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Cannabis and CBD for Neuropathy

Neuropathy, or nerve damage, can result from a wide range of conditions, including diabetes, and even chemotherapy treatments. In general, neuropathy, also referred to as peripheral neuropathy, is not a single health disorder but rather a term used to describe a range of health problems that include damage to the peripheral nerves, as well as the symptoms of those problems.

Some form of neuropathy is estimated at 20 million Americans, and the associated risk factors vary from diabetes and chemotherapy to autoimmune conditions. The key to preventing neuropathy is to treat the risk-prone medical conditions, such as diabetes, obesity or rheumatoid arthritis.

What is Neuropathy?

Neuropathy is a term that refers to general illnesses or nerve dysfunctions. It is also often graded according to the forms or position of affected nerves. Injury or illness may damage the nerves at any location in the body. Neuropathy can also be categorized by the disease which causes it. (For example, diabetic neuropathy is known as diabetic neuropathy)

There are 4 Types of Neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy occurs when it affects the nerves outside the brain and the spinal cord. The peripheral nervous system forms part of these nerves. Peripheral neuropathy is, therefore, neuropathy that affects the extremity nerves — the toes, the feet, the legs, the fingers, the hands, and the arms. The term proximal neuropathy was used to refer to nerve damage causing specific pain on the shoulders, thighs, hips, or buttocks.

Cranial neuropathy: It happens when any of the twelve cranial nerves (nerves that directly exit the brain) are damaged. The optic neuropathy and auditory neuropathy are two specific types of cranial neuropathy. Optical neuropathy pertains to damage or disease of the optic nerve that transmits visual signals from the retina of the eye to the brain. The auditory neuropathy involves a nerve that carries signals from the inner ear to the brain and is liable for hearing.

Autonomic neuropathy: is damage to the nerves of the involuntary nervous system. These nerves control the heart and circulation (including blood pressure), digestion, bowel and bladder function, sexual response and transpiration, and may also affect nerves in other organs.

Focal neuropathy: is neuropathy that is restricted to one nerve or group of nerves, or one area of the body.

Symptoms of Neuropathy

Neuropathy is associated with characteristic symptoms, regardless of cause. Although some people with neuropathy may not have symptoms, some symptoms are normal. The degree to which a person is affected by a particular neuropathy varies.

In peripheral neuropathy damage to the sensory nerves is normal. Symptoms typically originate in the feet with a slow onset of loss of feeling, numbness, tingling or discomfort and progress over time toward the middle of the body. May require the arms or legs. There may also be the failure to assess the joint location, which can contribute to clumsiness or dropping. Another symptom of peripheral neuropathy may be intense discomfort to the eye. The sense of skin tingling and numbness is known scientifically as paresthesia.

The lack of sensory input from the foot means blisters and sores on the feet can develop quickly and are not seen. Because the sense of pain is diminished, these sores may become infected, and the infection may spread to deeper tissues, including bone. In severe cases, amputation may be necessary.

When there is damage to the motor nerves (those that control movement), the symptoms include weakness, loss of reflexes, loss of muscle mass, cramping and/or dexterity loss. Autonomic neuropathy, or nerve damage that affects the operation of organs and glands, may occur with a wide range of symptoms, including:

  • Blurred vision
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Heat intolerance or decreased ability to sweat
  • Impotence (erectile dysfunction) in men
  • Nausea, vomiting, or abdominal bloating after meals
  • Urinary symptoms, such as incontinence, difficulty beginning to urinate, or feeling that the bladder was not completely emptied
  • Hypoglycemia unawareness: Low blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia) are associated with coughing, vomiting, and palpitations. Such hallmark signs may not occur in people with autonomic neuropathy, making it difficult to detect extremely low blood sugar levels.
  • Constipation or diarrhea

How Cannabis Can Help Relieve the Symptoms of Neuropathy

Cannabis has recently shown promise to provide relief to patients who are not relieved of other types of treatment. This effect is mainly due to the interaction between the drug and the own endocannabinoid gland. Marijuana inhalation may prevent diabetic neuropathy while not substantially impairing cognitive function, according to a new study. And the higher the dose you take, the more relief you get from your pain. Your peripheral nerves perceive pain stimuli and contain cannabinoid receptors that can affect any form of marijuana use. Once CBD and THC enter your body, they activate the CB1 and CB2 receptors in your body to regulate your central nervous system and neurotransmitters, helping to manage your pain levels.

