Updated on December 17, 2018. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Richard Koffler, MD, Board Certified Physiatrist
Complex regional pain syndrome, or CRPS, causes chronic nerve pain. We don’t fully understand what causes it, but we do know it makes the myelin around your nerves deteriorate. As a protective fatty tissue, myelin prevents nerve damage, but when it goes away, your nerves have no protection, causing pain and inflammation.
So, many folks with CRPS use nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, to manage their pain. Most people have taken an NSAID before — they’re the painkillers we most commonly use. But, they still have drawbacks, especially when taken long-term.
Medical marijuana can replace NSAIDs by providing effective pain relief with fewer and less harmful side effects.
As their name implies, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs reduce inflammation without containing steroids. They block the enzymes that make prostaglandins, fatty acids involved in pain and inflammation. You can get them as an over-the-counter medication or as a prescription drug.
Over-the-counter NSAIDs include:
In more severe cases, some patients take prescription NSAIDs like:
It’s much easier to buy NSAIDs than it is to get medical marijuana — you can find over-the-counter NSAIDs in pharmacies and stores all over the United States. Prescription NSAIDs don’t cause dependency, so most doctors will prefer prescribing NSAIDs over prescribing painkillers like narcotics.
Unless you live in a recreational state, you’ll have a harder time legally getting medical marijuana. You must obtain authorization from the state by proving your diagnosis and getting approval from a doctor. However, you mind find the process is worth the benefits.
Even prescription-strength NSAIDs can only relieve so much pain. As a trade-off for their lack of potential for addiction, NSAIDs don’t offer as much pain relief as other types of painkillers. Patients with conditions like CRPS often have to choose riskier medications to get the relief they need.
On the other hand, medical marijuana offers the best of both worlds: milder side effects with potent pain relief. People use cannabis to reduce pain caused by issues like cancer, arthritis and other disorders that result in severe pain and inflammation.
Even though NSAIDs have safer side effects than stronger painkillers do, they still have side effects you should watch out for. Since some kinds of prostaglandins protect your stomach lining and GI tract, NSAIDs can expose them to harm.
Meanwhile, medical marijuana gives you less harmful side effects, like sleepiness and dry mouth. The side effects of cannabis medicine can’t hurt you, and you can easily manage most of them.
Once you’ve done some research, take the next step and schedule an appointment with a professional. Marijuana-friendly doctors can help you with your medication regimen, and the budtenders at a dispensary can give you advice on different medical marijuana products.