Cannabis may ease certain types of chronic pain, including pain due to nerve damage and inflammation. Ways of taking cannabis include edibles, topical applications, and tablets to place under the tongue.
Most cannabis-based products do not have approval from the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and more evidence is necessary to confirm their safety and effectiveness.
However, anecdotal evidence suggests that cannabis or its compounds may help relieve some types of pain.
There are distinct types or strains of cannabis available, and each may have slightly different effects on the user.
In this article, we look at the best cannabis strains for chronic pain relief.
The different types of cannabis plants include the following:
- Cannabis indica
- Cannabis sativa
There is limited research available on the use of specific cannabis strains for pain and other symptoms. As a result, strain-specific recommendations are not medically proven.
The results of an online survey, comprising 95 participants, featured in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine in 2014.
The researchers found that participants preferred indica strains for pain management, sedation, and sleep while they would opt for sativa strains to improve energy and mood.
Regarding pain management, participants reported a statistically significant effect when using indica for:
It is, however, important to note that this study had several limitations. It was small in scale, anonymous, and asked people to self-report on their symptoms. Respondents did not use the cannabis in a controlled setting, potentially resulting in differences in drug composition, dosage, and potency.
The study followed participants for 3 years and asked them about the effects of the drug on their condition during this time. The results indicated that indica strains are more likely to improve energy and appetite, while both sativa and indica strains can alleviate nausea to a similar degree.
Cannabis contains compounds that may relieve pain, nausea, and other symptoms. The components of cannabis that most studies focus on for pain relief are cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
THC vs. CBD
THC resembles the cannabinoid chemicals that occur naturally in the body. When people ingest or inhale THC, it stimulates the brain’s cannabinoid receptors.
This activates the brain’s reward system and reduces pain levels. THC is a psychoactive compound as it binds to cannabinoid receptors and produces an elevated state of mind, known as a high.
CBD does not cause a high, although it does interact with pain receptors in the brain to exert pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory effects.
What the research says
In recent years, many studies have looked at the effects of cannabis for chronic pain. Some studies used parts of the cannabis plant and some have used the entire plant so more research is needed. Using parts of the cannabis plant (like CBD oil) helps study specific actions of that ingredient, but when the whole plant is used there is what is called an entourage effect, where the parts work together to have more effect.
A 2015 review of research on the use of cannabis and cannabinoids for various chronic pain conditions reports that several trials had positive results. The researchers suggest that cannabis or cannabinoids may be effective for treating some types of chronic pain including neuropathy (nerve pain).
A research paper from 2016 found that cannabis use for cancer pain led to a 64% reduction in opioid use, improved quality of life, and caused fewer medication side effects. It also led to participants using fewer medications.
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At Pain Spa, Dr Krishna is highly experienced in the management of patients with chronic pain. Please contact us for further details if you are interested in having a consultation with Dr Krishna.