New methods of pain relief are on the horizon with scientists looking at several non-pharmaceutical options including Cannabis sativa which has been used as a pain reliever for millennia. Most patients with chronic pain get limited relief and often unwanted side effects from medication, so another pain management strategy is good news.
Research shows that men and women respond to pain differently. That means scientists will need to identify which specific cell populations are being targeted by cannabinoids in men and women in order to understand their effectiveness in relieving pain. The difference could be due to hormones. The interaction between hormones, immune system and the nervous system may be at the root of the differences between men and women and their response to cannabis.
Cannabis contains more than 450 compounds and at least 70 of them are cannabinoids, chemical compounds that act on the brain. Two are of particular clinical relevance for treating pain. Delta 9-THC has psychoactive and pain-relieving properties, while CBD elicits pain-blocking effects without affecting cognition, memory or mood.
Clinical trials with Cannabis sativa-based extracts and synthetic derivatives have provided evidence that targeting the body’s endocannabinoid system may provide pain relief for treatment-resistant conditions, including chronic pain. Cannabinoids modulate pain signals, reduce changes in autonomic and cognitive processing that occur during states of chronic pain and control sustained immune responses that contribute to pain.
Basic neuroimmune studies are needed to provide important insights into how best to utilize cannabinoids to most effectively harness the pain-relieving properties of the endocannabinoid system. And although it takes time for science to provide results, at least there’s hope on the horizon for new pain relief methods for both men and women.