Name: Saira Zulfiqar
Author Bio (if needed): Saira is a pharmacist and a CBD-enthusiast who works full time as CBD | addiction | drug expert. She has authored multiple e-books on health and wellness. In her free time, Saira likes to read, bake and travel.
Fact: Women are more prone to chronic pain than men. The risk of chronic pain peaks between 45 – 65 years.
Chronic pain is defined as any physical discomfort or pain persisting more than 12 weeks. It greatly hampers the quality of life making the majority women resort to pain-numbing medication (analgesics) for life. Analgesics such as NSAIDs (aspirin), acetaminophen and morphine may be effective therapeutic options for chronic pain but they greatly increase the risk of:
- Internal bleeding
- Liver failure
- Gastrointestinal complications
This coupled with the fact that women over 50 are naturally prone to age-related co-morbidities such as hypertension, diabetes, and menopause etc, draws an overall complicated picture.
We are going to explore in this article if cannabinoid (CBD) products can be a better and safer alternative for chronic pain in women over 50. CBD is a generally well-tolerated and interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system.
But first, it’s important to understand chronic pain, its causes and effects on elderly women.
What Factors Contribute to Chronic Pain
Aging in itself is a vital factor in the degeneration of major bodily functions and in most cases acts as a catalyst to aggravate any other illnesses a woman might suffer from. Chronic pain, then, becomes an added stress agent affecting the general sense of wellbeing, mood, sleep cycle, eating habits, and mobility patterns. In the worst-case scenario, it can give way to temporary or permanent disability making the woman dependent on others for basic routine tasks.
With diminishing self-esteem, it becomes very difficult to keep a healthy routine of regular exercise which can cause weight gain. This exacerbates the chronic pain intensity and frequency making very little room for any motivation to do anything with all the excess weight on the bones. For women especially, the added responsibility of household chores may induce anxiety coupled with fluctuating hormonal cycles.
To understand the root cause and possible coping mechanisms for chronic pain, we need to look at some of the most common types of chronic pain experienced by more than 1.5 billion people around the globe, according to the American Academy of Pain Medicine.
Types of Chronic Pain
The most prevalent types of chronic pain experienced by a sizeable majority of the population are:
- Post-surgical pain
- Post-trauma pain
- Lower back pain
- Cancer pain
- Arthritis pain
- Neurogenic pain (pain caused by nerve damage)
- Psychogenic pain (pain that isn’t caused by disease, injury, or nerve damage)
All these seemingly benign types of chronic pain contribute to the gradual and irreversible decline of the human body if not noticed and taken care of as soon as the symptoms manifest themselves. In most cases, the fear of the worst sets forth ensuing inertia in the patient making them more vulnerable to injuries and weakening their natural coping mechanism against chronic pain.
Causes of Chronic Pain in Women Over 50
Women over 50 are a major demographic suffering from chronic pain due to multiple natural vulnerabilities. Also, their pain perception is higher than that of men the same age which makes pain management enormously difficult. As discussed above, the sudden fluctuations in hormones in women make effective weight management an uphill task. Maintaining a healthy weight is one of the only somewhat controllable factors for managing chronic pain, according to Penn Medicine, especially for lower back and spinal discomfort. Some additional key causes contributing to chronic pain in women over 50 specifically are as follows:
In women over 50, menopause brings in a whole gamut of issues intensifying any pre-existing conditions especially with any kind of persistent pain. For one, it is the onset of major hormonal changes in the female body and unless suitable coping strategies are in place to make the body ready for the changes, it can create havoc in a woman’s life.
Secondly, women with menopause have double the chances of experiencing chronic pain especially in the form of back pain, migraine, and fibromyalgia. With this deadly combination of hot flashes, irritable mood swings, night flashes, and intensifying chronic pain affecting weight gain and sleep quality, women over 50 may go through an extreme physical and emotional rollercoaster.
With rapid bone degeneration aggravated by menopause, women of all ages especially those over 50 are at a higher risk of arthritis; more than twice as much as the total US population. This age-related wear-and-tear of bones and muscle tissuesand menopausal depression show a strong link in worsening chronic pain symptoms in women.
· Breast Cancer
The significantly higher risk of breast cancer in women over 50 exacerbates chronic pain issues to a great extent. The existence of cancerous tumors in the body puts stress on the nerves creating severe discomfort for the patient. Even after surgery or radiotherapy, breast cancer survivors need to be on pain management medications on a long-term basis. The ensuing body image issues due to mastectomy (removal of breast tissues) and the persistent pain creates both physical and psychosocial problems unless there is a sustainable coping mechanism in place.
Pharmaceutical Cures for Chronic Pain
The traditional medical practices dictate the prescription of opioids and over-the-counter NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) to patients of chronic pain. Anything from strong opioids like morphine, methadone, and oxycodone for severe pain to acetaminophen, aspirin, and ibuprofen for mild to moderate pain are generally used by the patients.
