Columnist documents treating chronic nerve pain with medical cannabis

Jeff Seidel exhausted just about every therapy available before turning to cannabis as a last resort.

Sam Riches October 16, 2020

Despite the slow uptake in medical cannabis in the state health sector, there are four private clinics in the country. / Photo: Getty Images

When Detroit Free Press sports columnist Jeff Seidel noticed a sharp pain between his shoulder blade and spine, he thought he might have overexerted himself at the gym. Or maybe it was old injuries rearing up again.

What Seidel didn’t expect was that the pain would progress and worsen, and seemingly be unaffected by conventional therapies. Eventually, he decided to try something he’d avoided his entire life.

Cannabis.

As a sports writer, Seidel is well-versed in the world of pain. Athletes are often expected to play through pain and to recover quickly with minimal complaint.

It was a Detroit Tigers trainer who told Seidel that his injuries sounded like a nerve issue. The trainer was right.

An MRI would later reveal a bulged disc in Seidel’s neck and three injured vertebrae. Unfortunately, the diagnosis failed to bring much relief.

“At times, the pain is dull and aching, almost impossible to pinpoint or describe. It’s deep and constant, as if it is coming from my bones,” Seidel writes.

He tried everything, from traditional medications and physical therapy to ice baths and nerve blocks. Then, exhausted and with few options remaining, Seidel walked into a local dispensary.

“It was as easy as walking into a McDonald’s,” he writes. “And the menu was even bigger.”

As Seidel waited in line, he was surprised that many of the customers appeared to be in their 50s, or older. When he got to the counter, he asked for something for pain and the budtender offered up a mixed box of edibles, containing both THC and CBD.

A few hours later, after taking one dose, Seidel writes that he felt like he was being sucked into his couch.

“I became incredibly mellow. Not high. Just completely relaxed. The pain in my arm was still there, but it felt distant.”

For the first time in weeks, Seidel slept through the night.

A month and a half later, the edibles are still working, he writes. “More than anything, it seems to deaden the pain. It helps me fall asleep, and the next day, the pain doesn’t seem as severe.”

Cannabis has shown promise as an adjunct therapy in difficult to treat pain, as well as a treatment option for pain associated with ageing. A 2016 evaluation published in the Journal of Pain Research found that patients had reduced neuropathic pain after vaporizing cannabis.

For Seidel, he cut down on painkillers and prescribed anti-inflammatory medication. He also returned to the dispensary three more times.

“Every time I’ve gone, the store has been packed with people, mainly in their 50s and older, and I’ve overheard several of them talking about getting something for pain,” Seidel writes. “You don’t realize how many people are struggling with extreme pain until you go into a place like this,” he adds.

Seidel remains hopeful that upcoming surgery will alleviate his issues, and he doesn’t plan on continuing to consume cannabis afterwards. Still, he writes, the plant helped him get through the worst summer of his life.

“Pain can affect everything. It can leave you cranky and miserable, can make working nearly impossible and keep you up at night and make you feel like you are going crazy,” he writes.

“But most of all, it can push you to a point where you do something that you never thought you’d do.”

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