Athletes Are Using Cannabis for Pain Relief

Athletes Are Using Cannabis for Pain Relief

By H. Hackman

It seems that long gone are the times when the news of athletes using cannabis for health reasons would shock a person. Today, more and more athletes suffering from traumatic injuries or chronic pain are using cannabis infused creams instead of traditional opioid painkillers. At the same time, athletes are turning the stereotype of the “lazy pothead” upside down.

Compared to opiates, cannabis is considered a more “natural” pain reliever, but this does not mean that it is necessarily less effective. We often tend to think that natural medicine is by default less effective and takes more time to work. But, Cannabis seems to deliver fast relief, and today many athletes use topical creams that contain cannabis for the simple reason that it actually helps them manage pain and heal more quickly.

Cannabis is not only effective for treating pain and muscle spasticity, it has also been shown to help to heal broken bones.  According to a study published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, bones healed quicker, and were stronger and more resilient against a repeated fracture.

“We found CBD alone to be sufficiently effective in enhancing fracture healing. Other studies have also shown CBD to be a safe agent, that leads us to believe we should continue this line of study in clinical trials to assess its usefulness in improving human fracture healing,” said lead author, Yankel Gabet of Tel Aviv’s Bone Research Laboratory.

It seems that instead of popping pills that can make you groggy, maybe using CBD is an effective and alternative approach to treating pain and fractured bones.

Cannabis works in a way that doesn’t affect our internal organs and controls chronic pain caused by injuries, while also helping to regulate the endocrine system without exhausting its supplies, according to this study.

Cannabis contains a non-psychoactive cannabinoid called cannabidiol, or CBD that studies have demonstrated is effective in relieving pain.  The human body contains CBD receptors and when an ointment containing CBD is applied to an injured area, our body produces CBD and directs its healing efforts to that particular location.  CBD actually helps the healing of an injury naturally, and there are different strains high in cannabidiol for differing medicinal needs, including pain.

Effective chronic pain management is often a challenge for athletes and physicians.  While opioids are often effective, particularly in healing postsurgical pain, the tolerance phenomenon often results in patients requiring increased levels of opioids. Many patients, get only limited pain relief from the traditional interventional treatments, which often have substantial side effects.

Many scientists believe that cannabis can help break the chronic pain cycle.  Because cannabis has been used to treat a wide range of different kinds of pain, it appears to be a promising source of analgesic medication. That is the reason why many countries (like Germany) are reconsidering the cultivation of cannabis for healing chronic pain.

More and more athletes turn to cannabis to manage their pain effectively, while also minimizing side-effects and improving their quality of life.

As athletes push their bodies to the limits, they face muscle pain, inflammation and other painful conditions and injuries. Many athletes use cannabis to dissipate the aches and pains. One big concern for the athletes that use cannabis is that it may show in the drug tests that they have to pass regularly.  Amanda Reiman, PhD claims in an article for DrugPolicy.org that topical cannabis does not.

Recently there has been a debate in the National Football League after some NFL players publicly supported medical marijuana for chronic pain. They say that marijuana’s side effects are very minimal and easily manageable.  Jamal Anderson a former Atlanta Falcon recently told Bleacher Report that he had seen many players during his career that they used cannabis to help control pain and stress.

Although there is still a lot of research looking into cannabis as a solution to chronic pain, the former president of the American Academy of Pain Medicine, Dr. Lynn Webster, gives an optimistic view saying, “We need to find better treatments for athletes and non-athletes, and cannabinoids may by one way.”

H. Hackman has studied Sociology and Law and has written about legal developments on psychedelics and cannabis for the last 10 years. He lives in Brussels.

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Authored by: H. Hackman

There are 4 comments for this article
  1. Joe W Cline at 8:30 am

    Currently on fentnyl spray 400mcg every 6 hours willing to try anything have last stage red severe pain and Meds becoming harder and harder to get. Cost is atrocious and increasing looking for any and all answers sincerely yours. J.W.C. In Augusta Ga

  2. Angel at 1:42 pm

    I have chronic leukemia and started using med marijuana at the urging of my pain doctor two months ago. I immediately was able to stop using my fetanyl patches. I still use breakthrough meds but dropping 200mcg of fetanyl overnight even my doctor was shocked. Med marijuana has changed my life I’m able to go for walk again and have more energy. Try it of you can

