Individuals dealing with neuropathy foot pain are looking for relief. The condition can be extremely painful, cause a variety of negative symptoms, and create mobility challenges. Many of the treatments for neuropathic pain are not effective for all patients. This form of pain is known for being difficult to treat. Fortunately, medical marijuana may be an excellent alternative treatment. To understand how to treat your neuropathy foot pain with medical marijuana you need to understand what causes the pain, what treatments are available, the effects marijuana has on pain and nerve receptors, and how marijuana can be used as a treatment.
What is Neuropathy Foot Pain?
Peripheral neuropathy is a type of nerve pain caused by overactive peripheral nerves that send pain and other signals to the brain. When the peripheral nerves are in this state, they cannot seem to turn off the pain signals even when no injury or trauma are occurring. This is often caused by nerve disease, nerve damage, or other conditions that can affect nerve health like diabetes. Neuropathy foot pain is a condition that causes pain in the feet or lower extremities. It may also affect the hands. Neuropathy in the feet can cause a variety of unpleasant symptoms, which may worsen over time.
Symptoms of neuropathic foot pain include:
- Muscle weakness
- Sensitivity to touch
- Chronic pain in the affected areas
- Burning pain
- Worsening of pain at night
- Pain not relieved by traditional pain management options
- Cramps or muscle spasms
- Muscle wasting or deterioration
- Impaired sense of touch
- Potential for nerve, tissue, or organ damage
- Difficulty walking or standing
- Increased risk of injuries, infection, or falls
Around 20 million people in the United States are estimated to have peripheral neuropathy. Painful foot neuropathy is one of the most common varieties, and diabetic neuropathy in the feet is growing increasingly more common. Many patients find the pain to be severe to extreme in nature, making it difficult to stand, walk, or perform normal tasks. The severe pain can also cause issues with sleep patterns, cognitive ability, and mood. Neuropathic pain is often very difficult to treat or find relief from, leading many to continue the search for a better way to manage this type of pain.
Treatment for Neuropathy Pain in Feet
A variety of treatment options exist for neuropathy pain. These treatment options may aim to address the symptoms of neuropathic pain, provide neuropathy foot pain relief, or treat the underlying cause of the pain. Unfortunately, a cure for peripheral neuropathy pain does not exist. To treat the underlying cause of the nerve pain, patients may focus on adopting a healthier lifestyle, receive medical treatment for a disease or to repair trauma, or work to keep their blood glucose levels under control. Immunosuppressive drugs, intravenous immunoglobulin doses, and plasmapheresis or removal and cleansing of the blood are also commonly prescribed, even though these treatments come with a variety of negative side effects.
Additional therapies include a wide array of prescription pills, including antidepressants, anticonvulsants, antiarrhythmic medications, anti-inflammatories, and narcotics. These medications aim to treat the symptoms and provide pain relief by addressing inflammation, nerve response, spasms, and other issues that result from neuropathic pain in the feet. Many patients are dissatisfied with these treatment options because they are not effective, come with negative side effects, or have a high-risk of developing a dependency. Topical treatments like diabetic neuropathy pain relief cream containing lidocaine or capsaicin are also available, although they do not show the same effectiveness against neuropathic pain as they do with other types of localized pain. The problems with traditional treatments have led many patients to turn to alternative therapy options like medical marijuana.
Marijuana as Medication for Neuropathic Pain in Feet
Medical marijuana has been considered as both a chronic and idiopathic peripheral neuropathy treatment option. Results from both research studies and patient testimonials have been considered by medical experts in a variety of venues, including the World Congress on Pain. Medicinal cannabis works as a pain reliever by interacting with the nervous system. Cannabis contains unique chemical compounds known as cannabinoids that are able to interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system, allowing the compounds to affect pain, mood, anxiety, inflammation, and nerve response. These compounds, most commonly THC and CBD, are also able to react with specific nerve receptors that help calm nerve response and reduce neuropathic pain sensations. Patients that self-medicate with marijuana indicate it is effective for neuropathy pain relief feet, and also report that it helps with their pain level, mood, spasticity, and cramps, tremors, and seizures.
Some research on marijuana’s effectiveness against various types of pain, including neuropathic pain, have been conducted, although the legal status of cannabis has limited the amount of research. The overwhelming majority of research conducted on medical marijuana for pain shows that it is effective at reducing pain. As an additional benefit, marijuana is also capable of addressing other symptoms associated with neuropathic pain, including improved mental health, reduced inflammation, and a reduction in cramps and seizures.
Recent research on marijuana for pain includes:
- Medscape reported on a study researching the use of vaporized, inhaled cannabis to treat diabetic neuropathy pain showed very promising effects for patients, including a reduction in pain, a lessened response to stimulus that was previously painful, and a longer lasting length of pain relief.
- Another research study on the effectiveness of various treatments for neuropathic pain found that cannabis helped provide relief improvements between 30% and 50% for nerve pain in the patients treated with smoked cannabis.
- An approved cannabis-based prescription medication available in Canada uses THC and CBD cannabinoids as a treatment for pain and nerve conditions. This medication passed prescription approval and clinical trials after showing effectiveness as a pain reliever. The United States is also considering a similar medication.
Although many varieties and doses of cannabis have been shown to help ease nerve response and reduce neuropathic pain, some research has looked closely at the most effective way to use marijuana as a treatment for neuropathy pain. In one study, Dr. Mark Wallace suggested that inhaled, vaporized marijuana was the most beneficial way to dose for pain. Vaporizing marijuana helps to achieve a more concentrated dose, reaches peak effect more quickly than other methods, and eliminates some of the concerns associated with smoked marijuana. Although vaporized marijuana seems to be the most effective form, other studies did show relief could be found with smoked, ingested, and even topically applied forms.
Other indications for the best use of marijuana to treat neuropathy pain based on the research include, dosing amount and frequency guidelines. Dr. Wallace found in his research that higher doses were more effective at relieving neuropathy pain. Many of the studies, including the Canadian prescription study, show that marijuana containing balanced levels of THC and CBD help more than varieties that contain only high levels of one or the other compound. Similar concepts should apply to ingested or topically applied methods of cannabis treatment. If using edibles, cannabis oil, or a foot pain cream for neuropathy, ensure your source marijuana meets these guidelines. Additionally, medical use of marijuana should begin as soon as symptoms appear and continue while pain is recurring.
Why are People Turning to Marijuana to Treat Neuropathic Pain?
Although additional research is needed to determine the best ways to use marijuana to treat neuropathic pain, many patients are already turning to this alternative treatment for a number of reasons. Marijuana has been shown to be more effective at providing relief than many other treatments. It also addresses many of the symptoms with one medication, while traditional treatments usually require a variety of pills or therapies. It provides some of the benefits of pain relievers, anti-inflammatories, and antidepressants in one convenient medicine. Additionally, the euphoric feeling associated with medical cannabis improves mood and reduces stress, making it easier to cope with chronic neuropathy pain. Medicinal cannabis also has fewer side effects than the serious side effects often associated with common pain treatments.
Neuropathy foot pain is a serious condition that can make life very difficult for those dealing with the condition. There is no cure for neuropathic pain. Several treatment options are available with varying levels of effectiveness. For many patients, these treatments do not help or do not help enough. They also have negative side effects that make long-term use problematic. Medical marijuana may be the solution to these problems. Research has shown that marijuana is effective at relieving pain, including hard to relieve nerve pain. Vaporizing cannabis to treat neuropathic foot pain can help reduce pain symptoms and lower response to painful stimuli. These positive results have many patients turning to medical marijuana to help them cope with their pain and improve their quality of life.
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