The CDC stated that 50 million Americans suffer from chronic pain, but other sources suggest it is up to 100 million! Globally, up to 1.5 billion people are believed to suffer from chronic pain, so it isn’t primarily an American problem. One of the things about chronic pain is that the condition falls into a very broad category.
Unlike acute pain, which is classified as ‘temporary,’ chronic pain is typically defined as any pain that lasts for longer than 12 weeks. For most people, ‘chronic’ pain only relates to any kind of pain that causes a reduction in their quality of life. ‘Everyday’ pain such as dental pain and menstrual cramps wouldn’t necessarily be categorized as ‘chronic’ because it shouldn’t be present every day for up to three months, although minor ‘background’ pain is seemingly around forever!
For example, if you have dental pain, you’ll see a dentist.
What’s disturbing is that a huge number of Americans reach for medication when trying to treat ‘day-to-day’ conditions such as general muscle aches, mental fatigue, and dental issues.
Over-the-counter (OTC) drugs are relatively cheap and easy to access. In 2018, sales of OTC drugs exceeded $35 billion in the U.S. alone. Research from the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA) found that 81% of Americans used OTC drugs as a ‘first response’ to minor ailments. Approximately 750,000 retail outlets in the nation sell OTC drugs!
Over 90% of physicians believe OTC drugs are safe and effective but are they right? Finding data to quantify the number of issues caused by OTC drugs is tricky, but we know that teenagers like to use cough medicine to attain a ‘high.’ Side effects associated with these ‘safe’ drugs include insomnia, dizziness, nausea, and vomiting.
While marijuana and cannabinoids such as THC and CBD are used to treat ‘major’ issues such as multiple sclerosis, depression, and severe anxiety, an increasing number of Americans are ditching their OTC drugs in favor of cannabis to handle day-to-day conditions. Let’s take a closer look at this new trend and check out the science behind it.
THC for General Day-to-Day Treatment: How Practical Is It?
Every single day, millions of people wake up with a minor health issue. As we get older, these days become so frequent that any day where no issue presents itself is a very good one indeed. We’re not talking about serious problems that prevent you from going to work or cause you to visit the doctor. Instead, we’re referring to ‘irritants’ such as a toothache, pre-menstrual cramps (millions of women would say this particular pain is a LOT more than minor), or a sore neck.
A large proportion of us also have days where we simply don’t feel ready to face the day due to mental fog or general lethargy. In any case, modern medicine has a ‘cure’ for all ills it seems. This could mean an anti-inflammatory for menstrual cramps, Naproxen for the neck, and an energy drink or large cup of coffee to ‘get us going.’
What all of these things have in common is their ease of access. You can easily buy any of the above and use them on the journey to work, or even AT work. While medical marijuana is legal in 33 states and D.C., it is federally illegal and, as such, you can’t be seen smoking it outside. You definitely can’t use it directly before work or in the workplace, unless you want to get fired!
If you live in a legal state, you can smoke weed at home via a joint or blunt, inhale the vapors with a vape pen, or use an edible. The latter option is the most convenient when on the move, but the effects can take up to two hours to become apparent. Regardless of the option you choose, it is seriously unwise to try to use weed if you are about to go to work. Therefore, dosing THC is only a realistic day-to-day treatment if you don’t go to work, or in the evening when you come home.
Whole-Body Homeostasis and Day-to-Day Pain Management
Suppose there are two people: one of them is suffering from painful rheumatoid arthritis (RA) joint inflammation, and the other from a severe onset migraine. The RA victim takes a 5 mg pill of hydrocodone (an opioid painkiller), while the migraine sufferer takes three ibuprofen tablets to relieve his severe headache.
In the case of the RA sufferer, the hydrocodone acts by blocking the pain transmission in the brain; it does nothing to actually reduce inflammation in his joints. The ibuprofen, on the other hand, works by inhibiting the formation of prostaglandin at the site of inflammation; while it actually does physically reduce the inflamed tissue responsible for the migraine pain, it also inhibits protective prostaglandins in the digestive system and kidneys, which over time can cause serious health risks (such as stomach bleeding and kidney damage).
Now, let’s say both of those same people treat their respective conditions with THC.
In the case of the rheumatoid arthritis victim, the active cannabinoid will travel to T-cells at the specific site of joint inflammation, where it will link up with naturally-occurring cannabinoid receptors in the synovium (the tissue layer responsible for causing arthritis pain) and physically reduce the inflamed tissue1.
Likewise, in the case of the migraine sufferer, the THC will travel to the localized site of pain and initiate a pain modulating response2, without affecting or disturbing any other areas of the body.
We emphasize this hypothetical scenario because, as it turns out, cannabis is inherently different from other conventional pain medications in one simple, crucially fundamental way: it acts on a whole-body homeostasis system, rather than pinpointing particular chemical mechanisms in one specific area of the body.
By “whole-body homeostasis”, we’re referring to THC’s physiological manipulation of the endocannabinoid system or ECS. We won’t go into much depth here in this article about what exactly the ECS is, but briefly put, it’s a system of cannabinoids and cannabinoid receptors that exist 100% naturally in the body, and that work to regulate everything from pain to memory to appetite to emotional response.
