Updated on January 28, 2019. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Richard Koffler, MD, Board Certified Physiatrist
Although Chiari malformations are rare and sometimes don’t cause symptoms at all, we still need to take them seriously. When it presents severe symptoms, the patient goes through great pain and discomfort from the pressure on important spine and brain stem nerves.
And the standard options we currently have for pain relief can cause more harm than good. Lower-strength painkillers can hurt the liver, stomach and kidneys when used in excess. Opioids and narcotics can cause dependency and addiction.
So, we’ve seen plenty of patients choose medical marijuana as a holistic remedy for their Chiari malformation pain. It enhances their quality of life and lets them focus on handling their other symptoms.
The pain associated with severe Chiari malformations comes from the pressure put on spine and brain stem. When enough pressure is exerted on this crucial area of your nervous system, you can experience pain like:
Chiari malformations also increase the patient’s risk of developing syringomyelia, where fluid builds up in other parts of the spine and presses on the nerves in the spinal cord. Syringomyelia causes even more kinds of pain, such as:
While the causes behind Chiari-related pain are relatively unique, patients with the disorder take painkillers used for many conditions that result in pain:
But, these medications can cause liver, kidney and stomach damage. Stronger painkillers like opioids and narcotics promote dependency.
As opposed to standard pain medication, medical marijuana causes no harmful or long-term side effects. If you take cannabis medicine and find you can’t handle the side effects, you can stop it without risk. Meanwhile, typical painkillers can cause permanent damage or give you withdrawal symptoms.
Medical cannabis side effects include dizziness, sleepiness and hunger. Compared to painkiller side effects, cannabis side effects are simple to manage.
Weed medicine works with your body’s natural functions to provide potent pain relief. Our bodies have an endocannabinoid system that creates chemicals like the ones in marijuana. Our cells have receptors specially meant to take in cannabinoids, too — you could say that cannabis speaks our bodies’ language.
Marijuana has two dominant cannabinoids that we study the most called CBD and THC. While we usually recommend one chemical over the other for a specific symptom, both effectively reduce pain. They work especially well when used together — it’s as if marijuana was meant to relieve pain all along.
An understated benefit of cannabis medicine is its ability to help patients take care of many symptoms at the same time. While most painkillers relieve only pain, marijuana remedies a wide variety of additional health issues.
Cannabis helps with two extra symptoms associated with Chiari malformations — insomnia and depression. Certain kinds of marijuana promote relaxation, making it easier to fall asleep. Some varieties can also relieve depression symptoms when chronic conditions take a toll on mental health.
Before using cannabis medication, you should get a professional opinion. Cannabis-friendly doctors can figure out if marijuana will work well with your health profile and write you a recommendation for cannabis medicine. If you need help picking a medication, the budtenders at a medical dispensary can make recommendations based on your needs.
For more information about how cannabis can be used to treat Arnold-Chiari Malformation, check out our resources: