Updated on January 25, 2019. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
A common reason why many people turn to medical marijuana is to treat their chronic pain. Arachnoiditis causes episodes of unbearable and sudden pain, which are often very hard to predict and control with conventional pain relievers. As a result, more and more people are now turning to medical marijuana for arachnoiditis.
Arachnoiditis is caused by an inflammation of the arachnoid, which is a membrane that surrounds and protects your spinal cord nerves. Burning pain, severe stinging and neurological issues characterize this condition. Arachnoid inflammation can result in scar tissue formation and may cause the nerves in your spinal cord to stick together and not function properly.
The several possible causes for inflammation include direct injuries to the spine, chemicals found in epidural steroid injections, bacterial viruses and infections, chronic compression of spinal nerves and complications from spinal surgeries. Arachnoiditis can be diagnosed by taking an electromyogram (EMG) to assess the severity of ongoing damage to the affected nerve roots.
There are no consistent symptom patterns when you have arachnoiditis, but it seems to affect the nerves connected to the lower legs and back in many people. Pain is the most common symptom, but there are other symptoms of arachnoiditis, including:
If you have arachnoiditis, you may also experience severe pain that radiates to their lower extremities, gait abnormalities, muscle cramps and alterations of proprioception. You may also suffer from hearing problems, severe headaches, vision disturbances, nausea and dizziness.
Patients with severe arachnoiditis say they experience bladder, bowel and sexual dysfunction. They also say their pain feels like “electric shocks.” All symptoms are a result of impediment and alteration of the CSF circulation caused by clumped nerve roots, fibrosis and scar tissue.
With the progression of the disease come more severe or permanent symptoms. Many arachnoiditis patients suffer from substantial disability due to constant pain and are unable to work.
Arachnoiditis is a subtle, chronic disorder that results in intractable, debilitating pain and an array of other neurological problems. It is characterized by a severe inflammatory stage occurring in the arachnoid (interior) and the dura (exterior) — two of the three membranes covering and protecting your brain, nerve roots and spinal cord. You have cerebrospinal fluid in your arachnoid that circulates to your sacral area from your brain every couple of hours.
It filters intrusions and typically responds with inflammation first, followed with a life-lasting, chronic phase characterized by fibrosis and scarring.This results in abnormal nerve root adhesion to your dural sac or clumping (to each other) and occurs in a number of shapes that significantly alter the function of your spinal cord and roots. As a result, it causes chronic, severe neuropathic pain in the affected areas and several neurological deficits.
In the era before antibiotics, severe cases of syphilis or tuberculosis invaded the spine and caused arachnoiditis. Today, these are rare infections. However, it’s essential to mention that patients affected with fungal meningitis caused by tainted steroids or epidural injections can get arachnoiditis.
There are debates over whether arachnoiditis is a progressive condition. In the bulk of people with arachnoiditis, there may be an ongoing gradual decline over time, with some loss of function and increasing pain. Some individuals reach a plateau phase and remain stable. Those who can stay off opiates and other addictive medications seem to be able to live a reasonably active lifestyle. While occurring in a small minority of individuals, a minor injury from a car accident or fall can prompt a swift decline.
Osteoporosis and depression are other complicating effects of arachnoiditis. While not directly fatal, arachnoiditis can cause such unrelenting and unbearable pain that some individuals attempt or successively commit suicide. That’s why it’s so important, if you have arachnoiditis, to look into all treatment possibilities, including medical cannabis.
It wasn’t until Sir Victor Horsley’s 1909 report on chronic spinal meningitis that the first type of arachnoiditis — spinal arachnoiditis — was recognized as a separate entity. Other key historical facts of the condition, as published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry, include:
The medical community regards arachnoiditis as rare. However, in 1978, Dr. Charles Burton from Minnesota’s Institute of Low Back and Neck Care reported it as being common in patients who had severe leg or back pain and functional impairment caused by failed back surgery syndrome.
It’s believed to be the third-most-common condition to cause Failed Back Surgery Syndrome (FBSS) after recurrent disc problems and stenosis. Before that, it was previously considered the second-most-common cause because of oil-based myelography’s adverse effects. Although there’s been a decrease in the rate, a large number of adhesive arachnoiditis cases are now found to be caused by adverse effects of Depo-Medrol and other epidural steroids.
Adhesive arachnoiditis is significantly under-diagnosed and not a notifiable disease. On March 25, 1998, during the British House of Commons proceedings, the issue of arachnoiditis caused by Myodil was brought up. The Under-Secretary of State for Health, when asked the number of cases for the past 20 years, replied that the information requested is unavailable.
Burton has tried to come up with an approximate figure for U.S. cases. He used international study results that found that 11 percent of all Failed Back Surgery Syndrome cases were caused by lumbo-sacral adhesive arachnoiditis. He tied this percentage in with the number of surgeries performed over the last 50 years and a 25 percent average rate of FBSS and came up with an estimated minimum number of 1,000,000 FBSS cases in the United States that were due to lumbo-sacral adhesive arachnoiditis production. The number would have likely doubled if the estimate was worldwide.
Any person of any age can get arachnoiditis. However, it’s more common in individuals who are between 40 and 60 years old. Although uncommon, arachnoiditis cases are increasing throughout the world because of the growing number of immunocompromised patients including alcoholics, diabetics, AIDs patients, intravenous drug abusers and chemotherapy and transplantation patients. Around 11,000 new cases of arachnoiditis occur in the U.S. each year, according to one estimate.
