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THC for Day-to-Day Pain Relief [Muscle Aches, Dental Pain, Menstrual Cramps, and More]

Unlike acute pain, which is classified as temporary, chronic pain is typically defined as any pain that lasts for longer than 12 weeks. For most people, chronic pain is something that causes a reduction in their quality of life.

Over-the-counter (OTC) drugs for pain are relatively cheap and easy to access. Research from the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA) found that 81% of Americans used OTC drugs as a first response to minor ailments.

Over 90% of physicians believe OTC drugs are safe and effective according to the CHPA, but are they right? Many OTC painkillers, like ibuprofen, can have negative effects on the stomach and kidney.

Partially because of these risks, an increasing number of Americans are ditching their OTC drugs in favor of cannabis to handle day-to-day conditions. Marijuana and cannabinoids, such as THC and CBD, are used to address several conditions, such as multiple sclerosis, depression, and severe anxiety. Let’s take a closer look at this trend and check out the science behind it.

THC for General Day-to-Day Pains: How Practical Is It?

Medical marijuana is legal in a majority of states and is available recreationally in a number of other states. It is possible for those living in a legal state to consume THC via smoking, vaping, or using an edible. Regardless of the method, it is unwise to try to use THC in any significant dose close to work time.

The Updated 2020 Guide to CBD …

Whole-Body Homeostasis and Day-to-Day Pain Management

Imagine two people: one of them has painful rheumatoid arthritis (RA) joint inflammation, and the other a severe migraine. The RA patient takes 5mg of hydrocodone (an opioid painkiller). Meanwhile, the migraine sufferer takes three ibuprofen tablets to relieve his severe headache.

In the RA sufferer’s case, the hydrocodone acts by blocking the pain transmission in the brain. It does nothing to reduce inflammation in the joints. The ibuprofen works by inhibiting the formation of prostaglandin at the site of inflammation. It physically reduces the inflamed tissue responsible for the migraine pain. However, it could also inhibit protective prostaglandins in the digestive system and kidneys. Over time, this can cause serious health risks (such as stomach bleeding and kidney damage).

What If They Use THC Instead?

In the case of the rheumatoid arthritis patient, the active cannabinoid travels to the specific joint inflammation site. There, it links up with naturally-occurring cannabinoid receptors in the synovium (the tissue layer responsible for causing arthritis pain) and physically reduces the inflamed tissue.

Likewise, in the migraine sufferer, the THC will initiate a pain modulating response, generally without negatively affecting or disturbing the stomach or kidneys.

Cannabis is different from other conventional pain medications in that it acts on a whole-body homeostasis system.

Homeostasis refers to the balance of systems within the body. THC works on homeostasis through physiological manipulation of the endocannabinoid system or ECS. The ECS is a system of cannabinoids and cannabinoid receptors that exist naturally in the body. This system works to regulate various functions, including pain, memory, and appetite.

These naturally-occurring cannabinoids and their receptors have been found in cells throughout the human body, from the T-cells that initiate an immune response to pancreatic cells that produce insulin for blood glucose regulation.

Dr. Dustin Sulak is a prominent physician in the field of whole-body cannabis use. He has described the endocannabinoid system as “perhaps the most important physiologic system involved in establishing and maintaining human health.” This is due to the role it plays in maintaining homeostasis, the body’s ability to maintain stable internal conditions despite “fluctuations in the external environment.”

THC as a Day-to-Day Treatment

There is a growing level of research into cannabis, primarily THC and CBDs’ impact on major medical conditions. While much research still needs to be done, some studies have uncovered promising results.

THC for Menstrual Cramps

According to legend, Queen Victoria, the long-reigning English monarch, used cannabis to deal with menstrual cramps pain. Apparently, her physician, Sir J. Russell Reynolds, sourced the marijuana on her behalf. But can THC offer relief from menstrual cramp pain?

A study by Ethan Russo, published in the British Journal of Pharmacology in August 2011, looked at the entourage effect. This theory suggests that cannabinoids and terpenoids work better together.

While THC can act as a pain reliever, CBD works as a muscle relaxant. Therefore, cannabis could potentially block the pain associated with cramps but may even help prevent their onset.

Those with menstrual cramps may find relief by applying a topical cannabis product, such as a cream, to the lower abdomen.

