Best Cannabis Products for Pain Management

Written by BlackbirdGo December 21, 2017
The Product

Using cannabis for pain is nothing new; archaeological evidence suggests that ancient civilizations used this plant to treat a variety of medical ailments as far back as the fourth century AD. While pharmaceutical pain medications can be effective for pain management, they also come with a long list of potential side effects. These side effects can include sedation, constipation, and hormone interference. Pharmaceutical pain meds, especially opiates, are also known to be highly addictive and can lead to tolerance/dependence as well as cardiac and respiratory damage. Opiates also carry a significant risk of overdosing, which can result in a coma or death.

The advantage of using medical marijuana for pain, spasticity, and general discomfort is that it provides significant relief for many patients without posing any of the risks that come with opiates. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient in marijuana, does not pose any risk of lethal overdose or any significant withdrawal symptoms. In addition to conventional marijuana, the majority of states with medical cannabis laws also allow doctors to recommend the use of non-psychoactive cannabidiol (CBD) products to treat severe or chronic pain.

Some people mistakenly believe that medical cannabis patients are only able to smoke the plant to feel its effects, but after years of pioneering research, patients have many options at their disposal.


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Medicated topicals infused with THC or CBD excel at targeting specific areas of pain. These products react with the cannabinoid receptors in your skin to alleviate pain and promote muscle relaxation without causing excessive euphoria or intoxication. In fact, most topicals don’t make you feel high at all - they just provide precise, controlled pain relief without a lot of side effects. This makes them appealing to patients reluctant to smoke pot as well as to anyone who needs discrete pain relief while remaining functional and alert.

  • Lotions, gels, oils, and creams containing THC, CBD, or both can be applied to the skin at the site of pain. Marijuana pain cream and lotion typically do not reach the bloodstream and cannot get you high.
  • Transdermal patches work much like nicotine patches. They’re applied to the skin and absorbed into the bloodstream, meaning a transdermal patch that contains THC could potentially make you feel stoned.
  • Most topicals take effect within 20-30 minutes and provide several hours of pain relief. However, some extended-release transdermal patches provide relief for up to 12 hours.

Soaking Agents

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Soaking agents work very similarly to topicals. Sitting in a medicated bath targets your skin’s CB2 receptors without causing any intoxication. Soaking agents are made with the same epsom salt or conventional bath bomb ingredients that you’d buy from your local cosmetics store or pharmacy, only they’re infused with marijuana oil for pain relief and muscle relaxation. Simply plug your drain, begin filling your bathtub with warm water, and let these infused products dissolve under the faucet.

  • Bath salts and bath bombs can be used to soak sore muscles.
  • The advantage of a soaking agent over a standard topical is the whole-body relief from pain and muscle tension. Topicals are effective at targeted pain areas, whereas soaking agents relieve pain all over.

Oils, Capsules, Tinctures, and Edibles

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Cannabis oil and other edible products may be more suitable for patients accustomed to the fast-acting pain relief that comes with pharmaceutical medications. These medicated products contain some type of THC- or CBD-infused oil (usually olive oil, coconut oil, or butter), or in the case of tinctures, an alcohol extraction of cannabinoids. These infusions and extractions allow you to easily control your dosage, making them an optimal form of consumption and an important part of many patients’ comprehensive pain management plan.

  • Oil comes in a syringe for easy application into food, beverages, or empty gel caps.
  • Capsules containing THC- or CBD-infused oil are precisely measured and ready to consume. Always check the THC and CBD concentrations, ratios (if it contains both cannabinoids), and dosing recommendations.
  • Tinctures can be administered orally under the tongue or mixed into food or beverages.
  • Edibles come in a variety of forms, all with precise THC and/or CBD measurements. Always be mindful of the serving size per dose - if you eat that

As with all edible forms of marijuana, start with a low dose and wait at least one to two hours before consuming any additional doses.

Smokable Forms of Marijuana

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Many patients still smoke marijuana for pain, preferring the immediate effects and ease of dose regulation that comes with this standard means of consumption. You can purchase the dried buds of cannabis flower as well as concentrates (various forms of hash), but be careful with the THC concentration. Because concentrates are made by pressing plant resin or chemically extracting the active cannabinoids, they tend to have very high THC levels - around 80% in many concentrates, with some products offering up to 99% THC!

  • Flower is the term used for dried marijuana buds that are smoked in a pipe or joint. There’s no consensus on the best marijuana for pain, but many patients seek out indica strains for physical relaxation and sedation these strains offer. Blackberry Kush is widely used to treat pain and ease tension, as are Granddaddy Purple and God’s Gift.
  • Concentrates are available in many forms and potencies. Check with your budtender to find a product that matches your tolerance and meets your pain-management needs.
  • Kief - the sifted pollen from cannabis plants
  • Hash - compressed or extracted plant resin, kief, or trichromes. May be sold as wax, shatter, crystalline powder, or gooey tar.
  • Vape cartridge - essentially a pre-loaded e-cigarette cartridge that contains extracted cannabis oil. The vape pen battery heats up that oil, and you simply draw through the mouthpiece as though you were smoking a bowl.

Whether you’re trying marijuana lotion for pain, consuming edible forms of cannabis, or simply smoking/vaping, it’s important to try a variety of different strains and products to find what works best for you. Talk to your doctor about making cannabis a part of your pain management plan and be sure to let your budtender know which pain symptoms are affecting your lifestyle.