April 12, 2023 01:00 pm ETEstimated Read Time: 4 Minutes
If you or someone close to you has suffered a spinal cord injury (SCI), chances are chronic pain may have been a constant companion. Until now, treatment options were limited and often provided only minimal relief. However, a new, innovative study offers never-before-seen insights into the effectiveness of cannabidiol (CBD) as a promising alternative treatment option.
In this article, we’ll closely examine this fascinating exploration of cutting-edge research and learn how this study could transform the future of pain relief for spinal cord injury patients.
Chronic Pain After Spinal Cord Injuries: Some Key Facts
Spinal cord injuries (SCIs) are a severe and often devastating health issue in the United States. Unfortunately, chronic pain is a common and often debilitating complication of SCIs in the United States. According to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center (NSCISC), there are approximately 17,810 new cases of SCI each year, with a prevalence of about 294,000 people currently living with SCI in the U.S. SCIs can result from a variety of causes, including:
Motor vehicle accidents
Research indicates that approximately 70% of individuals with SCIs experience chronic pain. This can include nerve pain, musculoskeletal pain, and headaches, among other types. Chronic pain can significantly impact a person’s quality of life, leading to depression, anxiety, and social isolation. Effective pain management is an essential aspect of SCI treatment and can involve a combination of medications, physical therapy, and other therapies.
What Science Says About CBD and Chronic Pain-Related Spinal Cord Injuries
The University of Sydney, in collaboration with the Lambert Initiative for Cannabinoid Therapeutics, has launched a pioneering medical trial to investigate the efficacy of CBD in treating chronic pain resulting from spinal cord injuries. This pioneering research has been granted AUD$1.7 million in funding from NSW Health and is the first of its kind globally.
Persistent pain is a prevalent issue among SCI patients, with nearly 80% of affected individuals experiencing some degree of discomfort. Professor Luke Henderson, who leads the study from the university’s Brain and Mind Centre and the School of Medical Sciences, emphasizes the urgency for new treatment options. Current neuropathic pain therapies have limited effectiveness and are often accompanied by severe side effects, worsening patients’ conditions.
The use of cannabis-based products for neuropathic pain relief has seen a steady increase in Australia. According to Professor Iain McGregor, the study’s co-investigator from the Lambert Initiative, physicians frequently prescribe these products for pain management. The National Drug Strategy Household Survey reported that from 2016 to 2019, 1,011 prescriptions for medical cannabis were issued. This number has skyrocketed to 295,515 since 2020, showcasing a growing trend in the country.
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The trial will occur at Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA) in Randwick, Sydney, a world-class facility for imaging the brain and researching spinal cord injuries. Participants will undergo two six-week treatment periods, receiving either a placebo or CBD in a randomized order. Patients will rate their pain levels throughout the trial and wear wrist monitors to track their sleep patterns.
Additionally, at the beginning and end of each treatment phase, participants will visit NeuRA to have their brains scanned, fill out questionnaires, and provide blood samples.
Furthermore, this study aims to go beyond simply establishing CBD’s efficacy and will attempt to identify a biomarker that will predict individual responses to CBD treatment. Such an innovative approach may help clinicians personalize treatments even further and improve patient outcomes for those living with chronic pain caused by SCI.
What This Means for the Future of Cannabis Research
Undoubtedly, the results of this new study will add to the long list of previous studies showing the effectiveness of CBD in alleviating chronic pain. Researchers hope this medical trial exploration represents a beacon of hope for millions of people suffering from this debilitating condition.
By pushing the boundaries of medical research and shedding light on the potential therapeutic applications of cannabis-based products, this study has the potential to significantly impact the lives of patients, their families, and the medical community.
As we continue to broaden our understanding of the benefits of cannabinoids, we inch closer to a future where the stigma surrounding cannabis dissipates, replaced by a newfound appreciation for its potential to alleviate pain and improve the quality of life for those grappling with spinal cord injuries.
Note: The content on this page is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be professional medical advice. Do not attempt to self-diagnose or prescribe treatment based on the information provided. Always consult a physician before making any decision on the treatment of a medical condition.
Lemetria Whitehurst is a cannabis nurse educator and writer specializing in cannabis science and culture. Her career in the medical industry spans more than two decades where she began her career as a pharmacy technician before becoming a registered nurse. As an avid reader
and researcher, she is passionate about educating others about cannabis’ medicinal properties.
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