue Dream.
Marijuana & pain: What to remember
To get the best results and avoid side effects when using marijuana for pain relief, there are some important things to keep in mind. To learn more, you can visit our detailed take on how to use CBD for pain – the same principles apply to cannabis as a whole too.
Start with a low dose
It is vital to start with a low dose and gradually increase it until you find the optimal dosage that provides relief without causing unwanted side effects. This helps minimize the risk of adverse reactions and ensures that you’re using the lowest effective dose.
Monitor your response
Keep track of your response to cannabis use, including any changes in pain intensity, duration, and frequency. This can help you and your doctor assess the effectiveness of your current cannabis regimen and make necessary adjustments.
Explore different cannabis items
Cannabis strains and products can vary significantly in their chemical makeup, which can influence their effectiveness in managing pain. Experiment with different strains, formulations, and CBD: THC ratios to find the combination that works best for you.
Consult a doctor
Before using cannabis for medical purposes, consult with your doctor, who is knowledgeable about marijuana. They can help you determine the appropriate product, dosage, and consumption method based on your specific needs, pain type, and any underlying medical conditions.
When using cannabis for pain management, it’s essential to be aware of potential risks and take appropriate precautions.
Although cannabis is generally considered safe and well-tolerated, it can cause side effects in some individuals, like:
- Dry mouth
- Increased heart rate
- Changes in appetite
- Short-term memory impairment
Mixing cannabis with medicines
Cannabis, when consumed with other medications, can sometimes result in drug interactions. When this happens, the medicine you take may not be that effective (or be too effective), thus leading to side effects.
When using medicinal weed for pain management, it’s essential to inform your doctor about any prescription medications, over-the-counter drugs, or dietary supplements you’re taking. This can help them identify potential interactions and adjust the treatment plan accordingly.
Alternative pain remedies to cannabis
If you’re exploring alternative pain remedies to cannabis, several options can provide relief. Some of these alternatives include:
- Massage therapy
- Physical therapy
- Chiropractic care
- Yoga and tai chi
- Meditation and mindfulness
- Heat and cold therapy
- Over-the-counter pain relievers
- Prescription medications
Cannabis may be a promising option for individuals seeking relief from chronic pain. While research is still ongoing, studies have shown that both CBD and THC can be effective in managing pain symptoms.
When used in combination with other treatments and lifestyle changes, cannabis can provide a natural and effective solution for those struggling with pain. It is important to talk to your doctor before starting any new treatment plan to ensure that cannabis is a safe and appropriate option.
How do I use cannabis oil for pain?
Cannabis oil can be taken orally by placing drops under the tongue, adding it to food or drinks, or it can be applied topically to the affected area via massage. A combination of topical and oral use can be the best approach.
Which cannabis strains are best for pain?
ACDC, Harlequin, Cannatonic, Blue Dream, Granddaddy Purple, and Bubba Kush are popular strains for chronic pain. That said, trying out different flowers can help you identify the best strains for you.
How much cannabis should I use for pain relief?
Start with a low dose and adjust as needed for relief, as the amount varies depending on the individual, their tolerance and method of consumption. Your doctor can also help you with the ideal dosage.