Managing Pain with Cannabis – A Personal Story

managing pain with cannabis

When I found out I had cancer, I freaked out. Good old fashioned 1970’s style freak out. F.R.E.A.K.E.D. O.U.T.!!!!! Cancer? I can’t possibly have cancer! What am I going to do? I decided to get it treated, that’s what. This is my story on managing pain with cannabis.

I needed an invasive procedure. The only thing ‘western medicine’ offers for pain relief are opiates.  While opiates do ‘kill’ the pain, they make me feel nauseated. I decided to try cannabis for pain relief after surgery.

This is My Cannabis Pain Relief Experiment

Would cannabis work to control or mitigate my pain? What kinds of cannabis would work best? I wanted to find out for myself if cannabis could do the job of ameliorating my post-procedure pain.

I had the procedure a few weeks ago. It wasn’t exactly surgery because I wasn’t cut open and it didn’t involve general anesthesia. There was an anesthesiologist and he did knock me out and numb me up. The physician didn’t cut, he punctured; Four pretty big needle-like things digging around inside, through my back. That’s enough detail. This already borders on TMI. I liked that my procedure didn’t involve open surgery or general anesthesia. Issues have been reported with cannabis and the drugs used in general anesthesia.

Research on Managing Pain with Cannabis

Research was necessary to find my answers. There are pain studies with serious scientific grounding, but mostly they were about chronic pain for diseases like arthritis. There are some older studies, as well. None appear to address situational pain, such as pain associated with surgery or injury. Hopefully, my post-surgical pain wouldn’t become chronic.

There are several articles and studies warning against cannabis use before surgery. These pre-surgery studies state that cannabis users take up to 220% more anesthesia drugs to put a cannabis user under for surgery. Since I wasn’t going to get any of the anesthesia drugs, I wasn’t concerned about pre-surgical consumption. Other articles claimed cannabis can help with recovery pain.

I should also tell you I only like to smoke flower, having never cared for vape cartridges, or pens, or BHO, or CO2, or whatever concentrates. I like bud. Why? Because I believe this plant, in particular, is meant to be consumed whole. It’s a holistic thing for me. Since science hasn’t yet figured out what is actually in the plant, there’s a lot to learn still regarding healthy uses of cannabis. Whole flower fits the holistic bill…as long as it’s pesticide, fungicide, and herbicide free, and doesn’t have mold or little bugs in it.

Day and Night #1 (Tuesday), Managing Pain with Cannabis

I went for the procedure at 10am. Before the surgery, the radiological interventionist said there would be some discomfort afterwards. He was both right and wrong. He was absolutely correct about the discomfort. I was very uncomfortable. But he missed the pain. There was a lot of PAIN! OUCH! He had proactively prescribed an opiate. As I said earlier, I’m not fond of opiate-based drugs. I do not feel better after I take them and they make me nauseous.

Which Strains Would be Effective Pain Relief?

I had just read studies about managing pain with cannabis and wanted to see if those studies and anecdotal stories were true. I decided to try three common types; indica, sativa, and CBD. Then I stocked up (3 grams each!) on; Mango Puff and DoSiDos for indica; Blue Dream and Tutti Frutti for sativa; And In the Pines for CBD. I haven’t tried a lot of CBD genotype flower, so went with the one I knew. My experience with the THC containing strains taught me how they worked and what their effect was, mentally at least. However, I hadn’t really paid attention to their pain relief properties.

It was the day of surgery and I thought all I’d want to do was sleep, so I decided to try some indica first. The most effective indica for me has been DoSiDos. Mango Puff also works, but I decided to try DoSiDos. DoSiDos generally puts me to sleep after about 1/2 hour.

After the surgery and after the anesthetic wore off, I started to feel a lot of pain. It was ramping up to a 7 on a 10 point scale. I packed my first bowl at 3pm. As I lit the bowl and took that hit, the pain disappeared. Just like that. No pain. None. It almost instantly disappeared. Pain = 0. It was amazing!

DoSiDos did the job. No nausea, no strange drowsiness. And my brain felt fine. The downside was the pain relief only lasted about 30 to 45 minutes. As the pain reasserted itself, getting to a 4 or 5, I had more DoSiDos. I needed to medicate fairly frequently, sleeping most of the day and through the night, waking to have a puff of the DoSiDos.

Day and Night #2 – (Wednesday)

Day and night #2 was a completely different story. The day was mostly fine. Because I wanted to get some work done, I didn’t want indica. Lately my favorite sativa strain has been Tutti Frutti. So when the pain hit about a 3 or 4, I took a hit from the bowl.

The pain was very manageable with a puff here and there, but the pain relief wasn’t as strong as it was with the indica strain DoSiDos. I didn’t have many problems coping or working during the day, although it was a bit more painful than the night before.

Night Time Pain

Into the evening and night was a different story. I went to bed feeling a bit more pain than I had previously, maybe a 6 or a 7. I switched back to indica with Mango Puff. With just a few puffs the pain mostly went away, but not like on night #1. It was worse. At about midnight, the pain became unbearable…an 11 on the scale of 10. It was almost the worst pain I’d ever experienced, except perhaps for sciatica or kidney stone.

I couldn’t turn over on my side and could barely move.

