Let’s Talk Pain: It’s the Most Common Reason for MMJ Use, and Here’s Why
In the 33 states (plus four U.S. territories and Washington, D.C.) where patients can legally purchase medical marijuana, the most common reason for obtaining an mmj patient card is for the treatment of chronic pain.
Here in Arizona, nearly 88 percent of all cardholders—more than 170,000 qualifying patients—list chronic pain as their primary medical condition. And, in cases where two or more conditions are listed, pain is usually one of them.
But pain can be a very different experience from patient to patient.
That’s because there is more than one type of pain, and each type affects the body differently. Needless to say, knowing what kind of pain you have and how you experience that pain is an important part of choosing the right cannabis treatment option.
Before we consider your options, let’s first look at the two main types of pain: There is physical pain in response to an outside stimulus, also called nociceptive pain, and there is nerve pain, also called neuropathic pain.
Nociceptive pain—named for the body’s pain receptors, called nociceptors—is the common discomfort people experience as a result of an injury or trauma. Or, as in the case of rheumatoid arthritis and gout, this type of pain may also stem from inflammation.
Neuropathic pain is pain associated with the nervous system, the vast network of nerve cells (called neurons) extending throughout the body that transmits signals from one area to another.
If one or more of those nerves are damaged and no longer functional—a condition known as neuropathy—the result is neuropathic pain. This type of pain is most commonly seen in patients with diabetes, but it is also common in patients with multiple sclerosis, cancer, thyroid problems and HIV/AIDS, as well as in amputees.
There is a third type of pain that is somewhat more difficult to name and is often labeled as simply “other” pain. Associated with conditions such as fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome, most experts agree that it has to do with an underlying dysfunction of the body’s pain system.
This type of pain is sometimes defined as a disorder or symptom because its origin is difficult to pinpoint; there is often no identifiable wound or nerve damage. Still, patients with these conditions describe relentless, all-over pain as well as hypersensitivity.
Acute pain vs. chronic pain: What’s the difference?
All pain is categorized either as acute—meaning it comes on suddenly and lasts for a short period of time, as with the pain of a broken wrist—or chronic, meaning it is a longer-lasting sensation that may or may not be alleviated by treatment. While chronic pain can be triggered by physical injury, more often than not it is associated with nerve damage.
Medical marijuana: A natural, safe and effective alternative to NSAIDs and opioids
Depending on the type of pain a patient is experiencing, modern doctors will typically prescribe non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), opioid medication, or both. NSAIDs may be great for relieving pain and inflammation, but long-term use may increase the risk for other health problems, including heart attack and stroke.
As for opioids, there is no denying the United States is experiencing a major health crisis. More than 900 people die of opioid-related overdoses every week, a significant number of whom are veterans, and the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations has gone so far as to call the existing opioid epidemic a national security threat.
Marijuana advocates have long encouraged the medical community to recognize the value of cannabis as a natural, safe and effective alternative to narcotic use and long-term NSAID use—one that may play a critical role in helping to address the current opioid crisis.
Studies have shown that both cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)—the two most abundant and widely researched cannabinoids of the marijuana plant—are effective at controlling and alleviating different types of pain. And to think, they are just two among hundreds of beneficial cannabis compounds whose pain relief potential has yet to be unlocked.
Considering mmj for pain? Here’s what you should you tell your physician.
Talking to your doctor about the pain you are experiencing may be difficult, and doubly so if you are apprehensive about discussing medical cannabis as a possible treatment option, but the best thing to do is to be as honest and as detailed as possible.
Pain is extremely personal and will usually vary from one patient to the next, so be as descriptive as you can about the specific sensations you are feeling (e.g., tingling, stabbing, burning, throbbing) as well as where you feel the pain, how long it lasts, what triggers your pain, and any activities that may worsen or improve the pain.
Providing as much information as possible will help your doctor determine what type of pain you are having—nociceptive, neuropathic or other—so they can better diagnose your condition or conditions. From there, you can move on to finding the right mmj treatment.
What should you tell your budtender about your pain?
Just as a doctor may prescribe different medications for different symptoms, there are often different strains of medicinal cannabis or different mmj products that may be more effective for your type of pain.
After your physician has provided a written certification for mmj use and you have received your Arizona patient card, visit a trusted dispensary and tell your budtender everything you discussed with your doctor. The more information you provide, the easier it will be for them to pinpoint the right strain(s) and mmj treatment options.
Are there specific mmj strains that work best for pain?
The good news is that all strains will likely provide some benefit.
However, after learning more about your specific pain, your budtender will likely recommend starting with a few different strains to find the one that works best for you. For some patients, indica-dominant strains will work best for pain relief, while others may benefit from a sativa-dominant strain or a more balanced hybrid strain.
You may also want to consider how each strain makes you feel overall in addition to how it mitigates your pain. A great source of information is our guest review blogs, which break down the unique benefits of different strains and mmj products to help provide an overview of their therapeutic effects.
Here at Desert Rose Dispensary, we can help you find relief.
Since opening our doors in 2016, we have helped countless patients find relief from acute and chronic pain and ultimately improve their quality of life. Medical cannabis is a real and legitimate treatment for pain—one that is natural and safer for your body.
If you have an Arizona mmj patient card and are ready to take a new approach to pain relief, visit Desert Rose Dispensary any day of the week from 8:00AM to 10:00PM. Our friendly and knowledgeable budtenders can answer your questions and discuss your options to help you on the path to feeling better. It’s what we’re passionate about doing!
Plus, first-time patients have an added incentive: $20 off their total purchase, and the same goes for each referral from our existing patients. You can learn more about our other awesome dispensary deals here.