Unless a person uses a very large amount of cream, they shouldn’t experience psychoactive effects. If consumed, they may also find that marijuana’s muscle-relaxing properties help as well.

Marijuana for Toothache / General Dental Pain

To date, there has been little research into the effects of cannabis on dental issues. THC and CBD have anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties. Therefore a combination of THC and CBD could prove useful for individuals with toothaches.

THC for Muscle Soreness / Stiffness / Cramps

Cannabis is widely used to manage conditions such as multiple sclerosis, where muscle stiffness is one of the main symptoms. In a 2012 study, published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry, a marijuana extract helped ease the muscle stiffness associated with MS.

Patients with the condition received a THC extract or a placebo for two weeks with maintenance doses for a further ten weeks. Those who took oral cannabis had a rate of relief from muscle stiffness after 12 weeks, almost twice as high as those on the placebo.

THC for Acute Inflammation

In their review, “Cannabinoids as novel anti-inflammatory drugs,” Nagarkatti et al. found that, “several studies showed that cannabinoids downregulate cytokine and chemokine production and, in some models, upregulate T-regulatory cells (Tregs) as a mechanism to suppress inflammatory responses.”

The researchers concluded their review by stating that “overall, cannabinoids have exhibited significant potential to be used as novel anti-inflammatory agents.”

Effective marijuana treatments…

THC For Energy / Fatigue / Mental Focus

A National Safety Council report found that up to 43% of Americans admit being too tired to function at work properly. Could cannabis help with this as well? Well, while marijuana is often associated with causing drowsiness, that is only true for certain strains.

Indica-dominant cannabis strains are often linked with improved sleep, but each strain’s terpene content plays a role in how sedating even the different indica-heavy strains can be. Sativa-dominant strains usually contain higher levels of energizing terpenes and fewer sedative ones.

For example, strains with less than 0.5% myrcene are energizing, while strains with more than 0.5% are sedative.

For individuals who are always tired and have issues sleeping, an indica-dominant hybrid with ample myrcene is a solid option. However, strains such as Sour Diesel, Green Crack, or Durban Poison can be useful for a burst of energy.

Final Thoughts on THC for Day-to-Day Pain Relief

Over-the-counter medications are cheap, easily attainable, and may provide short-term relief. However, they generally do nothing to help the cause of pain in the long-term, and overuse may cause medical issues later on.

If it is practical and legal, consider microdosing marijuana to see if its THC and other cannabinoids can do the trick.

If you are suffering from day-to-day pain such as muscle aches, dental pain, menstrual cramps, and more, here's how THC could offer some relief.

What weed smokers need to know before going into surgery

One day in 2016, Jennie awoke to sharp pain and a tugging sensation on the left side of her jaw — “like my jaw was being pulled off my head,” she recalls — along with the firm pressure of hands holding her mouth agape. She opened her eyes just enough to see human silhouettes hovering over her. Her body felt heavy, but also like it was floating; she tried to lift her arms, but all she could do was wriggle. What was going on? she wondered, scared.

“She’s waking up,” a male voice said. It was around then that Jennie remembered: She was in the dentist’s office, getting her wisdom teeth pulled. She must have awoken during the procedure. Almost as soon as she realized what was happening, the anesthesia pulled her back into sleep.

Jennie had been smoking weed at least once a day for the past four years. She smoked with her fiancГ© the day of her wisdom tooth extraction. “I had no idea it was going to affect the anesthesia,” says the 35-year-old, who lives in Arizona. (She requested that Mic publish only her first name out of concern for the legal repercussions of her weed use, since Arizona prohibits recreational cannabis.) Indeed, as legalization sweeps across the country, evidence has emerged that regular marijuana users need more anesthesia for surgery than non-users to ensure they become, and stay, sedated and don’t awaken mid-procedure. In plain, very urgent, English: If you consume cannabis on the reg, you need to let your doctor know before you go under for surgery.

Along with anecdotal reports, a 2019 study found that patients who reported smoking weed or ingesting edibles on a daily or weekly basis needed more than double the amount of the anesthetic propofol for endoscopic procedures (like colonoscopies) than non-users. They also needed 19.6% more midazolam and 14% more fentanyl.

