One of the most common uses of medical cannabis is to treat different types of pain. Here, we’ll take a look at the fundamental types of pain and some of their root causes. We’ll also explore strains that can do a good job of soothing that pain.
Types of Pain
Pain is the holistic experience of discomfort that happens in response to a distressing stimulus. And while you might not be able to stop and think about it when pain strikes, pain can actually take a number of different forms.
One method we have for classifying pain is to consider its duration.
- Acute pain is the type that takes hold quickly and progressively dissipates within about six months; this pain can typically be traced back to a localized injury and sometimes involves tissue damage. Cuts, scrapes, and broken bones are some common causes of acute pain. This type of pain is generally managed with over the counter or prescription pain medications.
- On the other hand, pain that lasts longer than six months and can’t be tied to any other simultaneous conditions is called “chronic.” Unlike acute pain, chronic pain — which impacts an estimated 20% of American adults — can’t always be easily explained and, over time, may negatively impact a person’s quality of life. Fibromyalgia and lower back pain are both examples of chronic pain.
Another way to think about pain is in terms of its biological mechanism.
- Nociceptive pain comes about when sensory neurons called nociceptors respond to intense stimuli like cutting or burning. Since nociceptors are located throughout the body, this type of pain can take many different forms; it may also be either acute or chronic.
- While related, neuropathic pain is due to dysfunction of the nervous system rather than to any specific stimulus. Damaged sensory neurons and pathways may send pain signals that seem to come of out nowhere. Neuropathic pain, which is more often chronic, is associated with long-term conditions like diabetes, HIV, and Parkinson’s disease.
How Cannabis Can Help with Different Types of Pain
Now that you have a better understanding of the different types of pain, let’s see how cannabis may be able to help.
Just as the human body has a network of nociceptors to detect pain, it also has a complex system of endocannabinoid receptors that are seemingly designed to respond to THC, CBD, and the dozens of other cannabinoids present in cannabis. When cannabinoids attach to these receptors, they can have the effect of changing other physical and mental functions — this includes the reduction of pain.
While advanced analyses of cannabis’ pain-relieving properties are complicated by federal restrictions on research, early signs are positive: two studies published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2018 point to a decrease in prescription opioid use in states where medical cannabis is legal.
Of course, even the most potent medical cannabis isn’t a cure-all. But having a better clinical understanding of the different types of pain may help inform your choice of medication. For example, purely indica strains are more likely to induce a strong body high and may be better at sativa varieties in relieving pain. That said, cases of chronic pain that come with some attendant depression or anxiety may benefit from the mildly euphoric properties of a balanced or a sativa-dominant hybrid. Methods of cannabis ingestion can also correspond with different types of pain — whereas smoking whole-flower cannabis out of a pipe or joint can bring fast relief for those dealing with acute pain, the slow onset of an edible THC concentrate may be better suited to those suffering from chronic or neuropathic pain.
If you haven’t already, check out our guide to becoming a medical cannabis patient in Maryland.
If you’d like to learn more about the cannabis strains we carry at Haven, please call 240-650-0420 today to schedule a consultation. We serve patients in Brandywine and throughout the surrounding areas of Maryland.