Are you familiar with Neuropathy? It’s a form of nerve damage that is estimated to affect more than 20 million Americans (that’s how many people live in Florida).
It can lead to some nasty stuff like weakness, numbness, and pain, usually in the hands and feet. It can also affect other areas and body functions including digestion, urination, and circulation.
For some patients, the symptoms are just an annoyance. But for others, the effects of neuropathy can be debilitating.
WHAT CAUSES NEUROPATHY?
Not to get too scientific on you, but just imagine your nerves “misfiring”. The signals from your brain aren’t getting sent to other parts of your body (i.e. hands and feet).
This is generally caused by nutritional or vitamin imbalances, alcoholism, and exposure to toxins that damage nerves.
And if you’re living in a chronic state of stress and anxiety, it will wreak havoc on your physical and mental health. High stress levels can be a reason why neuropathy is worse on some days, as well as when you take medications.
So wait, you’re saying that the stress caused by having neuropathy can cause neuropathy to get worse…great.
HOW TO DETERMINE THE SYMPTOMS OF NEUROPATHY?
Early signs of neuropathy can include muscle weakness, twitching or cramps, as well as feelings of numbness or loss of sensation, or lightheadedness.
As the condition progresses, patients might also experience imbalance, emotional distress or trouble sleeping.
Some patients complain of losing sensation in their feet or have problems with motor control. Others feel neuropathic pain in their feet, plus legs, back and hands, which can make the simple act of sitting at a desk—or lying in bed—very difficult.
HOW IS NEUROPATHY TREATED?
The most effective way to treat neuropathy is to address the underlying cause, such as diabetes, vitamin deficiencies, infection, an autoimmune condition, or cancer. If the nerve cell damage is modest, patients may regain function and experience less pain once their condition is under control.
Some cases of neuropathy can be easily treated and sometimes cured. Not all neuropathies can be cured, however. In these cases, treatment is aimed at controlling and managing symptoms and preventing further nerve damage.
DOES CANNABIS HELP WITH NEUROPATHY?
Yes. But we need more research.
Cannabis may be an effective alternative or adjunctive treatment for neuropathy, an often debilitating condition for which standard treatments often provide little relief.
Small clinical studies have found that cannabis provides benefits for neuropathy, including pain reduction, better sleep, and improved function, even in patients with symptoms refractory to standard therapies.
The findings on neuropathy “fit generally well with what we know,” says Dr. Sachin Patel of the Vanderbilt Psychiatric Hospital in Nashville. Patel wrote a commentary accompanying the review in the online edition of Annals of Internal Medicine.
DOES CBD HELP WITH NEUROPATHY?
Applying cannabidiol (CBD) oil as a topical to a painful area or taking it orally may help relieve neuropathy pain. However, more research is needed to establish the safety and efficacy of CBD products.
Studies of CBD alone are limited to preclinical data. Evidence suggests that CBD alone or combined with THC (like a 5:1 caramel) can suppress chronic neuropathic pain, and that CBD may have a protective effect after nerve injury.
CANNABIS CONSIDERATIONS TO KEEP IN MIND
According to a 2018 Cochrane review, patients with nerve pain or neuralgia were more likely to achieve 30% or 50% more pain relief when comparing cannabis to placebos; however, patients who used cannabbis compared to a placebo had a higher chance of adverse effects such as an increase in nervous system adverse events and psychiatric disorders.
CAN I PREVENT NEUROPATHY?
The best treatment is prevention, and strategies for reducing injuries are highly effective and well tested. Since medical procedures ranging from casting fractures to injuries from needles and surgery are another cause, unnecessary procedures should be avoided. Diabetes and some other diseases are common preventable causes of neuropathy. People with neuropathy should ask their doctors to minimize use of medications that are known to cause or worsen neuropathy where alternatives exist.
While many people living with neuropathy explore using cannabis products, more research for its efficacy is needed.
Certain cannabis products, including CBD oils, are unregulated. Products coming from unlicensed sources may contain contaminants or different amounts of CBD and THC than the labels suggest.
Individuals living with neuropathy who do not feel they are experiencing sufficient pain relief from traditional therapies should speak with their doctor.
A person must tell their doctor if they are taking CBD products to monitor for potential signs of toxicity, side effects, and efficacy.