Why marijuana increases your need for anesthesia remains unclear, largely because of its status as a federally illegal drug, which makes it difficult to research, Jeffrey Uppington, an anesthesiologist at UC Davis Medical Center, tells Mic. It’s possible that compounds in weed called cannabinoids — which tetrahydrocannabinol (THC, which is responsible for making you feel high) — affect the same receptors in the brain and spinal cord as anesthesia drugs do.

But, “that’s more speculation than we really know,” Uppington says. “The bottom line is, if you’re a chronic user of marijuana, you are more resistant to anesthetics, both those that put you to sleep, like propofol, and those that keep you asleep, like various anesthesia gases.”

Thanks to modern-day monitors that measure brain waves and other vitals, an anesthesiologist can likely spot when a patient is about to awaken and give them more drugs before they reach that point, Uppington says. But even if you don’t wake up during a procedure, you can still have issues. If you routinely smoke weed, your airway might be more reactive during anesthesia. You might cough more, experience bronchial spasms, and/or have a more active gag reflex, which is a problem if you need to be intubated, as with general anesthesia (the kind that puts you to sleep).

“If you’re a chronic user of marijuana, you are more resistant to anesthetics, both those that put you to sleep, like propofol, and those that keep you asleep, like various anesthesia gases.”

After surgery, you might also experience more pain, which may nudge you toward using more opioids and increase your risk of addiction to these substances, says David Hepner, the medical director of the Weiner Center for Preoperative Evaluation at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and an associate professor of anaesthesia at Harvard Medical School.

High doses of anesthesia also carry risks, such as causing significant drops in blood pressure, which may lead to a heart attack in at-risk patients, They may also delay awakening, Hepner tells Mic. For instance, propofol usually wears off in about five to 10 minutes but a marijuana user who requires a higher dose may take longer to awaken, delaying them from resuming their normal, day-to-day life.

Jennie’s wisdom tooth extraction left her so groggy that she needed to be transported to her car by wheelchair, and she doesn’t remember anything from the 45-minute ride home. As her fiancГ© drove, she drifted in and out of sleep, and didn’t feel like herself again for another three hours. In contrast, a friend she drove home after a dental procedure was a little groggy, but could walk to his car and felt fine when he got home, probably because he wasn’t a cannabis user, and therefore didn’t require as much anesthesia.

The amount of cannabis you need to consume for it increase your resistance to anesthesia remains unclear, though. Determining this threshold is tricky, thanks to the varying concentrations of THC from one product to the next, how long you hold the smoke in your lungs, and the many other variables involved, Uppington says. But it’s probably safe to say that using cannabis every day for a few years is more likely to affect your response to anesthesia than using it just once.

If you do smoke cannabis regularly, tell your anesthesiologist how much and how often, as well as the last time you smoked, Uppington says. They can then assess whether your use could increase your risk of being resistant to anesthesia and make adjustments accordingly.

While disclosing your weed use may feel embarrassing or even dangerous, remember that your doctor’s job isn’t to judge you, Hepner says. “We just want to understand the health of the patient and how the body may react to different medications to give them the most pain-free procedure.” He adds that it’s also important to mention any other substances or medications you’re taking, since they, too, may react with the anesthesia. Since physicians take an oath to protect patient confidentiality, they wouldn’t disclose your use of cannabis or other substances to your family, law enforcement, or anyone other than the medical professionals directly involved in your care.

No matter how often you consume cannabis, though, don’t use it at all on the day of your procedure, Hepner says. Taking an edible on the same day poses the added risk of inhaling it, which may result in a life-threatening lung infection called aspiration pneumonia. And if you come into the clinic high AF, you can pretty much count on your surgery being cancelled. Uppington recommends hitting pause for as many days as you can before your surgery, ideally a month, which is how long it takes for cannabis to be fully removed from the body.

Awakening mid-wisdom tooth extraction was eye-opening for Jennie. Since her doctor didn’t ask her specifically about her drug use, and she didn’t think smoking weed wouldn’t matter for her surgery, she didn’t mention it; in fact, she worried that if she did, she wouldn’t be allowed to undergo the procedure. “In the future, I would definitely inform my doctor of my cannabis use,” she says.

This article was originally published on Jan. 31, 2020

One day in 2016, Jennie awoke to sharp pain and a tugging sensation on the left side of her jaw — "like my jaw was being pulled off my head," she recalls — along with the firm pressure of hands holding her mouth agape. She opened her eyes just… ]]>