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Managing Chronic Pain with Medical Cannabis: An Evidence-Based Perspective.

Last Updated: 
Pain Relief

Chronic pain is a pervasive issue that affects millions of individuals worldwide.

As research unfolds, medical cannabis emerges as a potential alternative for managing chronic pain.

This article aims to explore the research, patient experiences, and specific strains that may be beneficial for this purpose.

Overview of Cannabis and its Medicinal Components

Cannabis is a plant that has been used medicinally for thousands of years.

Its primary active compounds are delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).

THC is psychoactive, responsible for the ‘high’ associated with cannabis use, while CBD is not.

These compounds interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system, which is involved in various physiological processes, including pain modulation.

This interaction suggests the potential of cannabis for pain relief.

Chronic Pain and Cannabis

Chronic pain is persistent or recurrent pain lasting more than 3 to 6 months.

It can stem from injuries, surgeries, migraines, arthritis, nerve damage, fibromyalgia, and other conditions.

Common treatments include over-the-counter and prescription pain relievers, antidepressants, anticonvulsants, and opioids.

However, these can have side effects and are not always effective, leading to a search for alternative treatments.

Research on Cannabis for Chronic Pain

Several studies suggest cannabis can be effective in managing chronic pain.

A meta-analysis published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2015 examined 79 clinical trials and found cannabinoids to be effective in treating chronic pain (Whiting et al., 2015).

Furthermore, a systematic review conducted in 2017 and published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found evidence supporting the use of cannabis for treating chronic pain (Nugent et al., 2017).

In 2018, Pain journal published a systematic review and meta-analysis of controlled and observational studies, concluding that there is substantial evidence that cannabis can help manage chronic non-cancer pain (Stockings et al., 2018).

Research focusing on neuropathic pain, a type of chronic pain, also shows promise. A randomized, placebo-controlled, crossover trial published in The Journal of Pain in 2008 demonstrated that cannabis cigarettes can alleviate neuropathic pain (Wilsey et al., 2008).

A later meta-analysis in the Journal of Pain in 2015 further supported these findings, specifically for inhaled cannabis (Andreae et al., 2015).

Recommended Strains for Chronic Pain

Different cannabis strains have varying levels of THC and CBD, which may be more or less beneficial depending on the specific nature of your chronic pain:

A balanced hybrid strain high in THC, making it potentially beneficial for pain relief.

It’s one that also offers a calming effect due to its sativa and indica mix.

A strain high in CBD and low in THC is also an excellent choice for those seeking pain relief without a significant ‘high’.

It’s particularly well-regarded for neuropathic pain relief.

A 75/25 sativa-dominant strain renowned for its reliable expression of CBD.

It’s often chosen to alleviate pain without the heavy sedation often associated with high THC strains.

Remember, everyone’s reaction to cannabis can be different. Start slow, monitor the effects, and consult with a healthcare professional.

Patient Stories

Many chronic pain patients report significant benefits from using cannabis.

These anecdotes, while not replacing clinical studies, provide real-world experiences.

Some patients report improved pain levels, while others appreciate cannabis’s ability to enhance sleep and improve overall quality of life.

Potential Side Effects and Risks

Cannabis can cause side effects like dry mouth, fatigue, and dizziness. It can also impair short-term memory and coordination and increase heart rate.

Long-term use can lead to cognitive impairment and mental health issues in susceptible individuals.

Growing Cannabis for Medicinal Purposes

If you’re considering growing your own cannabis for pain management, several factors come into play.

Choose strains that have demonstrated efficacy for your type of pain.

Understand your local legal regulations, provide adequate growing conditions, and be prepared for challenges like pest control and nutrient management.


Medical cannabis shows promise in managing chronic pain, potentially offering relief to millions.

While more research is needed, current evidence, coupled with patient experiences, offers hope.

As always, remember the importance of discussing any new treatment with a healthcare professional.


Andreae MH, Carter GM, Shaparin N, et al. Inhaled Cannabis for Chronic Neuropathic Pain: A Meta-analysis of Individual Patient Data. Journal of Pain. 2015;16(12):1221-1232.

Nugent SM, Morasco BJ, O’Neil ME, et al. The Effects of Cannabis Among Adults With Chronic Pain and an Overview of General Harms: A Systematic Review. Ann Intern Med. 2017;167(5):319-331.

Stockings E, Campbell G, Hall WD, et al. Cannabis and cannabinoids for the treatment of people with chronic noncancer pain conditions: a systematic review and meta-analysis of controlled and observational studies. Pain. 2018;159(10):1932-1954.

Whiting PF, Wolff RF, Deshpande S, et al. Cannabinoids for Medical Use: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. JAMA. 2015;313(24):2456–2473.

Wilsey B, Marcotte T, Tsodikov A, et al. A Randomized, Placebo-Controlled, Crossover Trial of Cannabis Cigarettes in Neuropathic Pain. The Journal of Pain, 2008; 9(6): 506-521.

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