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Neuropathic pain is defined as ‘pain caused by a lesion or disease of the somatosensory nervous system’, according to the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP). [1]

With around 7-8% of adults recorded experiencing pain with neuropathic characteristics, this often-chronic condition can significantly impact patients’ quality of life.  

Traditionally, neuropathic pain has been difficult to treat, however, there are various treatment options available that can assist with pain management and help patients improve their wellbeing.   

Natural Therapies for Neuropathic Pain: 

  • Diet and habits 
  • Yoga and stretching 
  • Acupuncture 
  • Vitamin B12 
  • Medical Cannabis 
  • Essential Oils 

The use of medical cannabis for neuropathic pain treatment has been a growing area of interest, particularly in Australia.   

According to a survey conducted by Pain Australia, published in 2019, 85% of respondents were in support of Medical Cannabis as a pain management treatment.   

In fact, many of the survey respondents indicated that they preferred medical cannabis over prescription medications, due to the common side effects related to traditional pain relief drugs.  

However, with Medical Cannabis treatments still considered relatively new in Australia, 33% of Australians still have no awareness of the scientific or clinical research on using Medicinal Marijuana as a treatment for pain management.   

What is Neuropathic Pain?

Neuropathic pain symptoms have been described as soothing, burning, or stabbing sensations, often accompanied by numbness or described as a sort of “pins and needles” feeling.   

For some, neuropathic pain symptoms are experienced for short periods of time, but for others, it can be chronic and debilitating.   

Although the underlying cause of neuropathic pain is often not obvious for a lot of patients, some of the most common causes include injuries, damage or dysfunction of nerves due to diseases, surgery, chemotherapy, trauma,  multiple sclerosis and, cancer.  

A person who has undergone a limb amputation may also experience neuropathic pain.   

This common condition, where the amputee patient experiences sensations in the limb that do not exist, is called phantom limb syndrome.   

In fact, this particular type of neuropathic pain has reportedly occurred in 80% to 100% of amputee patients, according to a 2007 publication by PubMed.  

Treatment for Neuropathic Pain 

A common way of treating neuropathic pain is by taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as Aleve and Mortin, or anti-depressant and anticonvulsant medicines.  

Physical and massage therapies are also considered an option to treat neuropathic pain.   

Some patients taking prescription drugs for this condition have commonly reported no satisfactory pain relief or adverse reactions.  

In fact, in some cases, the longer patients use these drugs, the less effective they become as our bodies become used to it over time, resulting in the need for higher doses which can have negative effects.  

Some of the most common side effects from prescription medicine reported by neuropathic patients include fatigue, dizziness, nausea and depression.  

These problems pose a challenge to the medical community – to find a better alternative treatment for neuropathic pain.   

How can medical cannabis help treat neuropathic pain?

Over the years, studies have been conducted to test the effectiveness of Medical Cannabis on patients suffering from neuropathic pain symptoms.  

The Therapeutic Goods Administration published a study in 2017 about the use of Medical Cannabis for the treatment of non-cancer pain.   

Here are some of their most notable findings from this study:  

  1. Patients under the Medical Cannabis-treated group with multiple sclerosis (MS) related neuropathic pain are more likely to experience a 30% reduction in pain than patients who are only taking a placebo.  
  1. Patients under the Medical Cannabis-treated group with non-MS related neuropathic pain experienced a 50% reduction in pain compared to patients taking a placebo.  
  1. Patients under the Medical Cannabis-treated group with MS-related chronic non-cancer pain (CNCP) experienced a 30% reduction in pain than patients taking a placebo.  

 The Takeaway 

As clinical trials and scientific evidence relating to the use of Medical Cannabis for neuropathic pain is still relatively new and unconfirmed, it is important to note the advice from Australian medical experts is to try other traditional drugs first.  

Although the research findings do not necessarily confirm the healing effects Medical Cannabis has for neuropathic pain sufferers, stories like Christian’s bring a flicker of hope for those suffering from the condition who are looking for another pain relief alternative.  

With research into the benefits of Medical Cannabis as a treatment for chronic pain becoming more prominent in Australia and around the globe, victims of neuropathic pain may have another alternative to treat this debilitating condition.