Guide to Cannabis for Neuropathy and Neuropathic pain
Cannabis, particularly CBD, is used to treat a number of illnesses both physical and psychological. When we discuss cannabis treatments, a number of factors are mentioned as the reason behind its healing capacity. Some of these include anti-inflammation, pain management, and neuroprotection. Neuroprotective factors are quoted as the reason for CBDs effectiveness in treating neurological conditions such as; Multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and other degenerative neurological conditions. As a result, people are treating neuropathic pain with cannabis as well as using cannabis for neuropathy.
What is neuroprotection?
Neuroprotection is the preservation of neuronal structure and/or function. Where preservation means a reduction in the rate of neuronal loss over time.
The neuron is the basic working unit of the brain and central nervous system. They’re specialized cells designed to transmit information – in other words, neurons are information messengers in the body. They use electrical impulses and chemical signals (neurotransmitters) to transmit information between different areas of the brain as well as between the brain and the rest of the nervous system. Therefore, the effective functioning of our neurons is important to our overall functioning, so when we think about our health neuroprotection should be something we consider.
Description of Neuropathy
Neuropathy is damage or dysfunction of one or more nerves that typically results in numbness, tingling, muscle weakness and pain in the affected area. Neuropathies frequently start in the hands and feet, but other parts of the body can be affected too.
Neuropathy, often called peripheral neuropathy, indicates a problem within the peripheral nervous system. The peripheral nervous system is the network of nerves outside the brain and spinal cord, which make up the central nervous system.
Neuropathy can affect one nerve (mononeuropathy) or nerve type, a combination of nerves in a limited area (multifocal neuropathy) or many peripheral nerves throughout the body (polyneuropathy).
There are many causes of neuropathy although sometimes the cause is unknown. Diabetes is the number one cause in the United States. Other common causes include trauma, chemotherapy, alcoholism, and autoimmune diseases (source).
Neuropathy and Neuropathic Pain
In some cases, nerve damage results in numbness but other times it results in pain. Neuropathic pain is a chronic condition that leads to persistent pain symptoms. For many patients, the intensity of their symptoms can wax and wane throughout the day.
Although neuropathic pain is thought to be associated with peripheral nerve problems, such as neuropathy caused by diabetes or spinal stenosis, injuries to the brain or spinal cord can also lead to chronic neuropathic pain.
Neuropathy and neuropathic pain have proven to be challenging to treat. A number of medications are often used off-label. For example, tricyclic antidepressants and SSRIs and anti-seizure medications. People are also often given various pain-relieving medications as well as topical treatments to manage pain (source).
With medications such as these, there are always concerns regarding the long term impacts as well as the side effects. Cannabis is an alternative treatment that may provide relief with fewer side effects.
Cannabis for Neuropathy – What the Research Says
Neuropathy and the Endocannabinoid System
The endocannabinoid system is present in both humans and animals. It’s the system that helps to maintain homeostasis in the body through regulating important functions like, mood, sleep, appetite and other critical functions.
The CB1 receptors in the endocannabinoid system are most prevalent in the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). Cannabinoids also modulate signal pathways in other neurons which help to maintain homeostasis in areas of the body through regulating naturally occurring neurotransmitters.
Due to the fact that neurological conditions like neuropathy can occur for numerous reasons, there are a number of mechanisms by which cannabis provides neuroprotection, helps to support neuroregeneration, and treats neuropathic pain.
A 2005 study on mice suggests that CBDs neuroprotective factors may be a result of increased cerebral blood flow as CBD administration resulted in an increase in blood flow to the cerebral cortex. While other studies suggest anti-oxidizing and anti-inflammatory properties are the reason for the neuroprotective properties seen in cannabis. All of which may be true, in part.
Preliminary evidence suggests that cannabis does in fact have neuroprotective factors but more research is necessary to fully understand the mechanisms by which it works.
A 2010 study found that a single inhalation of 25mg of cannabis three times a day for 5 days reduced the intensity of pain, improved sleep and was well tolerated with their small number of participants.
A 2013 study found that when compared to traditional neuropathic pain medication, cannabis effectively reduced pain.
Neurological Conditions and Cannabis
There are a number of neurological conditions where cannabis has been studied as an alternative treatment. Preliminary evidence suggests it is effective in both providing neuroprotective as well as treating neuropathic pain. Some of these conditions include; Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s Disease, and Multiple Sclerosis.
Read more about these conditions and how to treat them with cannabis at the links above.
How to Treat Neuropathy and Neuropathic Pain with Cannabis
Since the research is still in its preliminary stages, there is no accepted way to treat neuropathy or neuropathic pain with cannabis. There are many methods of consumption and as with any medication, there is a variance between individuals. Though daily consumption is recommended by many professionals.
In the studies we have seen, most provide support for the use of THC (or at least THC in combination with CBD) at low doses. Some of the evidence even appears to suggest that lower doses are more effective. As a result, it’s recommended to start at a low dose and increase slowly until the desired results are achieved. It’s important to note that CBD helps to counteract the psychoactive effects of THC.
There are many great ways of adding cannabis into your health and wellness routine. One of the easiest ways to use THC in combination with CBD is with cannabis oil. It can be dropped under the tongue or added to a food or beverage.
Natural Care nurse practitioner Lynn Haslam says she typically starts neuropathic pain patients on a low nighttime dose of a 1:1 CBD/THC oil. “We really want the pain managed so they can sleep,” she says.
Adding CBD and THC into your favourite meals and beverages is another great way to get your regular dose. With Miss Envy’s edible products you can add CBD and/or THC into your favourite evening snacks or add them to your dinner. You can use the CBD and THC coconut oils in combination at any ratio that works for you.
If you’re not a baker or a cook, you can get your hands on some Better Than… chocolate bars which are the perfect treat to have with your evening tea (or whenever is convenient for you).
Cannabis Topicals for Treating Neuropathic Pain
Another option is cannabis topicals for treating neuropathic pain. They are applied to the skin directly at the site of pain. One advantage of cannabis topicals is that you can apply a higher dose of THC without worrying about experiencing the psychoactive high. The THC does not get absorbed into the bloodstream, therefore, does not reach the brain.
Cannabis topicals are easy to use as they’re typically in a bar, cream, or salve and applied to the skin at the site of irritation in the same manner as a typical moisturizing lotion. The only problem with cannabis topicals is that it’s hard to determine the dose of the product you’re applying. There is no easy way to determine the exact amount of product per use. Also, there is also no accepted effective dose for cannabis topicals as the research is still preliminary.
That being said researchers have not seen any adverse effects of cannabis topicals at high doses. If further irritation does occur it is a result of other ingredients in the topical product, not the cannabis. So, it’s important to use products with quality ingredients.
Final Thoughts on Cannabis for Neuropathy
Cannabis is a possible alternative treatment for neuropathy and neuropathic pain. Cannabis has been used by a number of people for a number of neurological conditions. So far the research suggests the most effective treatment is a small dose of CBD and THC in combination.
Are you or a loved one treating neuropathic pain with cannabis? We want to hear from you! Share your story and what treatment you’re using in the comments, tag us on social media, or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org