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Medical Marijuana and Complex Regional Pain Syndrome Type II

marijuana and crps ii

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome Type II, or CRPS II, is a rare, sometimes progressive condition that often makes you particularly sore. It’s characterized by feeling severe burning pain, changes in your skin and inflammation. This suffering can understandably get you down. Below, we look at CRPS II and how it affects you, the symptoms you could suffer from and how medical marijuana for CRPS II can help you get some natural relief from your pain.

What Is CRPS II?

CRPS II is a painful, long-term condition that usually affects one of your limbs after an injury. As you might have guessed, doctors have identified two types: CRPS I and CRPS II. In this article, we are focusing on type II, though the stages and symptoms of both are the same.

Formerly known as causalgia, CRPS II is diagnosed when individuals have a confirmed associated nerve injury. On the other hand, patients who do not have a confirmed injury to their nerves are classified as having CRPS I.

crps II causes

Type II lasts for more than six months and is believed to be triggered by malfunction of or damage to both the central and peripheral nervous systems.

Type II causalgia, or CRPS, shows visible evidence of nerve damage. Unlike Type I, sufferers with Type II rate their pain, on average, at 42 out of 50. Evidence suggests symptoms of CRPS II are both physical and psychological, with increased depression and anxiety as common side effects. Physicians have recommended  patients increase their daily Vitamin C intake, as it can reduce the risks of CRPS after initial injuries.

CRPS progresses in three stages:

Stage one — Characterized by a severe, burning pain at the site of the injury. Muscle spasms, restricted mobility, joint stiffness and rapid hair and nail growth are all stage one symptoms.

Stage two — Characterized by more severe, intense pain. Swelling can spread, nail and hair growth can diminish, muscles atrophy and osteoporosis become significantly more prominent and joints thicken.

Stage three — Characterized by irreversible changes within the bones and skin, the pain may involve entire limbs. Severe, marked muscle atrophy and severely limited mobility in affected areas with flexor tendon contractions commonly occur in stage three. Occasionally, the limb may become displaced from its usual, normal position.

CRPS symptoms can be mild and can eventually go away. However, in severe cases, patients may never fully recover and might become disabled. There is no cure for CRPS.

History of CRPS

According to the Indian Journal of Plastic Surgery, probably the first documented description of the syndrome is found in a 16th-century report from Ambroise Pare. The report detailed the ongoing contractures and pain King Charles IX experienced after a bloodletting procedure.

Silas Weir Mitchell, who is known as the father of U.S. neurology, recorded the first detailed description of CRPS in 1864. Mitchell, in collaboration with George Morehouse and William Keen, noted a frequent and exaggerated presence of pain in injured veterans of the American Civil War.

Mitchell also coined the name causalgia from the Greek words for fire (kausis) and pain (algos). Mitchell’s term for the condition is fitting, as sufferers report terrible burning pain when living with CRPS II.

Symptoms of CRPS II

If you think you might be suffering from CRPS II, there are many signs to look out for. These include:

  • Constant throbbing or burning pain, most commonly in your foot, leg, hand or arm
  • Swelling of the painful area
  • Sensitivity to cold
  • Sensitivity to touch
  • Changes in nail and hair growth
  • Changes in your skin temperature — at times it can feel cold, at others, it could feel hot and clammy
  • Changes in skin color, from red or blue to mottled and white
  • Joint swelling, damage and stiffness
  • Changes in skin texture, such as shininess, tenderness and thinning
  • Decreased ability to move your affected body part
  • Muscle weakness, spasms and atrophy

Your symptoms can change with time, and they also vary from individual to individual. The most common ones to occur first are hypersensitivity to touch and cold, pain, noticeable changes in temperature, redness and swelling. Eventually, your affected area may become pale and cold. There will also be noticeable skin and nail changes alongside muscle tightening and spasms. Your condition is often irreversible when you get to this stage.

For some people, the symptoms of the disorder disappear on their own. In others, symptoms can potentially last for months and even years. The syndrome can sometimes spread to your other limbs and can be exacerbated by emotional stress.

