Medical Cannabis For Seniors: Pain Management
There’s little worse than chronic pain and yet there are so many pain conditions associated with advancing age. And it may prevent Happier Aging, a concept we live by at Nurse Next Door.
Some of the most common health conditions that seniors face are pain conditions such as Arthritis, Osteoporosis and Shingles. Shingles or herpes zoster is a viral disease characterized by a painful skin rash with blisters in a localized area usually on one side. Once the rash heals, persistent neuropathic pain is not uncommon and hurts.
When a person experiences pain, it may negatively impact their quality of life. It is difficult for people to complete their Activities of Daily Living (ADL). It may also impact a person’s quality of sleep which can lead to fatigue and mood changes like anxiety or depression. Fatigue from lack of sleep, difficulty with movement due to pain and anxiety/depression place you at risk for falls and fractures.
Doctors often turn to narcotics for pain relief. But narcotics come with a potpourri of side effects that impact quality of life for seniors. Addiction to such substances is a very real issue narcotics cross the blood-brain barrier and may affect mood and memory. Constipation is another common side effect and is a real pain in the butt!
However, there is hope on the horizon!
Most people have negative associations with a new treatment for pain that has been approved by Health Canada. What is this new treatment? Cannabis.
Studies show that cannabis is safer and has significantly less side effects than most commonly prescribed medications including narcotics.
And not to worry as many seniors do, you won’t get high. That’s for the teenagers! Low levels of THC, (the ingredient that accounts for a person feeling high) coupled with the potent anti-inflammatory Cannabinoids in Cannabis means you will get pain relief without getting high.
Cannabis has also been shown to help with bone growth for osteoporosis. It may reduce anxiety, the most common mental illness in seniors. The healing powers of Cannabis may also help you get a good night’s sleep. Sleep regulates mood and supports memory. Sleep re-energizes the body and clears waste from the brain which serves to increase appetite and libido. Who wouldn’t love that? All of this helps you to function well during the day.
One might wonder if they are at risk for addiction to cannabis, a very real concern as substance use and abuse rises with advancing age. Not to worry. Many people use cannabis on a daily basis for pain, stress and sleep. Stopping cannabis is like cutting out coffee. It can be done cold turkey.
There are cannabis strains for chronic pain and insomnia. It may come in the form of an oil or an ointment. Edibles have yet to be approved in Canada due to Health Canada’s desire to learn more about how cannabis metabolizes in the body and appropriate dosing.
Speak to your doctor to see if Cannabis is right for you and start living again!
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Maureen McGrath hosts the Sunday Night Health Show, a live listener call-in radio program on the Corus Radio Network across Western Canada.
She is a Registered Nurse, a Nurse Continence and Sexual Health Educator.
Her TEDx talk on the No Sex Marriage has received over 17 million views.
She is also the Executive Director of the Women’s Health Initiative Network, an organization to raise awareness about women’s reproductive, bladder, vaginal and sexual health.
She is author of the book, Sex & Health: Why One Can’t Come Without the Other.
Maureen is the recipient of the 2009 VCH Nursing Excellence Award, a 2013 YWCA Women of Distinction finalist and the 2016 Vancouver Board of Trade Community Catalyst Award. Her website is Back To The Bedroom. Her blog is 50 Shades of Pink.