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More and more Americans are searching for alternative options to opiods to treat painful nerve damage. We found some recent studies that shed light on natural remedies for nerve pain and provide insight on alternatives to traditional, addictive pain management options.
When I’m watching the evening news, it seems like every other commercial is from a pharmaceutical company for another drug that I’m told to “ask my doctor about.” Last night, I saw an ad for Cymbalta® that treats diabetic nerve pain in your feet. It triggered a memory of my cousin who suffered from diabetes. He had trouble walking, and I assumed it was due to other issues. I had no idea of the chronic nerve pain he was living with every day. He often searched for natural remedies for nerve pain, which ultimately lead him to deeper research into the medicinal uses for cannabis.
What We Know About Neuropathic Pain and Current Treatment Options
According to the American Chronic Pain Association, “Neuropathic pain – otherwise known as nerve pain – is a type of chronic pain that occurs when nerves in the central nervous system become injured or damaged.” Three Wells Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Deborah Malkin, has written about this and other types of pain. Nerve pain is not limited to diabetes; it also affects people living with cancer, MS, shingles, and HIV to name a few chronic medical conditions. Technically, it affects the somatosensory nervous system causing painful tingling and burning sensations along with pins and needles. I’m told that it’s similar to when your hands or feet fall asleep, only it’s constant. In some cases, patients are highly sensitive to touch or cold, and doctors refer to this as allodynia. According to the Cleveland Clinic, “Medicines commonly prescribed for neuropathic pain include anti-seizure drugs like Neurontin®, Lyrica®, Topamax®, Tegretol®, and Lamictal®. Doctors also prescribe anti-depressants such as Elavil®, Pamelor®, Effexor®, and Cymbalta®.” So, in order to treat adults for this type of pain, doctors prescribe anti-seizure and anti-depressants, even if they’re not the issue. Both types of drugs have their own side effects such as drowsiness, dizziness, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, weight gain, ED, insomnia, and constipation.
Does Marijuana Really Help Adults with Nerve Pain?
Many adults are looking for natural remedies for nerve pain and cannabis is growing more popular as a possible solution. Studies indicate that inhaling vaporized cannabis may help adults with nerve pain. One study conducted in 2013 tested 39 patients who used traditional treatments. It found that low doses of cannabis were just as effective as medium doses of typical medications. At such low doses, the patients were able to function normally without feeling impaired. The study concluded that “Vaporized cannabis, even at low doses, may present an effective option for patients with treatment-resistant neuropathic pain.” A 2013 clinical trial sponsored by the University of California at Davis and approved by the FDA, found that the trials reduced participant’s pain levels by 30 percent.
Nerve Pain Treatment Options
A similar 2015 study by the American Pain Society also found that relatively low doses of inhaled, vaporized THC resulted in “a reduction in diabetic peripheral neuropathy pain.” In a previous Three Wells article, we wrote that the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine encouraged additional research regarding cannabis and pain management. After reviewing more than 10,000 studies, it concluded that “In adults with chronic pain, patients who were treated with cannabis or cannabinoids are more likely to experience a clinically significant reduction in pain symptoms.”
Ask Your Doctor About Medical Cannabis
It should be noted that the traditional medical community is becoming more in tune with cannabis use by their patients. A 2018 Commentary by researchers at the University of Michigan stated in part that “…we cannot ignore the reality of cannabis’s growing use as medicine, especially for chronic pain. As such, we believe that appropriately contextualizing cannabinoids is critical so that physicians and patients can navigate this uncertain territory.” In the California University system, both UCLA and UCSD created their own cannabis research institutes. On a personal note, during my last checkup, I asked my doctor whether other older adults were curious about using cannabis in their health regimen. “I get questions all the time and encourage them to talk with me about it,” he said. That was really good to hear, and no, the next time I see him, I am not asking about Cymbalta. I will ask more questions about natural remedies like medical cannabis for adults though!
Do you use cannabis as a natural remedy for nerve pain? Has it helped? Please share your story with the Three Wells community.
John Ansimoore covers all things cannabis for Three Wells.