The chronic pain cycle: How can medical cannabis help to defeat persistent pain?

The content on this page is written and designed for educational purposes only and should not replace professional medical advice.

The chronic pain cycle is a concept used in the pain management space. It describes the complex interplay of physical and emotional factors that can contribute to persistent pain. This encompasses a loop of symptoms that can make pain even more difficult to manage.

At Mamedica, our specialist doctors prescribe a range of CBPMs (cannabis-based prescription medicines) to support patients with chronic pain conditions. In this blog post, we will explore the stages of the chronic pain cycle along with strategies aimed at breaking the loop.

Chronic pain cycle

What are the stages of the chronic pain cycle?

  • Pain: When our bodies experience an injury or inflammation, the initial response is pain. This sensation serves as the starting point for a complex cycle that can massively impact our wellbeing.
  • Muscle guarding & restricted mobility: The same nerves that convey pain also signal an injury. In response, the body’s protective mechanism tightens the muscles around the affected area. Prolonged muscle guarding leads to limited mobility in the joints, even after the initial tissues have healed.
  • Muscle weakness & atrophy: If muscle guarding and restricted mobility persist, the affected muscles can weaken and start to shrink – a condition known as atrophy.
  • Muscle inflammation & increased pain: At this stage, the inflammation can heighten pain perception, potentially causing otherwise normal sensations to be interpreted as painful.
  • Decreased function: Prolonged guarding results in reduced healthy function of the muscles.
  • Emotional & mental stress: Prolonged pain, guarding, and loss of function can trigger various emotional stresses like anger, frustration, depression, and helplessness. This can exacerbate physical tension, reduce motivation, and fuel the cycle further.

Tips to break the chronic pain cycle

Understanding the stages of the cycle is key for effective pain management. Now you know how it works, these are the steps patients can take to relieve pain:

chronic pain cycle
  • Consider medical cannabis treatment: Medical cannabis interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system which regulates various physiological functions, including pain perception. Additionally, cannabinoids like CBD have anti-inflammatory properties, addressing underlying inflammation often associated with chronic pain.
  • Ice and heat treatments: Utilising both hot and cold treatments can help provide relief. Heat provides temporary relief by enhancing blood flow and loosening tense muscles. Meanwhile, cold packs or ice reduce pain temporarily by minimising inflammation.
  • Exercise: Gentle movements, workouts, and stretches enhance the resilience of the tissues surrounding a painful joint. Physical therapy can help reinstate mobility and minimise or avert pain.
  • Changing positions frequently: If you find yourself stuck at a desk for hours, change your position every 15 to 30 minutes and pause to engage in stretching, walking, or some light exercises.
  • Practice stress management techniques: A study revealed that individuals who engage in mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques experience more significant pain relief compared to those who do not. Practices like deep breathing exercises, meditation, yoga, colouring, journaling, or listening to music to help your body better manage stress. You can find out more about how stress can exacerbate your chronic pain here.

How can Mamedica help?

If you are among the 51% of adults in the UK dealing with a chronic long-term health issue and haven’t yet discovered an effective solution, cannabis-based prescription medicines could provide relief.

Our clinic offers tailored treatments for various conditions in areas such as pain management, psychiatry, neurology, palliative care, and cancer. Discover the conditions we support here.

To determine if you qualify for medical cannabis, take our eligibility test in under 60 seconds.