A 2010 study showed three times a day, five days a week, inhaling a single 25 mg dose of 9.4% THC medicinal marijuana helped to reduce pain severity, improve sleep, and was well tolerated.

And the analysis in 2013 found that when researchers compared medical weeds with traditional neuropathic pain treatment, the herb effectively reduced pain at small doses of 1.29% and medium doses of 3.53%.

Despite low active cannabinoid concentrations, marijuana for peripheral neuropathy reduced chronic pain associated with peripheral neuropathy in participants from another study. It eased their acute pain, too.

During the study, the pain relief provided by medical cannabis was equivalent or even better than the pain relief provided by other drugs such as tricyclic antidepressants, anticonvulsants, and other drugs evaluated for peripheral neuropathy. Chronic neuropathic pain can last for weeks or even years and is chronic. It is usually caused by damage to the nerve and can leave people feeling hopeless.

This pain can get so unbearable that it eventually causes patients depression. Patients often turn to strong prescription drugs like Oxycodone and Vicodin just to get through the day for the smallest bit of relief they can get. These strong chemical drugs were the only choice people had to relieve their chronic pain for many years and often lead to dependency.

Cannabis is now becoming more common, though, and both patients and experts think it can only be an excellent alternative to these harmful, potentially addictive drugs. Treatment with cannabis and peripheral neuropathy may help with symptoms of peripheral neuropathy, like:

  • Muscle weakness
  • Difficulty sleeping due to foot and leg pain
  • Sharp, shooting, burning or stabbing pain
  • Muscle twitching or cramping
  • Inflammation
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Sweating — cannabis has an anticholinergic effect, or drying, on the body

Researchers continue to look into how cannabis works in the treatment of symptoms of peripheral neuropathy. Another explanation is your body’s natural endocannabinoid pathway — often related to various functions such as memory, pain, appetite, and mood — in some ways runs parallel to the endorphin mechanism, and the endorphin system plays an important and well-known role in pain control.

Medical Cannabis Treatment for Neuropathy

Some strains of marijuana and neuropathy can help you get relief from your pain and other symptoms of neuropathy. Work with your doctor or physician on medical marijuana to learn about other strains of cannabis that may be useful for neuropathy.

Neuropathy patients can use a variety of methods to take cannabis.

  • Inhalation: Traditional inhalation methods may be used to get your medical cannabis, such as smoking it with pipes or rolling papers.
  • Edibles: If you do not want to inhale medical cannabis for peripheral neuropathy, you have the option to eat it. Not only do marijuana edibles, such as brownies and cookies, provide effective symptom relief, but they also add essential calories to some patients.
  • Concentrated marijuana: Concentrated cannabis extracts and oils are other options for patients. Patients may choose to smoke or vaporize.
  • Topical application of marijuana: Topical formulations may include both CBD and THC in various forms, such as balms, lotions, and ointments.

Whatever strain and method you choose for your marijuana and peripheral neuropathy therapy, a recommendation from a licensed marijuana doctor is still required. You also need a reputable place to get your medical cannabis.

Personalized Cannabis Consultations

Whether you are new to cannabis and need to learn the basics, or are simply trying to achieve more positive cannabis experiences, Veriheal’s coaches are here to help. You have the opportunity to become informed about this wonderful plant. Book an appointment today with one of our compassionate coaches to have a private discussion about your cannabis journey.

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Data Last Updated 03/16/2020