Treatment is most effective when it begins soon after the disease onset, and there’s also a higher likelihood of remission from the condition.

Effects of CRPS II

No one enjoys being in pain. When that pain doesn’t fade, and you need to face it each day of your life, your existence can become unbearable. Chronic pain has a profoundly negative effect on your life, especially when drugs don’t give you the relief you hope for. You can find you don’t recognize yourself anymore as you've become impatient, angry and short-tempered. You might also find difficulty in concentrating and carrying out everyday tasks.

After a while, pain can wear you down, draining your motivation and sapping your energy. You might shy away from people and activities you once enjoyed, or feel anxious, depressed and isolated. You could feel like just shutting yourself away.

Medical marijuana often helps alleviate some of the debilitating symptoms of CRPS.

crps diagnosis age

CRPS Statistics

Here are some statistics to help you learn more about CRPS:

crps and women

Current Treatments Available for CRPS II and Their Side Effects

Currently, physical and occupational therapy are the most common forms of treatment used to combat the symptoms of CRPS. Additionally, spinal cord injections, local anesthetic, blocks/injections and intramuscular Botox injections are commonly practiced on patients suffering from this condition. Doctors often prescribe anti-anxiety and anti-depression medications to deal with the emotional toll this condition can take. Medical marijuana can effectively work to combat the associated stresses, anxieties and depression that comes with the condition. Moreover, cannabidiol treatment can successfully aid patients in minimizing chronic pain, muscle spasticity, inflammation, joint stiffness and lack of mobilization.

After discussing your symptoms and medical history with you, and carefully examining your affected limb, your health care practitioner will determine the best course of treatment for you. There is currently no single test available to make a CRPS II diagnosis. Your doctor may schedule MRI scans, X-rays and bone scans to contribute to making a firmer diagnosis.

Time is of the essence when diagnosing and treating the syndrome to minimize pain and personal suffering. There are both surgical and nonsurgical treatments to consider.

Nonsurgical Treatments

These are the typical nonsurgical treatments you can expect when you’re first diagnosed with CRPS II:

  • Biofeedback. Relaxation techniques and increased body awareness could help with pain relief.
  • Injection therapy. It’s possible to inject an anesthetic into the affected area. Doing so relieves pain and can help stop the disease progressing.
  • Medications. Opioid painkillers, anti-convulsants, anti-depressants, blood pressure medications, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and oral corticosteroids can be prescribed. Unfortunately, these drugs can be addictive and can have some unsettling side effects, such as causing organ and heart damage.
  • Therapy. It’s essential to be involved in active exercise that involves your affected limb to help you regain as much use as possible.

Surgical Treatments

There are some surgical treatments available if nonsurgical treatment fails. These include:

  • Pain pump implantation. Doctors can implant a small device near your abdomen to deliver pain medication to your spinal cord. If you don’t want to become dependent on taking painkillers for a long period, you may be leery of this treatment.
  • Spinal cord stimulator. This procedure involves implanting tiny electrodes along your spine that send mild electrical impulses to your affected nerves. Again, you may wish to explore other options such as medical marijuana before committing to this type of procedure.

How and Why Marijuana Is an Effective Treatment for CRPS II

Some exciting new research shows marijuana seems to be effective for the most debilitating symptoms of CRPS. A paper published by The American Pain Societyin February 2013 reported that vaporized pot, even in a low dose, gave CRPS sufferers a significant decrease in pain, while also allowing them to function more normally.

CRPS I and II are both qualifying conditions for medical pot in Illinois and Connecticut. Medical cannabis for CRPS II seems to provide effective relief for sufferers.

What Symptoms of CRPS II Can Marijuana Treat?

Cannabis can be helpful for treating many of the symptoms of CRPS II. Medical pot can be eaten, smoked, vaped or used in liquid form and is an excellent pain treatment. Marijuana is also commonly prescribed to treat anxiety and depression, which are common issues for CRPS II patients.

