Medical Cannabis for CRPS
If you’re struggling with complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) in your elbow, then this article is for you. After trying multiple treatment options, you might consider medical cannabis for CRPS.
Elbow Surgery: The Reason for a Medical Card
I was diagnosed with CRPS, after undergoing elbow surgery to repair an olecranon fracture (fancy way of saying “a nasty elbow break”). I’d fallen off my bike, shattering my elbow on the pavement.
At the time of my surgery, I worked as a nurse at a large hospital. Before the fall, I never even thought of getting a medical card. I didn’t have the need for one! But after the accident… everything changed.
After surgery, I was given oxycodone, an opioid medication. Opioids, as we know, can be highly addictive. Being aware of that, I took the medication exactly as my surgeon prescribed it.
I started off taking the oxycodone every four hours. Then, trying to make sure I wouldn’t become addicted, I stretched it out… taking a pain pill every six to seven hours. Trust me, when that seventh hour was upon me, I definitely felt it. My arm throbbed, and I gratefully took another oxycodone.
Since the prescription was only for 30 pills, I’d have to message my surgeon, asking (unfortunately, it felt like begging) for refills. This back-and-forth went on for a month after surgery. Continuing to space my pill consumption even more, I got myself to a point where I only took one oxycodone in the morning and once at night, before bed.
I was really trying not to take the pain pills… but, sheesh, my arm hurt!
I saw my surgeon for a follow-up appointment, one month post-surgery. The surgeon was concerned. He felt I shouldn’t need the pain medication anymore. The surgeon told me, at that visit, he could no longer prescribe oxycodone. He wrote me for another pain medication, Norco, and told me it was the last time he could give me anything for pain.
The surgeon sent me to an interventional pain specialist, who confirmed the CRPS diagnosis. I didn’t have a clue what CRPS was and, when I heard the words “chronic pain,” I was devastated.
My husband brought up the idea of a medical cannabis card. Learning that my surgeon wasn’t going to prescribe anything for pain and the pain specialist was only going to inject me with nerve blocks, I was open to getting a medical card.
Medical Cannabis for CRPS: I’m Not a Junkie!
I was worried about getting a medical card. I felt nervous about what people might think of me. I worked as a nurse; I could undergo a drug test. I didn’t want people looking at me funny.
But getting a medical card for CRPS is not something to look down upon.
As someone who’s been diagnosed with the disease, I know just as much as anyone else suffering from CRPS how painful it can be. And, with doctors feeling worried themselves about prescribing too many narcotics or opioids, I couldn’t risk suffering from unmanaged and chronic pain.
I fully remember my first visit to the medical dispensary. I told the dispensary agent my full story. How I had fallen off my bike, had the surgery, was diagnosed with CRPS, and now being cut off by both of my doctors… no more pain medicine… what was I to do!?!
I also told the dispensary agent that I didn’t want to be hooked on pain pills.
Gosh, I got it. I totally agreed with the doctors, but I was still in pain. My elbow hurt. My entire arm hurt. And, from that physical pain, the rest of me… mind, spirit, and soul hurt. So, I asked the dispensary agent, “What type of medical cannabis is good for CRPS?”
Easing Pain: Medical Cannabis for CRPS
At first, I started with a cannabis balm. Essentially, a “balm” is a fancy word for lotion. There was THC and CBD in the lotion, both of which help with pain reduction. In the evenings, I’d take a small dab of lotion and rub it all over my elbow, forearm, and upper arm.
The lotion definitely helped. Sure, it didn’t take away the “eight out of ten” type pains. However, sitting on the couch in the evenings, rubbing lotion on my affected arm, and speaking loving kindness to myself, I found it relaxing, soothing, and helpful for chronic pain.
I also told the dispensary agent how I’d had difficulty sleeping, being up from the pain. I shared with her how I couldn’t get comfortable in bed and how I needed like seven pillows to prop myself and my arm up in various positions through the night.
The dispensary agent understood. In fact, she shared with me how she also had undergone surgery and she too suffered from chronic pain. The dispensary agent recommended a capsule she used herself to help with sleep. I was very grateful to have someone who understood what I was going through and was able to suggest products that helped with chronic pain.
So, no. I’m not “smokin’ weed to get high, man”.
Gosh, that was the stigma I was afraid of when I decided to try medical cannabis for CRPS. Nope. In fact, I am thankful that there is something natural out there that can help ease some of this nasty pain. As someone who’s been through it and continues to battle, I’d definitely recommend trying medical cannabis for CRPS pain.
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About the Author: Elizabeth Scala MSN/MBA, RN, HNB-BC, RYT (200) is a board-certified holistic nurse, registered yoga instructor, and reiki master.
Elizabeth received her dual master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University. She is a certified coach and avid meditator.
Elizabeth lives in Maryland with her supportive husband and playful pit bull. She enjoys gardening, jigsaw puzzles, farming, music, and hiking.