With so many possible causes, the precise cause of chronic pain can be hard to pinpoint. While pain may start with a disease or injury, it can persist because of stress, emotional problems, improper treatment, or persistent abnormal pain signals in the body. Chronic pain can even occur without any previous injury, illness or known cause. Anyone can develop chronic pain, although it most commonly affects older adults and people with health conditions like diabetes, arthritis, or back problems.
There are also a number of specific diseases associated with chronic pain, including shingles, diabetes, blood vessel problems, HIV, and most types of cancer. While treatment may cure one of these diseases, it’s common for chronic pain symptoms to persist.
Treatment may bring the disease under control, or even cure it completely, but the chronic pain continues. Similarly, simply because a pain-inducing disease can not be cured, does not mean the pain cannot be mitigated. Effective pain management requires ongoing attention in conjunction with a qualified medical professional.
Conventional treatments can be effective for many patients, however, there can be a downside. Some patients report intolerable side effects. Others report they are only nominally effective or become less effective over time (e.g. the efficacy of opioids decreases significantly within 90 days). Reported side effects include:
Constipation with opioids
Cardiovascular damage from NSAIDs
Because of unpredictable efficacy, potentially intolerable side effects, and risk of addiction, an increasing number of patients are turning to cannabis. While cannabis may be effective for many patients, like all drugs, it’s not necessarily appropriate for all patients. Before considering cannabis, you should speak with a clinician who is knowledgeable on all forms of chronic pain treatments (pharmacological and nonpharmacological), and is not biased towards a single treatment (there is no panacea that is works for everyone).