Marijuana for CRPS is also far less expensive than conventional medications. Additionally, cannabis doesn’t damage your organs, whereas traditional painkillers often do.

Let’s look at some different strains of cannabis for CRPS and how they might help your symptoms.

Best Strains of Marijuana to Use for CRPS II

If you’re looking for more information on marijuana and CRPS, there are so many strains of marijuana available today that it’s easy to be confused. We’ve put together a starter's guide to help you decide what ones might be best for your symptoms.

Pain. Pain is the most debilitating symptom you’ll have to deal with when you have CRPS II. In fact, probably nothing impacts your quality of life like chronic pain. If you’re unhappy with conventional painkillers, cannabis is a natural and gentle pain reliever. Look at purchasing strains that have strong painkilling effects. These include:

  • Harlequin. Harlequin is a Sativa-dominant hybrid and is suitable for daytime use, as it isn’t a sedative. The strain is filled with neuroprotective compounds and antioxidants and is perfect for nerve-related pain and inflammation. You feel a painless, uplifting and mellow effect when you take this strain.
  • Cannatonic. Cannatonic is a particularly therapeutic strain. It provides a mellow and smooth feeling, and its high cannabidiol levels eliminate psychoactive effects. Cannatonic is often used during the day and for social situations. Again, this strain also treats inflammation as well as general pain.
  • Jack Herer. Jack Herer is a sativa-dominant hybrid and can be used during the day for its energizing effects. Taking just a little of the strain is similar to drinking a strong cup of coffee. It’s also filled with natural painkillers and neuroprotective terpenes.
jack herer

Depression. Depression can often creep up on you when you’re in chronic pain, stopping you from leading a fulfilled and happy life. You might feel there’s no point in getting out of bed in the morning when you’re depressed. If you feel down, the following strains can lift you back up again:

  • Blue Dream. Blue Dream is a hybrid strain that is high in THC. It’s considered to be safe to take during the day and provides you with relaxation and happy feelings. It’s also thought to be good for stimulating you mentally.
  • Granddaddy Purple. Grandaddy Purple is an Indica strain that’s useful if your depression is keeping you awake at night. Granddaddy Purple is for you if you need some rest and respite from your symptoms.
  • Chocolope. Chocolope could be perfect for you if you’re feeling fatigued as well as depressed. It’s a Sativa strain often prescribed for depression relief. If you also suffer from anxiety, however, Chocolope may not be a good choice, as this strain can heighten anxious feelings. Therefore, it’s best to start off by taking small doses and working your way up.

Anxiety. Anxiety can accompany low and depressive feelings. You could constantly feel on edge and worried about the future. These three strains are particularly useful if this sounds like you:

  • Sour Tsunami. Sour Tsunami is a stress-busting strain that gives you a pleasantly clear-headed feeling. It’s a go-to strain if you suffer from depression or anxiety.
  • Cinex. Cinex is a Sativa strain and produces an uplifting, happy and mellow effect. It’s an energizing strain that can at times give you the giggles.
  • Northern Lights. Northern Lights is an Indica strain and will keep you calm if you’re feeling stressed. The strain is useful when your anxiety stops you getting a good night’s sleep. After you take this, you should wake up the next day feeling positive and well-rested.

Coping with CRPS II can be a tough and debilitating reality. There’s lots more help and information if you’re interested in knowing more about how medical pot can help you. You can try speaking to other people with your diagnosis and asking them how pot has changed their lives. There’s also a wealth of anecdotal evidence and information available online.

However, the best route forward is to speak to the professionals. To begin a natural treatment regimen and to discover more about cannabis and CRPS II, search for a medical marijuana doctor or marijuana dispensary today. With our marijuanadoctors.com medical marijuana portal, we can help improve your quality of life if you’ve been living with CRPS.

Medical Marijuana & Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) Type II


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This information is not provided by medical professionals and is intended only to complement, and not to replace or contradict, any health or medical advice or information provided by healthcare professionals.  If you have any questions, please contact your doctor or other healthcare professional.

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