Understanding Chronic Pain - The Disability in Disguise

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Like intricately placed parts of a mechanism, the human body bears resemblance to a complex machine. All bodily processes, be it simple or compound, follow an elaborate chain of steps. Even troublesome ailments have to adhere to this extensive method of functioning. Present in varying levels and types, they are all caused by a layer of underlying conditions.

One of the most common symptoms of any injury or illness is pain. When you hurt your back muscle while lifting, or injure a muscle or ligament, the first sensation is pain. This primary precursor is often referred to as acute pain. Distinguished by two main characteristics; an underlying cause and short duration (six months or less), acute pain is the most common, something almost everyone has experienced throughout their life.

But as part of the compound system of the human body, pain too exhibits different types and levels of intensity. There are times when pain simply doesn't go away. It lasts for months or even years. This is when it becomes known as chronic pain. What distinguishes chronic pain is how it becomes autonomous from the original cause or condition. In many instances, the underlying injury or illness heals, yet, the pain continues as signals in the nervous system remain active. This is why it is important to not consider chronic pain as extended acute pain. Its complexity renders it as an independent condition. A type of pain that takes on a life of its own.

Often chronic pain can occur without an obvious cause. But for many people, it starts after an injury or pre-existing health condition. The International Association for the Study of Pain under ICD-11 has classified chronic pain into 6 types depending on the source- musculoskeletal, visceral, orofacial & headache, neuropathic and cancer-related. Chronic pain can range from mild to severe, lasting a few hours to a few days. Depending on the severity it can feel like a dull, throbbing ache to intense, shooting pain throughout the body. Aside from the very debilitating pain, chronic pain patients also exhibit symptoms of extreme tiredness, loss of appetite, mood swings, insomnia and even early onset of depression and anxiety. 

Despite having clear differences, there still is a lot of confusion surrounding chronic and acute pain. Due to this, specialized options for treatment have been very limited. As an individual condition chronic pain lacks a dedicated cure. Available treatments work only to alleviate or temporarily subdue the sensation. Surgeries while invasive have been effective for severe cases. But as a general first form of treatment, allopathic painkillers have been widely administered. 

Allopathy may be effective, but it is not sustainable. Its effectiveness is short-lived and does nothing to heal or reduce the underlying root cause. It is important to understand how allopathy works to know why it's not a holistic solution. Pain killers work by targeting and blocking pain receptors. By blocking the sensation, they provide the feeling of relief that many with chronic pain crave. But with continuous usage the body builds tolerance, pushing for the consumption of higher doses. This leads to scarring and weakening of organs such as the liver, kidney putting the patient at even higher risk. So while it seems convenient, it is extremely harmful and destructive to the body in the long run. The situation is like a losing barter. In the ruse of relief, one would have to sacrifice the vitality and health of their remaining perfectly functioning body. 

The mission to create less invasive yet effective solutions for chronic pain has resulted in many contenders, one of them being plant-based healing. But this has often been met with a bit of displeasure and reluctance. The hesitancy to jump aboard the nature train comes from the belief that natural won’t be as effective as synthetic. But the truth is far from it. Plant-based solutions may work gradually, but one must not mistake the pace for their efficacy. They are just as effective as allopathic treatments. What makes them superior to allopathy is their ability to speed up healing without the toxic side effects that are common in allopathy. A popular and budding star in the league of plant-based healers is Cannabis. Compared to other forms of naturopathic treatments, the reason why it stands out is how it has the capability of working with the body instead of an isolated treatment.

Just like common ailments, the pain too is the result of an imbalance. More specifically,  our Endocannabinoid system, a network of receptors and enzymes, controls the flow of compounds called EndoCannabinoids to maintain internal balance or homeostasis. Known for its abundant Cannabinoid reserves, the Cannabis plant works very efficiently to replenish the imbalance in Cannabinoids. The restoring balance helps alleviate and relieve the pain gradually. This mechanism not just helps provide relief from the pain, it works towards healing the underlying conditions helping the body recover from the damage and trauma of chronic pain.

Along with scientific research, this ability of Cannabis has been repeatedly mentioned in many ancient scriptures. Ayurveda, the foundation of modern medicine, has several texts that expound the vast capabilities of Cannabis to help relieve pain without any damage or complications. Being plant-based, the risk of building tolerance or toxic side effects is almost none. As a solution, Cannabis is one of the most gentle, holistic options to deal with chronic pain.

Regardless of its intensity, pain is a condition that is inconvenient and daunting to go through. Understanding pain, especially chronic pain and those who suffer from it is a challenge, but a necessary one. A top cause of disability, awareness about chronic pain is the most important step towards helping expand the scope of treatment. With the risk of side effects from common and easily available solutions such as allopathic painkillers, the need to explore more holistic solutions such as plant based treatments is even more imminent. Initiating open conversations around Cannabis’s potential can accelerate the exploration and research to make it a common and easily accessible solution for all.

The journey of pain is disheartening. Awareness and acceptance can help make the experience of chronic pain less disheartening. With small steps, we can help propel the advancement and acknowledgement of chronic pain and its treatments.

Together we can bring the change needed to help everyone have a chance to live their life freely without being held back. 

 Written by Shamooda Amrelia, Doorbeen Creatives


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