  3. Mona Twocats-Romero at 1:41 pm

    It is pretty clear from all the new research that while CDB helps with many illnesses, the combination of CDB and THC in the plant usually works much better than CDB alone. Why are people so scared that THC might be useful too? It is just a hold-over from the Drug War mentality that was fed to us hook, line, and sinker by the petroleum industry and prohibitionists. We see the same sort of hysterical brainwashing now with opiates. We will soon see thousands upon thousands going to jail for opiates the same way we see with cannabis now. Just another way to keep the for-profit prisons full and the poor in fear of the police. The rich will always have their “medications” no matter what without being annoyed by the laws, whatever they are.

  4. Bob Schubring at 10:03 am

    Opium poppies, like cannabis plants, are naturally-occurring plants. Over many years, generations of humans have selectively bred these plants for their medicinal effects. The advent of organic chemistry 350 years ago, provided an investigational tool into the effects of all plant-derived medicines.

    Chemistry was quick to discover what’s called the “active principle” of an herbal medicine. The active principle is the molecule or molecules, that actually induce the desired effects in the body.

    For example, a cannabis leaf contains thousands of different kinds of molecules. There are assorted proteins that the plant used to grow itself. There are sugars that it used to store energy. There are polymers of sugars that form the fibers that support the plant off the ground. There are fats and oils that created water-resistant walls within the plant, known as cell membranes, inside which the plant hoarded certain water-soluble nutrients to keep them from washing away when rain fell. And there are plant hormones of various sorts, that regulated various functions of the different cells in the plant.

    Out of that entire assortment of substances, we humans are primarily studying cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) oils, and their precursors, which were carboxylic acids that decompose in heat, because those molecules are known to have medicinal effects.

    Had the US not taken up the Drug War, the technology of cannabis compounds would closely resemble the technology of opioid compounds. That is, the plant would be grown on farms. Factories would buy the desired parts of the plant from farmers. The active ingredients would get pulled out of the plant parts, concentrated and purified. And in all likelihood, there would be derivatives made from the purified active principles. Just as morphine and codeine are derivatives of opium that have specific effects, doctors would probably prescribe a range of derivatives made from CBD or it’s carboxylate precursor.

    The illusion that cannabis is “more natural” than other plant-based medicines, is an artifact of the plant’s history. If research had been freely done into the actions of cannabis plants, there would not appear to be a difference between cannabis medicine and pharmaceutical medicine.

    I can shop for blue cheese in the dairy aisle of the grocery store, and eat Penicillium molds and their compounds. Or I can fill a prescription for Penicillin VK at the pharmacy, and use it for a week to treat an infection. The transactions serve different purposes. To flavor a salad, using blue cheese to taste, pleases my dinner guests. To treat an ear infection, a concentrated biochemical made by growing mold in a factory in a tank of broth, then purifying the active principle, gives reliable results.

    What remains incredibly stupid about the US Drug War, is that US-based scientists were prevented from working with CBD and THC, unless they first agreed to generate propaganda, allegedly showing that these substances have unknown risks that somehow justify the Drug War. This was accomplished by prohibiting the experimental cultivation of cannabis plants and the extraction of the active principles from them.

    Now that scientists in Israel, Europe, and those US states that re-legalized cannabis, are performing actual scientific studies, I anticipate that cannabis-based pharmaceuticals will increasingly resemble all the other plant-derived pharmaceuticals, in coming years. This will happen in spite of all the best efforts to “keep cannabis natural”. And the reason that it will happen, is that when treating a disease, reliable results are of paramount importance.

    If chewing on cannabis brownies helps one’s post-workout muscle spasms to let up, one concludes that the cannabis brownies are healthful food, eaten in moderation.

    The patient whose brain is bleeding after a fall, and is showing seizure activity, does not have the luxury to wait for some cannabis leaves to digest. That patient needs an injection of an effective drug to control seizure activity, so that the muscle spasms of the seizure do not make the brain bleed worse. Right now, the most-promising anti-seizure medications in existence, are hiding somewhere in the cannabis plant. Finding them and utilizing them, will become much more technological, than firing cannabis in a bong pipe ever was…and will save lives.

    The US Drug War was stupid.

    Let’s not repeat the same mistake, by fighting to keep all cannabis use “natural”.