February 2017, I tore my ACL doing a crazy flip off a huge cliff – by huge cliff I mean a mere tiny jump and truth be known, there were actually no flips involved. White-out conditions on the mountain led me to misjudge the landing of this particular jump, resulting in a hyperextended knee. Recognizing immediately that a knee bent backwards was abnormal, I knew I was in trouble.
In the months that followed, a bunch of doctors and physiotherapists attended to my knee injury. I was dedicated to achieving a full recovery. After much effort and contemplation, I elected to have an operation to reconstruct my torn ACL one year later. Like anyone heading toward surgery, I considered how I’d manage post-operative pain. In prep for the surgery, I’d researched a ton about cannabis and pain management options and decided that cannabis would be the route I’d choose. The primary reason for this choice was two-fold: to limit the opioid-based painkillers which wreak havoc on my digestive system, and resist the risk of addiction.
Riding home from the hospital I was pretty high from the anesthesia, but thought an edible with THC that I’d made with cannabis oil might keep me ahead of the inevitable pain to come. The anesthesia did wear off and the cannabis cookie I ate kicked into full swing. To my surprise, the cannabis was not effective in managing the pain. Rather, I could feel the screws anchoring the graft in my bone, which was truly unpleasant. At that point I was in extreme pain and being super high from the cookie did not help. As the hours ticked slowly, the pain got worse and the cannabis was not curbing it. I needed pain relief, so with regret I took the Percocet prescribed by the surgeon.
I felt like I’d let myself down – the pain was too much to manage. Now with a team of cannabis and opioids in my system the pain slipped away along with my reality. I felt like I was having an out-of-body experience. I was laying on the couch, but I could have been on Pluto for all I knew. The combination of the two drugs really amplified the intoxicating effects of both. I was stuck between two worlds.
I used Percocet for two days and consumed a total of seven pills. From there the pain became manageable using just cannabis, so I applied cannabis topicals on my sore muscles, ingested CBD tincture oil to reduce inflammation and ate cannabis edibles to manage pain. The topical worked extremely well to reduce the muscular pain and cramping surrounding the surgery site. The CBD oil was effective in reducing swelling throughout my body, and the edible managed pain and relaxed me.
Four weeks after my operation, I saw the physiotherapist for my first post-operative assessment. He ran a few tests and it turns out I was well ahead of normal recovery time. Typical range of motion at this point of recovery averaged 90 degrees and I was at 120 degrees. My success at reducing inflammation and localized pain so that I was able to start stretching at an earlier stage was helpful in my recovery.
I realize that opioids do have a place for managing pain. However, cannabis can be used to complement recovery and pain management post-surgery. When applied in combination and under proper medical directives, cannabis and opioids make for a powerful pain-relieving team.
I believe cannabis was instrumental in helping me wean off opioid painkillers much sooner than would otherwise have been possible. I still have a long road ahead as total recovery time for an ACL reconstruction is up to 12 months, but I am stronger already and hopeful for a full recovery in the near months ahead.