For centuries across the entire world, Cannabis has been used as an effective method for pain management. Within the past few decades, a revival of the medical cannabis movement led to the discovery of the cannabis plant’s biochemical characteristics and the endocannabinoid system.  As more states and countries dedicate more research funding to cannabis, more and more patients decide that medical marijuana should be part of their healthcare regime. As patient reporting of the effectiveness of cannabis for pain relief increases, more patients will begin to implement cannabis for medicinal purposes.

The Amputee Coalition describes Phantom limb pain (PLP) as “ongoing painful sensations that seem to be coming from the part of the limb that is no longer there. The limb is gone, but the pain is real. The onset of this pain most often occurs soon after surgery. It can feel like a variety of things, such as burning, twisting, itching or pressure. It is often felt in fingers or toes. It is believed that nearly 80 percent of the amputee population worldwide has experienced this kind of pain.”

Phantom limb sensation, residual limb pain, and phantom limb pain (PLP) are not uncommon in amputees. The Indian Journal of Psychiatry reported that PLP may be “present in up to 72% of patients soon after surgery, may persist for years, and can be very bothersome.  PLP can affect an individual’s quality of life by the distress, physical limitation and the disability that it may cause.”

PLP is thought to be caused by mixed signals from your brain or spinal cord. The treatments are varied and pharmaceuticals are usually recommended to help combat the neurological pain associated with PLP. According to Nikolajsen and Jensen “a large number of different treatments have been suggested [for PLP], but the vast majority of studies concerning the treatment of phantom pain are based on small groups with no controls.”

They categorized the phantom complex as having three different elements and explained that these elements often coexist in each patient and may be difficult to separate:

  • Phantom limb pain: Painful sensations referred to the absent limb.
  • Phantom limb sensation: Any sensation in the absent limb, except pain.
  • Stump pain: Pain localized in the stump.

The British Journal of Anesthesia published the results of one study which sought to understand the reasons for underlying pain in amputees. It was the researchers hope that more effective treatments would be clinically studied. This study concluded that many of the current pharmaceuticals are often ineffective because of the side effects associated with long-term use.  

The Journal of Pain Research published a report which concluded that “some of the currently available therapies yield promising results, yet many PLP patients still remain without satisfactory pain relief. Researchers found that “stress, anxiety, depression and other emotional triggers also highly likely contribute to PLP.”

Patients who are experiencing challenges with PLP and traditional pain relief methods, should speak to a medical marijuana physician about the benefits of integrating cannabis into their healthcare routine.

This article published in the Journal of Therapy Clinical Risk Management  examined cannabis as a method of pain relief for chronic pain patients. It was determined that patients afflicted with a variety of ailments, i.e. neuropathic pain associated with PLP, often felt that opiates, antidepressants and anticonvulsant drugs were inadequately treating the pain.

Whereas opiates target the central nervous system, Cannabinoids similarly, and naturally, affect the user by “interacting with specific receptors.” Once medical marijuana is ingested, the receptors are opened and the medication begins to provide relief to patients. The University of Washington states that there are 480 natural components in the cannabis plant.

Cannabinoid Receptors, referred to as CB1 and CB2, are an essential part of the human body’s endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid system consists of cannabinoid receptors all over the body. This system enables a connection between body and mind, signaling to all other systems when something feels good or bad. The powers of the endocannabinoid system and with the proper use of medical marijuana, patients can experience long-lasting and natural pain/symptom relief.

Alison Mack and Janet Joy’s book Marijuana as Medicine: The Science Beyond the Controversyextracts critical findings from a recent Institute of Medicine study on this important issue, interpreting them for a general audience.” The authors describe how pain is the alarm of disease. They state: “There are no truly effective medicines for certain types of pain, and sometimes relief comes only at the expense of debilitating side effects. Thus, the search for new and better pain relievers, perhaps the oldest form of medicine, continues unabated.”

Mack and Joy also note that “peripheral nerves that detect pain sensations contain abundant receptors for cannabinoids, and cannabinoids appear to block peripheral nerve pain,” which supports other studies and reports that detect that cannabis is effective in pain management.

Each patient’s needs are unique. Speak to a certifying medical marijuana physician to determine the recommended strain and method of consumption.


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