Arachnoiditis affects more females than males. This is likely because many pregnant women in the U.S. and other countries receive epidural or spinal anesthesia during delivery. Estimates suggest that four percent of these pregnant women develop arachnoiditis caused by anesthesia complications.
Arachnoiditis has no cure. There are treatment options available, however, but they are geared more towards pain relief and are the same treatments used for other chronic pain disorders. Health care professionals will often recommend programs for pain management, such as physiotherapy, psychotherapy and exercise.
Although there is no current pharmaceutical treatment on the market, medical marijuana can provide patients with immediate pain relief for their muscle spasms. Cannabis Indica strains can work to alleviate pain, aid in sleep and relax muscles. Cannabidiol has proven to demonstrate remarkable progress in relieving inflammation and easing the tingling and numbing sensations associated with Arachnoiditis.
Pain relievers like NSAIDS, narcotic pain relievers, anti-spasm drugs, corticosteroids (injected or orally) and anticonvulsants have been used. The physician may administer some of these medications through an intrathecal pump and implant under your skin, so the medicine is administered directly to your spinal cord.Some of these pain medications may cause some side effects.
Narcotic Pain Relievers
Other treatments available for Arachnoiditis include:
Many doctors treat mostly the pain and other physical symptoms of arachnoiditis. They don’t consider the psychological counterparts of the condition. Fear of death and fear of extreme pain outbreaks can cause emotional distress.
Medical cannabis for arachnoiditis not only provides you with analgesic effects for pain relief, but it can also calm your emotions and help treat your arachnoiditis from both viewpoints. The further good news is that chronic pain is a qualifying condition to obtain medical marijuana legally in many states.
The side effects of medical marijuana include:
Physicians avoid surgery for treating arachnoiditis since it can cause more scar tissue, which exposes your spinal cord that’s already irritated to more trauma.
One of the main reasons people use cannabis for arachnoiditis is to treat their chronic pain. Arachnoiditis is hard to treat since there is no cure and treatment is limited to overcoming pain.
Surgery, as mentioned, doesn’t provide a good prognosis. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) discourages the use of epidural steroid injections for treating pain eruptions because there have been reports of them worsening the condition. This leaves pain management therapies for patients, and the least risky of all pain medications could just be medical weed.
Studies have documented that weed provides you with a decent analgesic effect with little to no side effects and minimal addiction risk. Studies have shown cannabidiol to help relieve inflammation and ease the numbing and tingling sensations that are typically associated with arachnoiditis.
Living with chronic pain can be debilitating. If you’re suffering with it every day, it can be so overbearing that it affects other areas of your life and impacts your health, mood and overall well-being. Unfortunately, the standard treatment options commonly prescribed for pain are not only nominally effective, but are also potentially toxic and addictive.
In fact, in 2015, 33,000 people died from overdosing on opioids. This is why it’s not surprising that it’s common for Americans who are suffering from chronic pain to seek out marijuana for relief as an alternative.
A comprehensive, systematic review of 28 studies led by Harvard examined endocannabinoid (i.e. cannabinoids from the plant or synthetic formulations) efficacy for treating several medical and pain issues. The author concluded that using cannabis for neuropathic pain, chronic pain and spasticity is supported by high-quality evidence.
Out of these reviewed studies, six out of six studies on widespread chronic pain and five out of five studies on neuropathic pain found the patients experienced significant improvement in their symptoms with medical cannabis use.
According to a demographic review, published in the online Journal of Psychoactive Drugs of patient characteristics, patients who obtain medical weed legally reduce their conventional pharmaceutical consumption.
Mesa’s Medical Marijuana Research Institute affiliated investigators surveyed 367 state-qualified patients who were obtaining their medical cannabis from four Arizona medical marijuana dispensaries. Respondents of this survey reported using weed therapeutically to treat their symptoms of:
Respondents stated that cannabis provided them with almost complete relief or a lot of relief from their symptoms.
One of the hardest ailments to manage is chronic pain. Many patients who are overwhelmed with all the prescription and over-the-counter painkillers decide to take the more natural approach: marijuana for arachnoiditis to treat their pain.
But not all strains are equally useful when it comes to arachnoiditis pain relief. Some strains will ease away muscle tension and nerve pain, while others will help with inflammation and energy.
Cannabis Indica strains provide you with a “stoned” and sedate sensation. You feel this sensation more centered in your body, which is why these strains are great for reducing muscle tension. Indicas are effective at treating rheumatic and arthritic stiffness, muscle tremors and spasms, insomnia, swelling and anxiety and related disorders.
Cannabis Sativa strains provide you with an energetic, cerebral “high” effect you experience both in your body and your mind. These strains are very effective at treating nausea, migraine headaches, appetite stimulation, chronic pain, depression and similar symptoms.
Strains that alleviate symptoms in Arachnoiditis patients include:
Pain & Inflammation
Stress & Depression
According to a report, studies found that the plant cannabinoid compounds and inhaled (smoked or vaporized) marijuana are medically promising and work great for pain. This is due to their THC and CBD contents, and since our bodies already have natural cannabinoid receptors, they play a role in controlling pain. Still, the exact mechanisms of cannabis and arachnoiditis pain relief are not fully understood.
If you’re struggling with pain, inflammation, tingling, and numbness or other symptoms of arachnoiditis, consider searching a medical marijuana dispensary or doctor that will provide you with marijuana and symptom relief. Your marijuana doctor will sit down with you and discuss how medical pot can help ease your pain from this condition and any others that may be co-occurring.
Here at MarijuanaDoctors.com, we can help you improve your quality of life while living with arachnoiditis – find a doctor near you today!
For more information about how cannabis can be used to treat Arachnoiditis, check out our resources: