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The number of chronic pain diagnoses in Canada is on the rise. In the last decade, millions of Canadians have been diagnosed with this condition. As more people live their lives with pain, the search for more effective forms of treatment and symptom management has intensified.

Download "Why More Patients Are Turning to Cannabis for Pain Relief" e-book

Since chronic pain cases are increasing in number, many people are asking, what are the causes of chronic pain?

There are many causes of chronic pain. Some of the most common include arthritis pain, pain from nerve damage, headaches, and postsurgical pain. Some conditions, such as cancer and fibromyalgia, can also cause chronic pain.

The next question people have is often about how chronic pain can be treated and managed effectively. One of the most interesting treatments right now is medical cannabis. Here’s everything you need to know about medical marijuana and chronic pain.


What Science Says about Medical Marijuana and Chronic Pain

The effects of medical marijuana on chronic pain are probably some of the best studied in the medical literature right now, although more research is certainly needed.

What does current research say about marijuana and chronic pain? The general consensus so far seems to be that medical cannabis is effective at helping to manage chronic pain.

There seems to be a number of ways medical marijuana acts on chronic pain. First, cannabinoids like CBD and THC appear to have anti-inflammatory properties, which can calm inflamed nerves and other tissues. This can help lessen pain.

The sedative effects of medical cannabis could be another reason pain is lessened. Patients may also experience relaxation or a change in perception, which can help them experience less pain.


The Better Choice for Chronic Pain

Another major concern about chronic pain has been the nature of the condition. Chronic pain is a long-term condition, which means it’s often treated over periods of years or even decades. It is an ongoing condition, not one that’s resolved in a matter of days or weeks.

As a result, opioid medications, the usual go-to for pain relief, are poor choices for those living with chronic pain. The use of opioids to treat a long-term condition like chronic pain leads to increased tolerance and, often, addiction. It’s one major reason for the opioid crisis across Canada.

Opioids are also risky, in that they carry a high chance of overdose. Cannabis, by contrast, is far less addictive, and it’s impossible to overdose on it.


The Fringe Benefits of Medical Cannabis

Medical cannabis doesn’t just treat pain for most patients. It can also assist with other symptoms associated with chronic pain conditions. For example, it may help boost the appetite of those living with chronic pain. Pain can depress the appetite, making it difficult for people to maintain proper nutrition.

Sleep is another commonly affected area for many patients. Pain may wake them up in the middle of the night, or it may make it impossible to get to sleep in the first place. Medical marijuana may allow patients to get some much-needed rest.

Medical marijuana also appears to have some effects on depressive symptoms for some patients. Since chronic pain and depression often go hand in hand, it’s possible that medical marijuana could help alleviate some of the symptoms of depression typically found in those living with chronic pain.

Finally, cannabis may be able to help people find their motivation to get up and get moving. Pain may limit or prevent physical activity for many chronic pain patients, but medical marijuana could change that.


Is It the Right Choice for You?

Talk to your doctor about medical marijuana and chronic pain, and whether it is a treatment you should consider. It’s possible that medical cannabis just might be the right treatment for you.


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Dr. Michael Verbora

Michael earned an MBA from the University of Windsor’s Odette School of Business in 2009 and an M.D. from Schulich School of Medicine at Western University in 2013, before entering a Family Practice residency at the University of Toronto. A member of the Canadian Consortium for the Investigation of Cannabinoids, Doctors for Responsible Access and the Canadian Pain Society, he has completed over 2,000 cannabinoid therapy consultations and has presented many talks in community and hospital settings while serving as student health physician at Seneca College and Medical Director, Canabo Medical Clinic.

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