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The Science of Cannabis for Chronic Pain

Chronic pain is a terrible and all too common issue, affecting over 50 million people in the U.S. alone. This condition diminishes the quality of life and presents a significant problem for healthcare systems.

Traditional pharmacological treatments, like opioids, come with the risk of side effects, especially physical addiction. This is where cannabis emerges as a potential ally in pain management. In this article, we’ll explore the science behind cannabis for chronic pain, its potential role in alleviating chronic pain, and how it compares to conventional medical treatments.

pexels karolina grabowska 4506105
Chronic pain affects millions of people in the U.S. and around the world.

Understanding Pain

Pain falls under two broad categories:

Acute Pain

This pain comes from inflammation or damage to tissue, from an injury, illness, or even from surgery. This type of pain typically lasts a week or two, typically ending after the injury is treated or has been resolved.

Chronic Pain

Persistent and often debilitating chronic pain is distinguished from acute pain by how long it lasts. Well beyond the usual course of an acute illness or injury. Causes range from nerve damage to chronic inflammatory conditions, with the resulting pain being notoriously difficult to manage long-term. Conventional medications, which work for some, can lead to side effects and, in the case of opioids, a high risk of dependency.

A 7g Jar of cannabis
Multiple cannabinoids are known to help with pain and inflammation.

Cannabis: Pain-Relieving Compounds

Multiple compounds in cannabis contain analgesic (pain relieving) properties. Of those, THC and CBD are the most prominent. THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is known for its psychoactive, anti-inflammatory, and pain-relieving effects. It’s responsible for most of the pharmacological properties of cannabis.

CBD, or cannabidiol, is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid touted for its anti-inflammatory properties without the ‘high.’ CBD works in part by regulating how we perceive pain. It has been shown to work with THC to boost analgesic properties.

This is often called the “entourage effect.” The Entourage Effect suggests these compounds may work best when paired together, providing a more complete approach to pain relief.

The Endocannabinoid System and Pain

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is complex. REALLY complex. The ECS is a cell-signaling system identified in the early 1990s. It plays a crucial role in regulating pain, mood, appetite, and even memory.

Cannabinoid compounds interact with the ECS by binding to certain receptors, which may trigger a reduction of pain signals and inflammation. There are 2 types of receptors in the ECS: CB1 and CB2.

Curious? Learn more about the Endocannabinoid System.

Clinical Evidence Supporting Cannabis for Chronic Pain

A growing body of research points to cannabis’s effectiveness in pain management. Studies have shown that cannabis can significantly reduce pain in certain conditions like multiple sclerosis and neuropathic pain. However, evidence tends to be all over the place.

While not without its own risks and side effects, cannabis is often considered to have a better safety profile compared to opioids, which carry a significant risk of overdose and addiction. Cannabis has even been shown to reduce opioid dependence; one study says up to a 64% reduction.

NSAIDs, like naproxen and ibuprofen, can cause gastrointestinal, kidney, and cardiovascular issues, concerns not associated with cannabis use. One thing is certain: more large-scale, high-quality studies are needed to fully understand its benefits and limitations.

Best Cannabis Strains for Pain

Cannabis strains vary widely in their THC and CBD content and, as a result, in their effects. Strains high in CBD and low in THC might reduce inflammation without intoxication, while those with higher THC content might be more effective for neuropathic pain.

Strains reported to help with chronic pain include:

A Blueberry Clementine Nug
Blueberry Clementine is sought after for its potent effects.

Blueberry Clementine

A well-balanced set of relaxing effects and mouthwatering flavors of blueberries and clementine shine through this Revolution genetic that is sparkling with resinous trichomes.

Reported Effects: Pain Relief, Mood Elevation, Stress Relief

Flavors: Berry, Citrus, Sweet

Lineage: Blueberry x Clementine

Top Terpenes: Beta-Myrcene, Limonene, Beta-Caryophyllene, Linalool

Shop Blueberry Clementine

A Crocketts Dawg Nug
Crocketts Dawg is known for its balanced effects.

Crockett’s Dawg

Crockett’s Dawg is a balanced hybrid from the breeders at Crockett Family Farms. A cross of Guava Dawg x Family Secret, this luscious cultivar features the refreshing flavors of guava, citrus, and other tropical fruits. You can expect a nice euphoria and relief from pain and stress.

Lineage: Guava Dawg x Family Secret

Top Terpenes: Beta-Myrcene, Alpha-Pinene, Ocimene, Beta-Caryophyllene, Linalool

Good For: Euphoric, Pain Relief, Stress Relief

Flavors: Tropical, Citrus, Guava

Shop Crocketts Dawg

Buttermilk Biscuits Nug
Buttermilk Biscuits delivers a nice body buzz that helps with pain and discomfort.

Buttermilk Biscuits

An award-winning hybrid strain from the breeders at Tiki Madman, Buttermilk Biscuits is the result of crossing Biscotti x Pancake. This strain boasts a unique blend of terpenes that lends a vibrant flavor profile. Buttermilk Biscuits is great for relaxation and pain relief, providing a nice body buzz to help ease you into the evening.

Reported Effects: Relaxation, Pain Relief, Body Buzz, Sedation

Flavor: Vanilla, Cookie, Nutty, Peppery, Earthy

Lineage: Biscotti x Pancake

Top Terpenes: Limonene, Linalool, Beta-Caryophyllene, Alpha-Humulene, Alpha-Bisabolol

Other forms of cannabis, like RSO oil, high-CBD edibles, and topicals, can also provide more targeted relief and longer-lasting effects.

Shop Buttermilk Biscuits

Legal and Medical Considerations

The legal landscape for cannabis use is in flux, with many regions legalizing or decriminalizing its use for medical purposes.There are currently medical cannabis programs in the following states:









District of Columbia












New Jersey

New Mexico


New York

North Dakota

New Hampshire





Rhode Island

South Dakota





West Virginia

Patients interested in exploring cannabis for pain management should consult with a healthcare provider, ideally one with experience in medical cannabis, to navigate the legal and health considerations.


A doctor and patient in a consultation - pexels mart production 7089401
Medical applications of cannabis in pain management need further study.

The Future of Cannabis for Chronic Pain Management

As scientific research progresses, the role of cannabis in pain management is likely to become more defined. Improved understanding will no doubt bring more effective therapies. These treatments could be tailored to individual needs and conditions.

Changes in legislation, especially federal legalization, would broaden access to cannabis for research and expand therapeutic use. This could potentially offer relief to millions of chronic pain sufferers.

Final Thoughts

Using cannabis for chronic pain management holds real promise. Particularly for those who are at high risk for physical addiction and those who haven’t found relief through more traditional means.

There is potential to improve the quality of life for chronic pain sufferers, making it a field of interest for patients, medical professionals, and researchers alike. Ongoing cannabis research, along with an informed and cautious approach to use, will be key in realizing its full potential in pain management.


NIH study finds high rates of persistent chronic pain among U.S. adults
Chronic Pain
Cannabinoids and Pain: New Insights From Old Molecules
Medical Cannabis Use Associated with Decreased Opiate Medication Use
Marijuana Legality by State
Is there a link between marijuana use and psychiatric disorders?

Medical FAQ