We’ve all heard about cannabis’ effectiveness at treating chronic pain. But might it also be effective at treating phantom pain?

Phantom pain is a mysterious condition that affects people who have lost a limb. Those who have lost their arm or leg will report persistent, aching pain—in the limb that is missing! The missing limb is referred to as a “phantom limb”, and the pain, “phantom pain”.

We’ll do a brief survey of some causes of phantom pain, and go on to discuss how cannabis might help.

WHAT CAUSES PHANTOM PAIN?

In the past, doctors believed that phantom pain was caused by nerve damage in the stump of the amputated limb. They’d often cut the stump back further, hoping to remove the damaged tissue, only to find that the phantom pain was as bad as ever.

Science now paints a different picture. Researchers believe that phantom pain occurs as a result of rewiring in the somatosensory cortex. There’s a strip of neocortex associated with feeling, located across the top of your head, roughly in the “headband zone”. This somatosensory cortex is divided into regions that map onto each part of your body. So when you stub your toe, the region associated with “toe” will light up.

Phantom Pain

When you lose a limb, your somatosensory cortex rewires itself. The regions associated with the lost limb are now connected to broken nerves with nothing on the other end. So instead of wasting the space, your brain rewires itself so that the region previously connected to the missing limb now connects to some other body part.

So when an amputee feels phantom pain, it’s likely the result of sensation in some other part of the body. For instance, the cheek area often gets remapped onto the area associated with a missing hand. So when the person shaves, they may feel uncomfortable sensations in their missing hand.

This understanding may not suggest immediate measures for eliminating phantom pain, but it may provide some comfort to suffers troubled by the strange nature of this condition. Further, it suggests ways to reduce the pain. Our aforementioned shaver might consider shaving less frequently or more gently, for example.

TREATMENTS FOR PHANTOM LIMBS

One of the most common treatments for phantom pain is opioid treatment. For sufferers with severe phantom pain, 5–10% of all amputees, this may be necessary. Unfortunately, opioids are highly addictive, and carry a host of side effects including nausea, constipation, liver damage, brain damage, and distended abdomen. Even those with severe pain may benefit from an alternative.

An alternative is, of course, cannabis. Cannabis has powerful pain-relieving effects, and it turns out these are effective even against phantom pain—many users swear by it. Some phantom pain sufferers are able to most effectively relieve their pain through a combination of opioids and cannabis. The cannabis may allow them to reduce their dosage of the former, and thus reduce side effects.

Another treatment worth mentioning is mirror box treatment. Developed by Dr. V. S. Ramachandran, this remedy is effective for phantom pain sufferers whose phantom limbs are also paralysed. It involves using a system of mirrors to get them to “see” their remaining limb moving in the position of their missing limb. Somehow, this can jolt the brain into believing that the phantom limb has been repaired, and often results in a reduction of pain.

WHAT CANNABIS STRAINS TO USE?

When addressing phantom pain, strain choice is key. The last thing you want is to toke a non-pain-relieving strain and end up flying high with your phantom pain still intact.

WHITE WIDOW

At 60% indica and 40% sativa, White Widow is celebrated for her clean, cerebral high and her painkilling properties. White Widow is a great evening strain for those looking to combat chronic pain. Her uplifting, relaxing high combines the best from both sativa and indica worlds, including powerful painkilling potential. For those looking to knock out their phantom pain, White Widow is a great place to start.

White Widow

White Widow

White Widow Royal Queen Seeds

Genetic background White Widow S1
Yield indoor 500 - 550 g/m2
Height indoor 60 - 100 cm
Flowering time 8 - 9 weeks
THC strength THC: 19% (aprox.) / CBD: Medium
Blend 50% Sativa, 50% Indica
Yield outdoor 500 - 550 g/per plant (dried)
Height outdoor 150 - 190 cm
Harvest time Late October
Effect Extremely stoned
 

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ROYAL JACK

Many sufferers of phantom pain need to redose every few hours. A heavy Kush is unlikely to be the ideal strain for this job. Royal Jack is a beloved sativa strain that combats pain while keeping you clear and energised. If you’re looking for a daytime toke, Royal Jack is the way to go.

Royal Jack Auto

Royal Jack Automatic

Royal Jack Automatic Royal Queen Seeds

Genetic background Jack Herer x Ruderalis
Yield indoor 350 - 400 g/m2
Height indoor 40 - 80 cm
Flowering time 6 - 7 weeks
THC strength THC: 16% (aprox.) / CBD: Low
Blend 40% Sativa, 30% Indica, 30% Ruderalis
Yield outdoor 70 - 120 g/per plant (dried)
Height outdoor 60 - 80 cm
Harvest time 9 - 10 weeks after planting
Effect A motivating and inspiring feeling
 

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PAINKILLER XL

If nothing else is cutting it, it’s time to bring out the big guns: As its name suggests, Painkiller XL is designed to be a painkilling machine. Boasting a balanced THC:CBD ratio and a 25% indica, 75% sativa profile, this strain will kill your pain while keeping you clear, focussed, and happy.

Losing a limb is undeniably traumatic, and having phantom pain on top of that can feel like a cruel burden. However, you’re not without options. Talk to your doctor and consider whether cannabis might be a useful addition to your treatment plan.

Painkiller

Painkiller XL

Painkiller XL

Genetic background Royal Highness x Juanita la Lagrimosa
Yield indoor 500 - 5502
Height indoor 60 - 100
Flowering time 8 weeks
THC strength THC: 9%(aprox.) / CBD: High
Blend 75% Sativa, 25% Indica
Yield outdoor 500 - 550 g/per plant (dried)
Height outdoor 120 - 150 cm
Harvest time Late September
Effect Physical, clear high
 

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