Can medical marijuana relieve the pain associated with shingles?
Can medical marijuana relieve the pain associated with shingles? I’d rather not take a prescription for the pain.
In most cases, the symptoms associated with shingles last about one month and resolve on their own. In these instances, cannabis (via inhalation or ingestion) can be an effective analgesic and can also help take your mind off your pain.
Some shingles patients, however, suffer from ongoing pain called post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN). PHN affects nerve fibers and the skin and can lead to chronic peripheral neuropathy, which is chronic pain in the body leading up to the spinal cord and brain. Peripheral neuropathy can be caused by:
Microbial infections, such as the varicella-zoster virus (which causes chicken pox and shingles).
An underlying disease or condition, such as diabetes, shingles, or HIV/AIDs.
Nutritional deficiency such as lack of vitamin B12.
Chronic degenerative conditions that include autoimmune diseases, vasculitis, and cancer.
Adverse effects of numerous pharmaceutical drugs.
Studies demonstrate that cannabis can effectively treat neuropathic pain. For example, researchers at UC Davis Medical Center performed a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial to study the effects of low and medium-dose vaporized cannabis for the treatment of neuropathy (the low dose contained 1.3 percent THC and the medium dose contained 3.5 percent THC). Patients reported that vaporized cannabis, even at the lowest doses, provided relief for patients with treatment-resistant neuropathic pains.
A review of 15 double-blind, placebo-controlled trials conducted on more 1,600 patients with chronic neuropathy found that cannabinoids worked significantly better compared to the placebo in reducing neuropathy. Ten of the studies used a plant-derived, 1:1 oromucosal spray, three studies were with nabilone and dronabinol, and two studies used cannabis flower.
The delivery method you use to consume cannabis will influence the benefits that you derive from cannabis medicines, and understanding the delivery methods and corresponding absorption sites can help you identify which products are best suited to treat neuropathy. For example, a topical can provide local relief with few (if any) side effects, while a cannabis edible can provide longer, systemic relief and, over time, can reduce inflammation. Inhaling cannabis can relieve pain quickly and can give you the most control over your dose.
Finally, when treating shingles, it’s important to get enough sleep and avoid stress, and small doses of cannabis can help alleviate stress, help facilitate sleep onset, and extend sleep duration.
In most cases, the symptoms associated with shingles last about one month and resolve on their own. In these instances, cannabis (via inhalation or…
What Is Shingles?
Shingles is a viral infection caused by the same virus as chickenpox, varicella-zoster. Shingles is a remnant from this virus that lays dormant in the body and reactivates later in life. It causes a painful rash that usually appears on the torso, sometimes progressing into blisters and boils. Shingles can be extremely painful and causes a variety of sensations from burning to tingling to numbness. It also causes other symptoms like sensitivity, fever, headache, and fatigue. Long term pain can also persist, even after the rash has cleared from the body.
Shingles attacks the nerve cells, making it extremely hard to get relief from pain. Shingles can also block certain receptors that usually allow people to get relief from medications like non-steroidal anti-inflammatories and opioids. Due to the inability for the receptors to be properly targeted by these medications, doses prescribed for people with shingles are often higher. High doses of pain relieving products like opioids can cause addiction and dependence, often doing more harm than good.
Cannabis Provides Relief
Endocannabinoid receptors are found all over the body, so they are not blocked in the same way as other receptors, allowing for cannabis to provide pain relief in a way other products cannot. Cannabis also has neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory properties that can greatly reduce the pain and long-term effects caused by shingles. A 2011 study published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology found that cannabis had multifaceted nuero-protective effects. The study, which used animal models, found that this quality of cannabis was caused by the activation of CB1 receptors that helped prevent damage to nerves.
Cannabis is known for its effective analgesic qualities, especially in relation to neuropathic pain, which is the kind of pain most often caused by shingles. Neuropathic pain, which often doesn’t react to traditional pain relieving pharmaceuticals, can be greatly aided by THC, according to a 2009 study from Neurotherapeutics. A 2015 study from the Journal of Oral and Facial Pain and Headache also showed that cannabinoids were effective at relieving neuropathic pain that did not respond to other treatments. The study was a review of various randomized placebo-controlled studies conducted starting in the 1950s, which all added support to the conclusion made by the review. The review also noted an overall improvement of sleep, nausea, anxiety, and appetite by patients who consumed cannabis in the studies.
Topicals: A Great Option
Topical cannabis products are a great choice for people with shingles. Shingles pain is often located in specific areas, making it a great option for being targeted by topical cannabis medications. Cannabis topicals can come in the form of salves, creams, balms, or oils and they are absorbed through the skin. The topical products bond to CB2 receptors when they are absorbed into the skin and provide localized pain relief. There are many topicals on the market today, some favorites in California are Sweet ReLeaf, Flower Power and Xternal.
THC-infused topicals provide pain relieving properties without being psychoactive because they are not absorbed into the blood stream. CBD infused topical products can also provide people with anti-inflammatory medication to help decrease inflammation that causes pain and physical rashes on the body. Medical cannabis, no matter the form, is a great choice to help people with shingles find relief from their pain and suffering.
If you’re new to cannabis and want to learn more, take a look at our Cannabis 101 post. HelloMD can help you get your medical marijuana recommendation; it’s 100% online, private and efficient.
- Pain Management
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What Is Shingles? Shingles is a viral infection caused by the same virus as chickenpox, varicella-zoster. Shingles is a remnant from this virus that lays dormant in the body and reactivates later in life. It causes a painful rash that usually appears on the torso, sometimes progressing into blisters and boils. Shingles…