Limited Study Returns Encouraging Results, Future Studies Needed
Findings from a recent study suggest that medical marijuana may be effective for the treatment of radicular pain, by reducing connections between different brain regions that process sensory signals and emotions. Radicular pain, of which sciatica is a common form, is a type of nerve pain that radiates from the spine to the legs. The study evaluated the effect of one of the many cannabinoids in marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Author Haggai Sharon, MD, with the Sagol Brain Institute, Tel Aviv Medical Center, commented, “Pain is a complex experience that involves both the senses and emotions. Our study results link pain relief from THC with a reduction in the connections between areas of the brain otherwise heavily connected, suggesting that THC may alleviate pain by disrupting signals between these pain processing pathways.” The findings were published online last week in the journal Neurology.
The study evaluated 15 male participants with medium to high radicular pain for over 6 months. Women were not studied because hormone variations during menstruation may impact pain sensitivity. Prior to intervention, subjects rated their pain levels and their brain connections were surveyed with fMRI scans. Treatment consisted of 15 mg average of THC oil administered to 9 participants, while the remaining 6 received placebo oil. After 1 week, a second treatment was administered with THC/placebo recipients reversed. After each treatment, subjects’ pain rating was captured, and a second brain scan was administered. Both pain ratings and connections between brain areas involved in pain processed were reduced in the THC cohorts. Future work is needed to evaluate other constituents in marijuana may impact pain, as well as to increase study size and include women in the research group.
Read about the findings.
The journal abstract may be read here.
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