Neuropathy and Medical Cannabis
Medical cannabis is proven to be an effective treatment for numerous health conditions, and neuropathy is one of those.
When your peripheral nerves are damaged, you have what is termed “peripheral neuropathy.” The best way to describe the peripheral nervous system is that it is like an electrical system in your body. It transfers information from your central nervous system, which consists of your spinal cord and brain, to the rest of your body.
Nerve damage causes your hands and feet to become weak, painful, and numb. The pain for most patients feels like a shooting, stabbing or burning pain. Their hands or feet may also become cold or hot. Peripheral neuropathy may also affect how it feels to walk. Additionally, it makes many patients’ hands or legs feel heavy or weak, or as if they are walking on pebbles.
There are many causes of peripheral neuropathy, such as inherited conditions, infections, exposure to toxins, traumatic injuries and metabolic problems. Some of the most common, however, are thyroid disease, vitamin deficiencies, and diabetes mellitus. Initial treatments for peripheral neuropathy are targeted to find the cause. If no cause can be identified, acupuncture, physical therapy, medications and other treatments can be used to reduce your symptoms.
Symptoms of Neuropathy
The symptoms of neuropathy can vary greatly from one individual to another, and they depend on which body part is affected. If large nerves are damaged, such as those that extend to your toes, you could experience impaired motor, autonomic, or sensory nerve function. The abrupt onset of paralysis or weakness might indicate motor damage. The presence of dizziness from blood pressure changes, incontinence issues, heat intolerance, or digestive problems could indicate autonomic nerve damage. Some other symptoms that peripheral neuropathy patients may suffer include:
- Loss of coordination
- Oversensitivity to touch
- Jabbing, sharp, or burning pain
- Integumentary system changes, which involves the nails, skin and hair
- Gradual numbness and tingling in the feet or hands that could spread to the legs or arms
Medical Cannabis as Part of a Neuropathy Treatment Plan
Research between 2005 and 2010 on the benefits of synthetic CBD and inhaled cannabis products concluded that both options can successfully manage symptoms linked to neuropathy. The researchers noted that the synthetic oral CBD called nabilone was effective for individuals with intolerance, resistance, and allergic reactions to conventional treatments. Inhaled cannabis products were indicated as more beneficial for patients with neuropathy resulting from nerve and spinal cord injuries, CRPS type 1, peripheral neuropathy and HIV.
Other research conducted in Canada and the University of Pennsylvania also show the benefits of cannabis for neuropathic patients. They have less pain, more manageable side effects, and improved sleep.