Cannabis for pain
May 13, 2015 10:59 AM   Subscribe

I am embarrassingly new to pot, medical or otherwise. It seems to be helping with my pain, but I really don't know what I'm doing.

I have TMD, combined with a chronic history of ear infections. The result is that one whole side of my neck and face can hurt for 3-4 day stretches at a time. I've gone -- and am continuing to go -- to several different specialists. The consensus is that it's not serious enough for surgery, but they've got me on exercise, night guard, etc.

I started reading a bit about cannabis for TMD, and figured I'd get my doctor's recommendation and see if it helped at all. Prior to this, my experience with pot was literally just a handful of drags, when people were passing joints around. I'm clueless.

Since I got the card, I've smoked a few times. And it really helps with the pain. The high is just a nice plus. I haven't done enough at a time to seriously mess with my mind.

But when it comes to the actual act of smoking, I suck at it. I got a cheap pipe and I burn my fingers all the time. I enjoy the taste while I'm doing it, but I hate having that firey taste in my throat afterward.

So I'm thinking of getting a vaporizer. Is something like this what I'm looking for? The prices of these things seem to get out of my range really quickly.

Also, the first time I went to the dispensary, I just got whatever blend was on special. What keywords should I be looking for for strains that help for pain relief? Also, any websites with accurate medical information would be great.

posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
That seems like a good vaporizer, but you might also want to look into edibles. You should be able to talk through your options with the person (budtender) at your cannabis club.
There is also oil and vaping. A vape pen is much cheaper than a vaporizer, I think and it gives a similar high to smoking.

Edibles give a different high than smoking, you should see if you get the same pain management benefits. Ask the budtender about the strength of edibles though!

I recommend reading Ngaio Bealum's advice column to get more information.
posted by Duffington at 11:11 AM on May 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

You could try a water bong, that will take away a lot of the harshness of the smoke.

The thing about edibles like brownies or cookies is it takes a while for that to kick in, so it can be hard to control your dosage. You could get stoned out of your mind without intending to. With practice or by taking time to eat it, you can accommodate that.
posted by lizbunny at 11:15 AM on May 13, 2015 [2 favorites]

You really don't need to overspend on a vape. Seriously. A reasonably-priced vape pen will do you just fine. (Scroll down the list for the cheaper options; mine is $25 and works like a charm.)

Folk wisdom says that, for body-oriented or physiological symptoms, you want to lean towards an indica vs. a sativa strain (which tend to be more blatantly psychoactive). Again, there isn't a whole lot of hard science on the distinctions, but in my anecdotal experience, I experience less of the "high" from an indica and more of a general feeling of physical relaxation and tension relief. Conversely, I choose sativa strains when I want to feel more social, stimulated, and mentally active.

Also, you should feel free to avail yourself of the advice of your dispensary. I find I can get remarkably specific in the effect I'm looking for, and they'll generally be able to zero in on a few choices.
posted by mykescipark at 11:34 AM on May 13, 2015 [3 favorites]

I use MMJ for pain, and I second the recommendation for indica (high-CBD strains are also recommended sometimes, but they didn't do much for me.) I use edibles, and I've found the commercially-packaged candies (NOT the rice krispy treats) are consistent and not hard to dose correctly. They do take some time to kick in, and they last quite a while - I'd recommend them primarily as a bedtime thing.
posted by restless_nomad at 11:56 AM on May 13, 2015 [2 favorites]

Smoking pot can cause lung cancer. Edibles are a safer alternative.
posted by Nevin at 12:01 PM on May 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

The pot shops here in Colorado have a wide variety of novel 'delivery' methods. I hear that the patches and sublingual formulations are easy to control dosing with compared to edibles.
posted by u2604ab at 12:10 PM on May 13, 2015

To summarize, regarding cancer risk: The bad news is that inhaling particles of burnt plant matter is going to be bad for you, no matter what type of plant it is. The good news is that it's physically impossible to inhale the same quantity of marijuana smoke that many tobacco smokers inhale. (Imagine trying to smoke two packs worth of marijuana in a day. You'd fall asleep long before you finished.) But if you're still worried, and I wouldn't blame you if you were, try a vaporizer. It uses a lower temperature, so you get the active chemicals that you want without the ash and burnt waste.
posted by Faint of Butt at 1:41 PM on May 13, 2015

Absolutely just get a vape pen. I know plenty of career stoners who are perfectly happy with them, so I'm pretty sure they'll fit the bill just fine for pain-relief-grade use. Nevin's claim has very little empirical support, but it's worth having edibles on hand for long-term relief or if you're in an environment where you can't reasonably smoke. I second restless_nomad's comment on how to choose them, and counsel dosing conservatively the first time you try one for calibration. The dispensary should say whether a given strain is indica-dominant or not, but beyond that your physiological response will be highly individual -- it's worth shopping around for a bit to find a strain that really works well for you.
posted by invitapriore at 1:51 PM on May 13, 2015

A..uh...friend of mine, had me ask a similar question a little while back.

Compared to any other way of smoking pot, vaporizers are so much easier to load and use. Everything else is like riding a horse, vaporizers are like a modern automobile.

My friend has since gotten themselves a Pax which is kind of the gold standard when it comes to small, portable vapes. He prefers to use the desktop when possible (the longer tube let's the vapor cool down a bit more, the bowl is a little bit bigger, and it's a little easier to pull through (the Pax is like sipping a milkshake) but it's nice to have some portability even just walking around the house.
posted by VTX at 2:24 PM on May 13, 2015

Oh and n'thing that the staff at the dispensery are there to help out with the different strains. You can also use as a resource.
posted by VTX at 2:37 PM on May 13, 2015

Try eating the product uncooked. It will take 2-3 hours to have any effect, but will last ~12 hours, providing pain relief without any of the other side effects - or so I've heard.
posted by HiroProtagonist at 9:17 PM on May 13, 2015

If you decide you want pain relief without a high (something you might decide if you're using regularly), I highly recommend a lotion/cream. I have neuropathic pain in my feet, untouched by anything except heavy hits of opiates, and sometimes not even then. I got a lotion that has a cannabis distillate mixed with lavender, orange, Douglas fir (!) and a number of other things. It smells fantastic, and as soon as I smooth a little on my feet, the burning disappears, leaving only a tenderness and tingling.

Other anecdotal evidence: Bruce Barcott talks about using cream -- he learned about it from professional ballerinas -- in his book "Weed the People." And a friend who is a VA nurse says it has helped soldiers with chronic pain when nothing else has. She's not allowed to recommend it, because the VA is federal and it's still against the law, but she spreads the word anyway.

(I live in Washington State, so with a prescription I can go to a medical marijuana clinic, which is half as expensive as the recreational stores. I imagine people are whipping up artisanal batches of creams all over the country, but don't know how you'd find them.)

Chronic pain is exhausting; good luck in finding relief!
posted by kestralwing at 2:16 AM on May 14, 2015

I really recommend the Magic Flight Launch Box. Lifetime replacement when you buy from them, easy-to-use, nice looking and will save you a ton of money in the long run. You can also make edibles from the AVB - already vaped bud - which for me is great for a day at the park or before I take a long flight - WHEEEEEEE!!!

I can't recommend it enough. Good luck!
posted by glaucon at 9:27 AM on May 14, 2015 [3 favorites]

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