Chronic pain is something over 50 million Americans suffer from because it's so difficult to manage. But, people have been turning to cannabis for chronic pain relief for decades. Roughly 62% of Americans using medical marijuana report using cannabis for chronic pain.
In this post, I explain:
- What qualifies as chronic pain
- How different cannabinoids can help with certain aspects of chronic pain
- My personal story of how I overcame chronic pain using cannabis (and how I got off my pain medication quickly by using cannabis).
You can watch the Cannabis for Chronic Pain: Using THC and CBD video below or you can keep scrolling to read the post.
Chronic Pain: What Qualifies as Chronic Pain?
Chronic pain is any pain that lasts longer than 3-6 months.
I say 3-6 months because pain stemming from surgery or recovering from an injury is normal. You'll feel temporary pain during the healing process.
Once that healing process is over and you're still experiencing pain, you're suffering from chronic pain.
But if you haven't had any surgeries, injuries, or traumas yet you're still experiencing pain for over 3 months, that's also chronic pain.
If your aches and pains are a prolonged, daily occurrence, that's an indicator that you're dealing with chronic pain.
Physical and Emotional Effects of Chronic Pain
The more you experience chronic pain, the more you'll experience some of these physical and emotional effects.
Some of the physical effects include:
- muscle tension
- limited mobility
- feeling like the world is “smaller”
- weight change
Chronic pain can exacerbate other pains that you may have, such as back and musculoskeletal pain.
Limited mobility may also become a problem. It can stem from a fear of injuring yourself. You may also limit yourself because of the pain caused by trying to move.
When your mobility is limited, you start to experience a more constricted world. (This is not strictly a physical or emotional issue, but a side effect of living with chronic pain).
Your weight may also gain or lose weight over time. This ends up being two sides of the same coin.
Emotionally, you're looking at:
During a flare-up, you might get snappy with people.
I definitely experienced a lot of anger, anxiety, and depression during my own chronic pain journey.
You're just as likely to experience hopelessness and fear during a chronic pain cycle, along with the physical effects.
Chronic Pain and CBD
You've probably heard that CBD can do so much. If something's wrong, just use CBD, right?
It kinda sounds a lot like snake oil.
So let's talk about CBD and how it related back to chronic pain.
We don't currently have a lot of studies and research to show us exactly how this cannabinoid is working in humans. This makes it difficult to find good research to support that CBD works for chronic pain.
What we do know is that CBD is a holistic, herbal remedy, which we need more of!
CBD is also known to promote sleep and reduce inflammation in chronic pain patients (and people who experience chronic pain).
What I love most about CBD is the minimal adverse side effects since there's so little that can go wrong unless you take too much.
The side effects tend to be diarrhea or headaches especially if you take too much of it at once.
Also, if you're using medication that interacts with grapefruit, it will also very likely interact with CBD.
You want to keep a close watch on the levels of medication in your bloodstream. That way, you know if you're taking too much.
If you're choosing not to venture into using CBD oil because it's too expensive, I love a company called Sacred Smoke Herbals.
I normally buy their flower or trim and turn it into my own CBD oil.
Chronic Pain and THC
Let's move on to THC since THC is what everyone knows when it comes to cannabis, right?
THC is that famous intoxicating, psychoactive cannabinoid.
I want to talk about using THC for chronic pain because one thing I've learned from my own journey (and from anecdotal stories) is that if I take THC by itself, it can sometimes make my pain feel even worse.
Then there are the negative side effects (munchies, spinning head, nausea, etc).
THC isn't all negative, which I'll explain in the next part of this post.
Microdosing THC and CBD for Chronic Pain
This brings me to talking about microdosing THC and CBD for chronic pain.
I believe the most beneficial way to use THC is by microdosing, where you take minimal amounts of THC in order to receive the desired effects without all the negatives.
If you are experimenting solely with THC, I recommend having other cannabinoids in the mix.
For me, the results were mostly hit-or-miss until I incorporated CBD into my THC.
CBD with the THC became a huge game-changer in my journey with managing my chronic pain.
THC does have its benefits that you may not find in CBD. For example, what I love about THC is that it can uplift you. You don't need this effect, but for those who are having trouble with their mood, this can be life-changing.
If THC makes you feel uncomfortable, that's fine! Stick to CBD!
If you use heavy amounts of THC now, I would invite you to knock it down as much as you can and get to the minimum effective dose.
THC has something called the biphasic effect (or the bell curve dose-response). It can be difficult to get a high dose of THC in cannabis to help you find relief from chronic pain because the higher the dose, the more side effects. Think: lethargy, munchies, dry mouth, etc.
Update: a commenter below found that with her neuropathic pain, high amounts of THC and CBD worked best for her. She mentioned that Bruce Banner was very effective. Add to the comments below and let us know what's working (or has worked) for you so we can all learn from each other 🙂
Chronic Pain and CBG
There's one last cannabinoid I want to talk about and that's called CBG.
Dr. Ethan Russo, who's just an incredible cannabis researcher and scientist, did a study on how CBG works with the cannabinoid receptors. I don't want to get too deep into that but CBG has been shown to have a higher level of pain relief than THC or CBD.
CBG is an interesting cannabinoid that we're just starting to breed for higher CBG. We'll probably see a lot more of CBG in the following years so keep your eye open for that!
CBG is another cannabinoid that isn't intoxicating and won't give you the psychoactive effect if that's not what you're looking for.
It's also legal in the USA.
Managing your Chronic Pain with Cannabis
I know that my approach to cannabis and chronic pain may be a little different than what you're used to.
I'm not a fan of the spaghetti at the wall approach.
I like to consider managing my chronic pain with cannabis as a journey. As a part of my exploration, I found that microdosing, balancing ratios, and incorporating cannabinoids like CBD and CBG into my dosages really made the difference in my flare-ups.
Through cannabis, my chronic pain is almost completely eliminated. My flare-ups generally happen during high stress or traumatic time in my life though now I know how to manage it more effectively.
If someone told me, a decade ago, that I'd be sharing all of this, I wouldn't have believed it.
How do you use cannabis to manage your chronic pain? Let me know in the comments below!