Chronic pain

Medicinal cannabis and Chronic pain

Table of Contents

Chronic pain is being increasingly experienced by individuals in Australia and around the world. Chronic pain is defined as pain that persists past the expected recovery time or beyond 3 months.

Chronic pain can manifest due to a range of reasons like surgery, physical injury and even from psychological trauma. While conventional pharmaceutical medicines are regularly effective in acute pain, for some they can fail to manage chronic pain. There are additional concerns regarding side effects, risk of addiction and adverse events from commonly used pain medications such as opioids. Combined this has led to a growing interest in medical cannabis as an alternative treatment for chronic pain.

Does medical cannabis reduce chronic pain?

Medical cannabis may reduce chronic pain in many circumstances. Research shows it to be particularly useful in chronic back pain, arthritis, endometriosis and cancer pain. It also can be beneficial in chronic pain associated with multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, PTSD, traumatic brain injury and diabetic neuropathy.

In human clinical research across different types of chronic pain medical cannabis has shown statistically significant changes in pain scores and improvements in other measures like sleep, mobility and quality of life. Despite this, studies still exhibit mixed results. So more research is needed to nail down the best formulations and doses for various types of pain.

The endocannabinoid system plays a key role in the experience and modulation of chronic pain. Dysregulation in this system from physical or psychological trauma, or genetic predispositions, can contribute to chronic pain and may be modified with tactfully prescribed medical cannabis formulations.

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Will CBD help chronic pain patients?

Historically THC was the main cannabinoid discussed in terms of pain relief, we now know CBD  has pain-relieving action of its own. CBD interacts with receptors associated with heat and pain as well as having a potent effect on inflammation, which is a primary driver of acute and chronic pain.

Chronic pain patients that don’t want the intoxicating cannabinoid THC included in their medicine can choose CBD only formulations. Alternatively, there are CBD-dominant medicines available that still include THC in low enough doses to not cause any feeling of being ‘high’.

Using THC and CBD together to manage chronic pain, means patients can benefit from the entourage effect, where cannabinoids act collectively to achieve greater medicinal action than they would alone. This can be particularly beneficial in cancer or difficult to treat kinds of pain.

What medical cannabis treatments are available in Australia for chronic pain?

In Australia, around 85% of medical cannabis prescriptions relate to chronic pain, of that percentage nearly ⅓ related to CBD-only prescriptions. The most commonly prescribed type of medical cannabis formulation is oil-based products, these are usually administered under the tongue.

Alternatively, oral sprays are another method of delivering cannabis medicines that promotes good absorption. Other options available include dissolvable wafers, patches, creams, vaporisation, nebulisation and your standard liquid-filled capsules.

Medical cannabis doctors at CA Clinics are well versed in the wide range of treatment options available and will work with you to choose the most appropriate cannabinoid medicine for your chronic pain presentation.

How does medicinal cannabis decrease chronic pain?

Cannabinoids like CBD, THC, minor cannabinoids and terpenes may all exert pain-reducing actions in different ways. They can directly attach to receptors that are involved in pain to reduce the sensation, they can reduce inflammation that leads to chronic pain and interact with cannabinoid receptors in the brain and other areas of the body that are responsible for pain signalling.

The cannabinoid treatment

Medicinal cannabis, like all medications, can have side effects, specifically drowsiness or gastrointestinal discomfort are common. Most human studies report them to be mild and tolerated by patients given how effective the cannabinoid treatment is. Proper guidance and monitoring by your GP or medical cannabis specialist can reduce the chances of experiencing side effects.

Chronic pain doesn’t have to be suffered in silence. After medications and other treatments have failed, medical cannabis can be a viable option to treat chronic pain when prescribed by a medical practitioner.

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