Cannabis, Pain Management, and the Whole Strain Thing

It is pretty much a given that the vast majority of people who rely on cannabis as a medical treatment use it to alleviate pain. Study after study has shown that pain is the most common complaint among patients seeking medical cannabis cards. So it’s no surprise that the internet is awash with articles discussing the best strains for managing pain.

Most Utah medical cannabis patients list chronic pain as therir qualifying condition, according to the medical professionals behind the website. But even though state law recognizes chronic and acute pain as qualifying conditions for medical cannabis, there is no state recommendation for specific strains. There are good reasons for this.

Clinical Data Is Questionable

First and foremost, the clinical data in support of marijuana as a pain treatment is questionable. There are numerous studies out there, but the results are inconclusive. Many of the studies are small scale and suffer from quality issues. So when push comes to shove, we cannot say conclusively that marijuana does alleviate pain.

We do have plenty of anecdotal evidence, which is valid in its own right. Anecdotal evidence should never be dismissed. But without hard-and-fast clinical evidence to back it up, the question of various strains isn’t even a consideration. At least it is not a consideration from a scientific perspective.

This begs the question of how article writers come up with their ‘best marijuana strains’ for pain management. It boils down to two things: user reports and marketing. It is uncomfortable to have to admit it, but that’s the truth.

Strains Are Defined Differently

Adding to the confusion is the fact that strains are defined differently. If you check out this post on the Medical News Today website, you’ll discover the author defines strains according to plant type. She mentions sativa, indica, and hybrid strains. As the thinking goes, the best strains for pain relief are indica strains.

That’s all well and good. But take a look at this post from one of the experts at The Cannigma. He contends that strain names are meaningless. He has a point. Every legitimate marijuana product is either an indica, sativa, or hybrid product. Whatever strain name a grower or manufacturer comes up with is chosen only for marketing purposes.

A simple way to look at it is this: a commercial strain name tells users nothing about a product’s ingredients. A strain name gives no indication of a plant’s status as indica, sativa, or hybrid. The strain name is little more than a product or brand name.

Be Careful of Brand Names

In light of this reality, users reading articles in hopes of discovering the best strains for alleviating pain should be incredibly careful about brand names. Assuming that indica strains do relieve pain better than sativa strains, that’s the most important thing to know about a given product. Is it indica or sativa – regardless of its brand name?

Cannabis users are like the users of any other products in that they tend to find their favorite brands and stick with them. What makes marijuana a bit more unique are the many health claims that go along with certain brands or strains. A user might proclaim a given strain to be the absolute best at alleviating pain. Such claims do not constitute scientific fact. Not only that, but people react differently to the exact same plant or product.

Unfortunately, strains have become a tool for marketing medical cannabis and recreational marijuana. When it comes to pain management, put less stock in strains and more in what a particular plant or medical product actually contains.