The issue of legalizing marijuana for medicinal use is still debated a lot – even these days when many states have already approved this.
Beyond myths and urban legend though, it is important to understand the relationship between marijuana and chronic pain if you really want to make sure that you are making the right choice for yourself.
Is marijuana actually able to treat chronic pain or not? Is it OK for you? And what is chronic pain, really? Read on and find answers to these questions (and more).
Chronic Pain Explained
Generally speaking, specialists diagnose as “chronic pain” any type of pain that has been present for more than 3-6 months.
However, there are also specialists who extend this period for up to 12 months (and any kind of pain that lasts less than that is classified as “acute”).
Furthermore, there are also specialists who say “acute pain” is the pain that lasts anything less than 30 days, “sub-acute pain” is anything that lasts between 1-6 months and “chronic pain” is anything that lasts more than 6 months.
Whichever way you look at it, chronic pain can affect one’s life to the point where its quality is significantly lowered.
Very frequently, chronic pain can make a person lose their appetite (or their ability to perform) for certain activities, it can make a person be less efficient in work and school and it can make a person have sleep-related issues (from which a series of other medical conditions can arise).
Chronic pain comes in many shapes and forms and it can affect almost every single area of one’s body.
Basically, there are two main types of chronic pain from which all the other sub-categories derive: nociceptive pain and neuropathic pain.
The first one is characterized by the activation of the nociceptors (receptors found in the nervous cells which activate when the body receives stimuli that could be harmful for it).
Nociceptive pain also comes in different versions as well: superficial (when the nociceptors in the skin are activated) and deep (somatic – when the nociceptors in the muscles, ligaments and blood vessels are activated – and visceral – when the nociceptors in the body organs are activated).
As for neuropathic pain, it is characterized by the malfunction of the nervous system).
It too can come in many versions: peripheral (when the peripheral nervous system is the one affected) and central (when the central nervous system is affected).
What Treatment is there for Chronic Pain?
Chronic pain can’t be “cured” in the proper sense of the word. However, it can be managed throughout one’s life and there are people who successfully learn how to live with their pain and how to alleviate it the best way possible.
Most frequently, managing chronic pain involves multiple types of specialists: medical practitioners, physiotherapists, psychologists, physician assistants and so on.
All these types of professionals belong to an entire branch of medicine called “pain management” and which revolves around helping patients with chronic pain live better lives.
Other than pain medication, many patients undergo several types of treatment as well. Some of them go into cognitive-behavioral therapy, while others go into acceptance and commitment therapy.
Some need physiotherapy to manage their pain as well. Also, in certain situations, neurofeedback treatments may be available as well.
Even more than that, there are a lot of patients who call for the help of “non-traditional” expertise too.
Eastern practices such as Yoga, acupuncture and Tai-Chi are said to be quite effective in managing chronic pain of all sorts and more and more people turn towards these natural remedies.
What is the Relationship between Marijuana and Chronic Pain?
The issue of whether or not marijuana can help patients with chronic pain is not a new one.
Specialists and researchers have been discussing it for a very long time now and although cannabis has been around since ancient times (and it was smoked more for spiritual purposes than for actual medicinal or even recreational purposes), there is still no clear answer on this issue.
In theory, marijuana has proven to help patients with chronic pain. Recent studies have shown that patients who experienced different dosages (including no-dosage at all, a technique used to induce placebo) have also noticed that the highest dosage does decrease their level of pain with more than one point (out of 10).
Although it does seem that it is not a very significant drop, the truth is that any kind of relief can be a miracle for those who have been living in pain for so long.
Marijuana can have its downfalls as well. For instance, it is definitely not recommended for people who drive and using it before placing yourself behind the “wheel” is definitely not something you should do.
The statistics show it: ever since marijuana was legalized as a recreational drug in some states, the incidence of people who were involved in accidents related to this drug has rose as well.
Even more than that, even if marijuana is recommended in a wide series of medical conditions (including for patients with cancer and anorexia for example), there are some medical conditions that should forbid you from using it.
For example, recent research shows that arthritis and glaucoma patients should avoid medicinal marijuana because it can actually worsen their situation over time.
Last, but definitely not least, marijuana can cause addiction. Marijuana causes psychological addiction and some say that it can cause physical addiction too.
But then again, almost all strong pain medication can do this (and they are a real threat for one’s life) and using them correctly is the key to avoiding their downfalls.
Marijuana has been reported to help with pain but it is not without its flaws and it is also worth noting that although studies have been made, there is nothing really precise we can know about this issue.
Time and even more studies will tell us just how efficient marijuana is in helping individuals cope with their chronic pain.