Although, alternative medical procedures like acupuncture and osteopathic manipulation are also advised to the patients suffering from chronic pain their efficacy is extremely subjective to individual pain profile. Therefore, in most cases, chronic pain is managed through higher doses of self-prescribed opioids which creates a host of problems in the long-term.
Side Effects of Pharmaceutical Pain Killers
Over the last few decades, excessive opioid use has given rise to opioid addiction creating higher tolerance levels to these pain killers and hence higher dosages. Besides, not only do their long-term use has significant side effects, even quitting them induces withdrawals in the patient. Some of the serious side effects of pharmaceutical pain killers include:
- Kidney damage
- Liver damage
- Weakened immune system
The incidences of opioid overdose-induced deaths have also risen in recent years which makes it even more dangerous when used without proper prescription by a medical expert.
How CBD Helps Managing Chronic Pain
CBD offers a safe and organic substitute for long-term chronic pain management by imparting natural analgesic properties found in the cannabis plant. There is enough clinical evidence for the therapeutic benefits of CBD without any noticeable adverse effects. It is generally well-tolerated by the human body and greatly enhances the overall quality of life by interacting with the body’s natural endocannabinoid system.
This mechanism of action works in harmony with bioavailable analgesics in the body and increases pain tolerance by reducing inflammation of the nerves and muscles. In most cases, full-body relaxation effects are observed with significant improvements in mood and sleep quality. CBD is also found to be effective for anxiety reduction and as an anti-depressant without making the patient dependent on the dosage. By activating the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), CBD is proven to be 10 times more effective than morphine in chronic pain management.
A further research study by the Harvard Medical School indicates that CBD helps to alleviate the most complicated types of chronic pain, especially neuropathic and inflammatory pain. Even with topical application in the form of CBD skin creams, arthritic inflammation and pain symptoms are greatly reduced.
Research on the Safety and Efficacy of CBD
According to the World Health Organization’s 2018 Critical Review Report on Cannabidiol (CBD), there is no evidence of the abuse potential of CBD in well-controlled human experimental research. In the same report, it was also found out that CBD poses zero dependence or withdrawal potential, unlike most of the prescribed opioids.
With the availability of medical marijuana and CBD products, it has become easier for chronic pain patients to go for an effective and sustainable pain management alternative on a long-term basis. Several randomized clinical trials of patients with conditions ranging from central neuropathic pain in multiple sclerosis to cancer pain have reported CBD effectiveness better than other pharmaceutical opioids.
CBD Product Options
CBD products come in a range of different consumption styles which makes chronic pain management very convenient according to individual pain profile, intensity, and frequency. Apart from the recreational usage, the medicinal uses of CBD are highlighted in product labeling by mentioning the recommended dosage, suggested consumption method, and potency. Following is a list of some of the most effective CBD products for chronic pain management so finally let’s explore the benefits of each of these.
Potency (in mg)
|1500||· The user-friendly roll-on design helps to carry the CBD gel anywhere, especially while traveling for long hours.
· It provides instant relief for soreness and muscle stiffness caused by musculoskeletal inflammation.
· The cooling effects of added ingredients like menthol, peppermint, or camphor can help soothe redness in skin rashes as well as swollen tissues.
|1000||· This is among the purest CBD products and is completely vegan and gluten-free.
· The full spectrum tincture provides an ‘entourage effect’ modulating the best of overall psychoactive effects of the cannabis plant without causing any hallucinations.
· It has versatile usability and can be effectively used in cooking, massaging, or taken orally for pain relief, sleep regularity, and anxiety-reduction.
|500||· The topical cream works wonders for aching muscles, joint pain, injury-induced discomfort, and neck or backaches.
· Best for massaging in circular motions on the target area with hands.
|100||· With lavender as a key terpene, these bath bombs serve as an effective unwinding and relaxation agent being a warm bath additive for an aching body.
· These are mild on the skin and rejuvenates the tissues without over-drying.
· A low CBD potency of 100 mg makes it safe to use regularly.
Even with healthy lifestyle habits, there is no surefire way to avoid chronic pain since that is a natural degenerative process. While aging is as real and irreversible as the aches and pains that come with it, there are alternative pain management methods available now. Instead of being dependent on pharmaceutical pain killers with diminishing effectiveness and an alarming abuse and withdrawal potential, you can choose CBD products for their non-psychoactive, therapeutic, and non-abuse or dependence potential.
This, by no means, suggests that having a healthy lifestyle by maintaining a reasonable body weight, good eating and exercising habits, and a regular sleep cycle are less important. In fact, it is always encouraged to stay active in any phase of life to keep the body and mind in good shape. Especially as a woman over 50, keep a strong social network of support around you for psychological and emotional wellbeing. Ask for help, both familial and medical, when you suffer an injury or serious medical condition – and when the pain becomes unmanageable, try out CBD products for their natural therapeutic benefits.