I took a few more puffs and the pain subsided somewhat, but came roaring back in 15 or 20 minutes. Soon, I took  a couple of Advil, which started working in about 1/2 hour. It didn’t end there however. At about 1am, my side by the kidney became noticeably warm to the touch. The rest of me was fine as far as temperature. My forehead was cool to the touch and my kidney was inflamed. I didn’t want to take opiate medication, so I took another couple of Advil after I had a few more puffs. The puffs helped immediately with the increased pain, but didn’t seem to help very much with the inflammation. The ibuprofen helped after a half hour or so, but not by much.

I was mostly up all night with a lot of pain on my right side radiating around to the front. It was obvious where the pain was coming from. My right kidney. Nothing I did touched it. I did finally fall asleep around 5am or so and was up at 7am.

Day and Night #3 – (Thursday)

First thing this morning, I tried to get in touch with my radiologist who actually did the procedure. I also tried to contact the nurse. Both eventually called back and said my kidney pain wasn’t 100% “normal”, but still fell in the “normal” range of symptoms. Inflamed kidney isn’t good, but it’s also not deadly either. My fear was that if my kidney got too hot or too inflamed, it could cause kidney failure. That wouldn’t be good. Thursday was definitely the worst day of my recovery.

The 2nd day after surgery is the hardest, I’ve been told, and I now believe it. It was just plain hard. But my cannabis pain killing regimen worked perfectly. It did kill the pain, but it really couldn’t quell that much inflammation. I had to rely on the Advil to do that for me. I got through the day, but with a lot of difficulty. I used the Blue Dream a lot, as it allowed me to focus. Even if the pain relief wasn’t as good as DoSiDos or Mango Puff, it did enough of a job to keep me going through the day.

Day and Night #4 (Friday)

Things are getting better. I didn’t take any opiates any time during my recovery and I’m down to Advil twice a day – total. Managing pain with cannabis was working. Tomorrow will be a challenge as we’re headed to Taos NM from Durham, NC. It will be a day-long trip with flying and then 3 hours of drive time. But today was a good one. There was some pain, but nothing that wasn’t manageable with cannabis and Advil. Personally, I prefer the cannabis, but recognize it has a limited time span of killing the pain.

Day and Night #5 (Saturday)

I woke early after a not so good night’s sleep. The pain returned in a big way overnight. I got to sleep late and woke up early to catch our flight. Thankfully, I was upgraded on one of the flights. That helps, if for no other reason than I get more space and can get into a comfortable seated position.

After landing, we got a car and drove to Santa Fe, a less than 1 hour drive. That weekend was Santa Fe’s largest annual event – Indian Market. Couldn’t miss that, if parking was to be had. It was! So we spent about 2 hours at Indian Market, which was fabulous. Freakin’ fabulous. I felt somewhat enervated after that, but we still had grocery shopping to do. After the market we drove 2 more hours to Taos.

When we arrived in Taos, I was beat and in pain again. The first two things I did were to liberally dose myself with indica cannabis and take a couple of Advil. We fried up some crab cakes, and along with salad, had dinner. Then I promptly went to sleep, but woke up Sunday morning at 6:30am. Well okay, it was 8:30am east coast time.

Day and Night #6 (Sunday)

Sunday was almost as bad as Wednesday. Intense pain in my kidney. There was no heat from inflammation, thankfully. Just pain. Puff. Poof! Gone! That’s sort of become my relationship of late with cannabis. I have a puff from my bowl and Poof! The pain is gone! OK, it’s not gone for long, but it is gone and the enervation that pain brings to our bodies is also gone. For the inflammation, Advil works better.

Day and Night #7 (Monday)

This will be the last entry because my pain is pretty much gone and I think I’ve proven, to myself anyway, that cannabis really does eliminate pain. It eliminated my pain, even if it was for only 30-45 minutes at a time.

No pain is a good thing. With no pain, I can get my work done. With no pain I can concentrate. With no pain, I feel more like a normal person. I don’t know if I’ll ever feel “normal” again though. Cancer changes your perspective on what is and what isn’t. It changes my thoughts on what my life expectancy might be. I’m not whining. I’m just stating facts from other cancer patients I’ve known and two cancer videos I’ve made with a variety of patients. Having cancer changes your view of living.

A Note about CBD

I never did use any of the CBD. The cannabis with THC was taking care of the pain. I’d have tried it, but the sativa was doing what I wanted during the day and the indica was doing its job at night. And like most people, We all can be creatures of habit. In this case, up = daytime and down = nighttime. Simple.  Thankfully, the period of pain and writing about it was so short that I just didn’t get there. Maybe the CBD would compound the effect of the cannabis with THC. That will have to be a different experiment and hopefully not one involved with pain…or cancer.

My Conclusion on Managing Pain with Cannabis

Managing pain with cannabis works. That’s it. That’s all. It works. Cannabis doesn’t work as long as something like ibuprofen or maybe opiates, but it works. And it works well. Just expect to keep dosing. It was easy enough to regulate on my own. If I had pain, I lit up. If i didn’t have pain, I didn’t feel the need to light the bowl.

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    • Karen
    • September 29, 2019

    Super article.

    • Brenda McManus
    • September 29, 2019

    Thank you so much for your thoughtful, and well written article. And yes, cancer completely changes your outlook, especially when it seems to come out of the blue. I am totally against the use of opiates, except perhaps at the very end stage of one’s life. Bravo to you for the article. Tell Karen I said Hi.

    • Deb
    • September 30, 2019

    A brave and helpful story!

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