How To Use Medical Marijuana for Vulvodynia
- Can medical marijuana be used to treat pain associated with vulvodynia?
- Increasing numbers of gynecologists are recommending cannabis remedies to their patients with vulvodynia.
- Compounds found in medical marijuana called cannabinoids help to reduce irritation and pain associated with vulvodynia.
- Cannabinoid-infused vaginal suppositories are commonly used to treat vulvodynia. Several other delivery methods are also available.
Vulvodynia can be an extremely painful and even debilitating medical condition. Can medical marijuana help provide relief for women suffering from this extremely unpleasant and distressing condition? As more and more U.S. states add chronic pain as a qualifying condition for a medical marijuana card, increasing numbers of women are shopping at dispensaries nationwide.
Vulvodynia is a mysterious medical condition characterized by chronic pain in the vulva, labia, and the skin surrounding the opening of the vagina. The condition can cause persistent, burning, stinging, throbbing, and soreness. It can be triggered by touch or the pain can be continuous. It can adversely affect the patient’s sex life and be emotionally distressing.
Scientific and anecdotal evidence suggests that medical marijuana and cannabis-infused medications can help to reduce the symptoms of vulvodynia in some patients. Cannabis also helps some patients suffering from other chronic and painful gynecological conditions such as endometriosis.
Traditional treatments for vulvodynia can have limited effectiveness and come with the potential for long-term side effects. Many vulvodynia patients are finding that medical marijuana offers a natural alternative that is safe and effective when used properly.
How does medical marijuana help treat vulvodynia?
Marijuana produces a class of compounds called phytocannabinoids that have been shown to help reduce inflammation and modulate pain response. Cannabinoids have also been shown to help reduce stress and anxiety, relax muscles, relieve pain, improve sleep, and reduce depression in some patients suffering from vulvodynia.
Cannabinoids found in marijuana act upon the human body in much the same way as endocannabinoids produced by the human body. Endocannabinoids are produced in the brain in response to imbalances within the body. They enter the bloodstream and circulate throughout the body relaying instruction to individual cells. This signaling system is referred to as the human endocannabinoid system or ECS.
Two major cannabinoids — THC and CBD — and several other minor cannabinoids including CBG and CBN are produced in the resinous flowers of the female cannabis plant.
While THC can produce intoxication when used in sufficient quantities, most other cannabinoids do not. However, a cannabinoid not usually found in cannabis called delta-8 THC can be created from CBD. D8 THC can produce slightly intoxicating properties in some patients while offering some of the medicinal benefits specific to CBD.
The various cannabinoids produced in medical marijuana affect each patient differently. The trick is for the patient to find the right balance of cannabinoids to produce maximum relief. This often takes some educated experimentation.
Is there any scientific evidence that medical marijuana can help treat vulvodynia?
Vulvodynia is not a common medical condition and as such has not been the subject of significant cannabis-related research. However, preclinical evidence suggests that cannabinoids may reduce labial sensitivity by reducing inflammatory mast cells (a type of white blood cell found in connective tissue). Medical conditions of the vulva are often accompanied by increases in these mast cells.
Data from an online survey was studies to help determine the effectiveness of cannabis in treating vulvodynia. Participants in the survey reported that the more severe their symptoms, the more effective medicinal marijuana was at reducing pain.
In another study, THC and saline were administered into the vaginal canal of mice who were sensitized to vulvar pain. Researchers reported that the mice that received the THC experienced approximately 60 percent reduction in vaginal pain.
Links to these studies and others associated with the use of cannabis in treating chronic pain can be found at the end of the article.
How to treat vulvodynia with medical marijuana
The vaginal canal has a mucosal lining through which medications can be quickly absorbed into the body. For this reason, cannabis suppositories are a common method for treating conditions of the vagina. Cannabinoid-infused topical creams and ointments applied at the site of pain might also help some patients.
When using suppositories or topicals, it’s important to use only high-qualify medications that are produced specifically for vaginal use.
For patients suffering from sudden onset of pain, other systemic delivery methods might help provide fast relief. Smoking, vaping, dabbing, and inhalers offer almost instant effects as the cannabinoids are absorbed directly into the bloodstream through the lungs. Patients with lung or circulatory conditions might be best served with an inhaler that contains only pure cannabinoids and no smoke or vapor.
Cannabinoid-infused products such as edibles, capsules, tinctures, oils, patches, and inhalers can be used orally and sublingually (under the tongue). These products can be produced with very specific cannabinoid ratios and formulations. However, the onset time of oral cannabis products is slower and less enters the bloodstream, especially when taken with a meal.
Products containing THC may only be purchased legally at medical marijuana dispensaries nationwide. However, cannabinoids produced from hemp such as CBD, CBG, CBN, and D8THC are all available over-the-counter. Anyone can buy CBD online or at local shops without a medical marijuana card.
TMJ patients should not be self-medicating and are strongly advised to consult with a knowledgeable medical marijuana doctor.
VIDEO: Cannabis and Chronic Pain, stories from The Medical Cannabis Community
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Research studies on medical marijuana for chronic pain
- Blockade of central cyclooxygenase (COX) pathways enhances the cannabinoid-induced antinociceptive effects on inflammatory temporomandibular joint (TMJ) nociception
- CB1 and CB2 contribute to antinociceptive and anti-inflammatory effects of electroacupuncture on experimental arthritis of the rat temporomandibular joint
- Low doses of cannabinoids enhance the antinociceptive effects of intracisternally-administered mGluRs groups II and III agonists in formalin-induced TMJ nociception in rats
- Medical Marijuana and Chronic Pain: a Review of Basic Science and Clinical Evidence
- Medical Marijuana for Treatment of Chronic Pain and Other Medical and Psychiatric Problems
- Journal of Pain – A randomized, placebo-controlled, crossover trial of cannabis cigarettes in neuropathic pain
- Neuropsychopharmacology – Comparison of the analgesic effects of dronabinol and smoked marijuana in daily marijuana smokers
- The Journal of Pain – Low-dose vaporized cannabis significantly improves neuropathic pain
- British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology – Cannabinoids for treatment of chronic non-cancer pain; a systematic review of randomized trials
- Cannabis for the Management of Pain: Assessment of Safety Study
- The effect of medicinal cannabis on pain and quality of life outcomes in chronic pain: A prospective open-label study
- Medical cannabis use is associated with decreased opiate medication use in a retrospective cross-sectional survey of patients with chronic pain