These naturally-occurring cannabinoids and their receptors have been found in every cell and tissue type in the human body, from the T-cells that initiate immune response to pancreatic cells that produce insulin for blood glucose regulation.
In fact, Dr. Dustin Sulak, one of the leading physicians in whole-body cannabis use, has described the endocannabinoid system as “perhaps the most important physiologic system involved in establishing and maintaining human health,” due to the role it plays in maintaining homeostasis, which is the body’s ability to maintain stable internal conditions despite “fluctuations in the external environment.”
Thus, with a network of homeostasis-regulating cannabinoid receptors thriving in nearly every nook and cranny of our bodies, it makes perfect sense that THC would act as a fundamentally appropriate treatment for all kinds of general, day-to-day health issues and complications.
THC as a Day-to-Day Treatment
There is a growing level of research into cannabis, especially THC and CBD’s impact on major medical conditions. While there isn’t as much information about how THC, in particular, can help with ‘everyday’ conditions, there are some studies that have uncovered promising results.
THC for Menstrual Cramps
According to legend, long-reigning English Queen, Victoria, used cannabis to deal with the pain of menstrual cramps.
A study by Ethan Russo, published in the British Journal of Pharmacology in August 2011, looked at the ‘entourage’ effect which suggests that cannabinoids and terpenoids work better together. In this preclinical research, Russo wrote that weed could work to treat menstrual pain due to a synergistic effect between THC and CBD. While the latter acts as a pain reliever, the former works as a muscle relaxant. Therefore, cannabis not only blocks the pain associated with cramps but also their onset.
If you suffer from menstrual cramps, you may find relief by applying a topical cannabis product, such as a cream, to your lower abdomen.
Unless you use a very large amount, you shouldn’t experience psychoactive effects, but you may find that the herb’s muscle-relaxing properties work very well for you.
Marijuana for Toothache / General Dental Pain
Believe it or not, marijuana could provide you with relief from dental pains and aches. To date, there has been little research into weed’s effects on dental issues, but from what we know, it is likely that CBD is more effective than THC. To be fair, THC also has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and bone-stimulating properties, but a combination of THC and CBD could be your best bet for treating a toothache.
We know that most toothaches happen because of an infection, and a combination of analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and anti-bacterial agents are used to treat them. When you consume CBD and THC together, you may reduce inflammation in the affected area. As CBD is believed to be an effective antiseptic and antibacterial, it prevents microorganisms from breeding in your mouth.
A study by Napimoga et al., published in International immunopharmacology in August 2009, found that CBD helped decrease bone re-absorption in rats with periodontitis.
THC for Muscle Soreness / Stiffness / Cramps
Rather than reaching for the ibuprofen, why not try THC to alleviate conditions such as stiffness, cramps, and muscle soreness? Remember, weed is widely used to treat conditions such as multiple sclerosis where muscle stiffness is one of the main symptoms. In a 2012 study, published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry, a marijuana extract was found to ease the muscle stiffness associated with MS.
279 patients with the condition were given a THC extract or a placebo for two weeks with maintenance doses for a further 10 weeks. At the end of the trial period, only 25% of patients were taking the maximum allowed extract of 25mg per day to ease their muscle soreness, compared to almost 70% of those on the placebo.
THC for Acute Inflammation
A study by Nagarkatti et al., published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry in June 2014, showed that cannabis had ‘potential’ in treating autoimmune disorders. What’s relevant here is that THC helped reduce the immune response that causes inflammation in people with conditions such as lupus, MS, and arthritis.
As far as everyday use goes, you could use THC to treat any acute conditions that result from a rash, wound, cut, burn, or another localized injury type. Once again, users may enjoy better results from the use of a topical such as a cream or salve.
THC For Energy / Fatigue / Mental Focus
A National Safety Council report found that up to 43% of Americans admit being too tired to properly function at work. An incredible 97% of respondents to the survey reported at least one ‘risk factor’ for an accident at work! Marijuana is often associated with causing drowsiness, but that depends on the strain’s chemical makeup.
Indica-dominant cannabis strains are often associated with aiding sleep, but it could be down to the terpene content of each strain. Sativa-dominant strains usually contain greater levels of energizing terpenes and fewer sedative ones. Myrcene could be the ‘kingmaker’ as far as energy levels are concerned.
Typically, strains with less than 0.5% myrcene are energizing, while strains with more than 0.5% are sedative.
If you are always tired and have issues sleeping, an Indica dominant hybrid with ample myrcene is a solid option. However, if you want a boost of energy during the day, consider strains such as Sour Diesel, Green Crack, or Durban Poison. For a fast-acting effect, vape the herb or purchase it in oil or concentrate form.
Final Thoughts on THC for Everyday Pains
Ultimately, when you have an ‘everyday’ condition, it is all too easy to reach into the medicine cabinet for an OTC solution. After all, they are cheap, easily attainable, and may provide you with short-term relief. However, they will do nothing to help you in the long-term, and overuse may cause medical issues later down the line.
If it is practical, and legal, for you to try it, consider microdosing marijuana to see if its THC, and other cannabinoids, can do the trick for you. However, please don’t try it before going to work or operating heavy machinery.