Most sufferers of chronic pain will eventually reach a point of frustration that will impel them to try just about anything to get the needed relief. When the traditional remedies and medications fail, many will turn to alternative treatments in order to ease their suffering and get back to a normal life. While many have resorted to using cannabis for their pain relief, according to the Medical News Today: “Using cannabis for pain relief does help, however, it makes pain more bearable rather than getting rid of it, researchers from Oxford University’s Centre for Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging of the Brain (FMRIB) reported in the journal Pain.”
While there has been considerable controversy surrounding the use of cannabis over the years, studies have shown that there are some benefits to be gained from using it for pain relief; although it may not necessarily be what most people expect.
How it Differs From Other Method of Pain Relief
Unlike other pain treatments, cannabis’ active ingredient tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) did not actually reduce the level of pain that patients were enduring. Instead, they actually felt that the pain was more tolerable. Based on several studies conducted to determine the improvement of the pain symptoms, researchers found that those patients that complained of chronic neuropathic pain felt they had some level of pain relief along with an improved mood and better sleep after smoking cannabis.
The findings showed that while it may believed they were experiencing less pain, brain scans revealed there the areas of the brain that interpret pain were actually unchanged by the THC. Instead, the drug affected people’s emotional state so that they were better able to deal with the pain itself.
Because our bodies naturally produce certain chemicals that can respond to negative medical problems like pain and inflammation, cannabis is simply a means to help those natural chemicals to be more effective by enhancing their natural production. Some experts even point out that combining cannabis with opioids is probably the most effective way to long-term pain management.
Cause for Concern
While there have been many studies today that show high success rates for relieving pain with cannabis, many of them only concentrate on smoking the drug. Since there is no standard regulation for how smoked cannabis is prepared, it calls into question several issues: the quality and the potency of the drug for example. This point has been emphasized by the Pain Management Center to Everyday Health: “Currently, the FDA has no formal regulations in place to monitor the quality of herbal cannabis, which makes it vulnerable to contaminants. And because FDA does not monitor medical cannabis, dispensaries have been identified as places of criminal activity in some states.”
It is clear that while there may be some positive effects of cannabis in dealing with long-term pain management, there is a lot that is still unknown by the medical community.
Because of the fact that the substance has not been thoroughly tested there is still the question of possible reactions when used with other medicines, food, herbs, or dietary supplements. There is also the risk of toxic side effects in some as well as the question of how much would be considered a proper dosage or which administering method is best in certain circumstances. Inhaling or ingesting cannabis exposes one exposed to a number of mental and emotional effects. Some have reported feelings of euphoria, short-term memory loss, difficulty with complex tasks, and a change in perception of both time and space, as well as sleepiness, anxiety, confusion, and the inability to concentrate and focus. According to Cancer.org: “Some people find the emotional and mental effects to be frightening, and a significant few have had problems like depression, paranoia, and hallucinations from marijuana or cannabinoid medicines. People who are prone to mental illness may have more serious mental and emotional effects from marijuana use.”
And for those who choose to inhale the drug, there is also the question of inhaling the same carcinogens and chemicals that are found in tobacco smoke – a habit that can increase their risk of developing cancer for many.
A Safer Alternative
There are numerous unknowns when considering cannabis for pain management that have yet to be studied, and while it may prove to be effective in some way, there are some alternative treatments that can be just as effective as cannabis but with far fewer risks.
Many have chosen to use the TENS unit as an effective way to manage that chronic pain. A tens unit (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) is a device that sends a flood of small electrical signals into your nervous system that breaks up the pain messages sent to the brain. As a result, it can trigger the release of endorphins in the body to help manage pain.
Many prefer this method of treatment as it has not only proved effective in many cases, it is also non-toxic (there is nothing taken internally) and non-invasive. Rather than taking the additional risk of using cannabis, a substance that can produce numerous unknown risks, the option to use the TENS can prove to be one of the best alternatives for some.