Thursday July 13, 2017
By Morgan Smith
Neuropathy is defined as the damage to the sensory, motor or automatic nerves that occurs from an underlying cause. It’s a complex and chronic condition that affects nearly 20 million people in the United States.
Also known as peripheral neuropathy, this condition causes weakness, numbness and pain to extremities like hands and feet. The pain is often described as stabbing, burning or tingling and can be extremely agonizing. It can result from a number of things, such as traumatic injuries, infections, toxin exposure, diabetes and genetic predispositions.
Recently, cannabis has been found to help people suffering from neuropathy by relieving some of the pain associated with the disorder. To fully understand how cannabis can help treat neuropathy though, we must first gain a little more information on neuropathic pain.
What is Neuropathy?
To understand neuropathic pain, let’s look at your peripheral nerves. They are divided into several different classifications with specific functions: sensory nerves that receive sensation from temperature, pain and touch; motor nerves that control muscle movement; and autonomic nerves that control essential functions such as your blood pressure, heart rate, digestion and bladder.
Your entire peripheral nervous system sends information from your central nervous system to the rest of your body.
And when nerve fibers are damaged, dysfunctional or injured, they can send incorrect signals to other pain centers. Peripheral neuropathy can affect one nerve (mononeuropathy), two or more nerves in different areas (multiple mononeuropathy) or many nerves (polyneuropathy). Most individuals suffer from polyneuropathy, but it all depends on which nerves are damaged.
But pain is complex and entirely subjective. It can’t be measured, it’s hard to describe and is unique to each individual. That’s why there are a wide variety of treatment options. Typical neuropathy treatment looks at the underlying symptoms causing the nerve pain. Those diagnosed with neuropathic pain are typically prescribed non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or stronger painkillers such as morphine. If diabetes is part of the issue, treatment will involve blood sugar control. And if pain is caused by carpal tunnel syndrome, splints and physical therapy may be the prescribed route.
How Cannabis Helps Treat Neuropathy
More recently, cannabis has been shown to provide relief to patients that are unresponsive to other forms of treatment. This is primarily due to the substance’s relationship to our internal endocannabinoid system.
Peripheral nerves that detect pain sensations contain cannabinoid receptors and are therefore impacted by any form of cannabis consumption. When THC and CBD enter your body, they activate your CB1 and CB2 receptors which regulate the neurotransmitter and central nervous system, helping to manage pain levels.
A small 2010 study found that “a single inhalation of 25mg of 9.4% tetrahydrocannabinol herbal cannabis three times daily for five days reduced the intensity of pain, improved sleep and was well tolerated.” A separate 2013 study found that when compared to traditional neuropathic pain medication, cannabis effectively reduces pain with low dosages (1.29%) as a pain reliever with a medium dosage (3.53%). And a study in 2015 found that cannabinoids are effective at lowering pain levels associated with cancer, neuropathy and other acute and chronic pain conditions. Further long-term studies need to be done to prove the relationship between cannabis and pain, but the evidence is well on its way.
Which Cannabis Strains are the Best for Neuropathic Pain?
So which strains should you be hunting down for neuropathic or pain relief? We’ve included a few below based on their chemical makeup including cannabinoids, terpene profiles and THC-to-CBD ratios. Try these vaporized in low doses—it may be more effective and keep things in control.
This strain is a balanced hybrid known for its pain, stress and sleep-relief qualities. Those suffering from chronic pain will benefit greatly from this classic strain and feel a boost in energy as a result. It has a bit of an earthy taste to it, but will keep you moving throughout the day while managing overall pain.
If you’re looking for something to knock you out, consider this high profile indica. It’s pungent, potent and perfect for pain relief. Those suffering from muscular or back pain will stay relaxed. Look forward to its anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties as well.
This sativa-dominant hybrid is great for managing pain throughout the day. Some say it’s a like a caffeine boost—slightly uplifting and energizing. Not only is this strain a painkiller and neuro-protector, but it’s been shown to have antitumor and inflammation effects to help keep your brain healthy and your body free of pain.
Another benefit of treating neuropathic pain with medical marijuana? You can’t get addicted to cannabis like you can with opiates. Although pain meds may work to decrease the pain, you’re much more likely to build up a dependence on them—and experience a wide array of side effects like nausea and sedation. Cannabis is a much safer option and we’re huge advocates of using it to provide the relief that you need.