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Living with and managing chronic back and neck pain using cannabis medicines

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Experts at Integro Medical Clinics explain how cannabis can help patients living with chronic back and neck pain.

Back and neck pain are extremely common complaints of the spine and can affect both men and women at any age. Thankfully most back pain is not caused by anything serious and will usually get better over time. However, sometimes the pain can become long-term or severe, and interfere with every-day activities and sleep, and effect your mood, making you feel low or anxious.

Lower back pain or lumbosacral spine pain can be broadly divided into two categories – mechanical pain and nerve compressive pain.

Mechanical back pain can be caused by an acute strain of the spine’s mechanics, in other words the spines muscle discs, facet joints and ligaments, leading to inflammation and painful muscle spasm.

It is called mechanical because it refers to the mechanics of the spine and often occurs after unusual exertion, especially when the back has not been kept fully fit by regular movement or exercise. Nerve compression pain results from pressure or irritation on the spinal nerve roots that leave the spine. This causes nerve pain often down the leg, ’sciatica,’ and numbness and even muscle weakness in the leg or foot. Sometimes, it can be difficult to identify what exactly is causing back-pain and this is called non-specific back pain.

Very rarely , if your leg becomes very weak or your foot becomes floppy, ‘foot drop’ or your bladder or bowel and surrounding areas become numb, then urgent medical attention is needed.

In many ways, the causes of neck pain can, surprisingly,  result from similar causes to lower back pain. These can also include ageing in the cervical spine and receiving repeated injuries, that may not have actually caused pain at the time of impact. ‘Wear and tear’ over time can weaken the connective tissue that makes up the disc and once the connective tissue is weak sudden stress or whiplash may injure the disc more easily.  Neck pain can result from many causes including; bones spurs, herniated disc, muscle strain, stenosis, myelopathy and arthritis. 

“A doctor or physiotherapist can generally listen to your symptoms and examine you, to help you decide what sort of back pain you have and advise you accordingly.

You can be assured that all of the pain specialists at Integro Clinics Ltd are highly experienced consultants in pain medicine. In their training, these clinicians will have learned all about the many medical conditions that can lead to back pain; a slipped or prolapsed disc causing back pain and sciatica, arthritis and facet joint syndrome, pinched nerves, spinal stenosis , degenerative disc disease and bulging or herniated discs and segmental instability. All of these conditions can lead to the debilitating symptoms mentioned above, muscle spasms and cramping, stiffness, leg pain, numbness and weakness. These can all be painful and debilitation conditions to live with and can have a significant impact on a person’s quality of life. 

So, our pain specialists will always consider with you if they feel that any conventional  investigations or treatments might be advisable, before going on to discuss cannabis medicines with you.” – Dr Anthony Ordman, Senior Clinical Adviser and Hon. Clinical Director Integro Medical Clinics Limited

Conventional treatment for back and neck pain ranges from pain medication, anti-inflammatories, physical therapy and manipulation, cognitive behavioural therapy to surgery in the most extreme cases. 

Cannabis medicines can help manage the mechanical and nerve pain associated with back and neck pain by rebalancing the body’s natural endo-cannabinoid pain-processing system and having an anti-inflammatory effect on inflamed body tissues. Used carefully , cannabis medicines can also help improve your sleep to allow better healing and also lift your mood and treat anxiety. In many cases, cannabis medicines can do this more gently than conventional medicines and sometimes with less risk of dependency.

“Back and neck pain are really common symptoms amongst our patients. Cannabis medicines can be a very effective pain management tool in these cases. However, the clinical team at Integro always advise and support our patients to continue to explore the underlying injury or cause of the chronic pain alongside their cannabis medicine prescriptions.”- Sophie Hayes Specialist Cannabis Nurse at Integro Medical  Clinics Limited.

The Patient’s Story – Jessica is a 51-year-old Mum with a large family and a very physically active lifestyle that became affected by chronic pain in her neck, resulting from a skiing accident several years before.

Five or six years ago I had a nasty fall skiing and remember at the time my neck flicking backwards and really smacking my head on the ice. I was not immediately in pain and it took about a year for a creeping pain in my neck and down my shoulder to develop.

“The pain would come and go but I found that it was really limiting the amount of exercise I was able to do. It also made me extremely grumpy and generally out of sorts. My sleep at night was very disturbed as I had pain down my left side and could not get comfortable.

“I had repeated MRI scans over 2 years to monitor the situation. I was told that I was suffering from degenerated C4/5 discs.  This was causing nerve pain from pressure on my spinal cord. I had several steroid injections and tried physical manipulation, but this only made the pain worse.

“Eventually my specialist recommended I  have an operation called anterior cervical discectomy. This involves opening the front of the neck, removing the degenerated discs and replacing them with  artificial discs in a titanium cage. I was very nervous about this type of intervention and I had read about the affect cannabis medicines can have upon the type of chronic pain I was suffering.

“Within two weeks of starting the cannabis oil (a careful mix of thc and cbd) my sleep massively improved and the pain lessened I was still aware of slight twinges if I worked out too vigorously  but if  I took things at a sensible pace the pain was really improved and much more tolerable.

“All in all a great result! I would recommend trying this approach to anyone suffering a similar condition to my own.”

Integro Clinics Ltd always recommend remaining under the care and treatment of your GP and specialist for your condition, while using cannabis based medicines, and the Integro clinical team would always prefer to work in collaboration with them”.  – Dr Anthony Ordman, Senior Clinical Adviser and Hon. Clinical Director Integro Medical  Clinics Limited

If you would like further information, or to make an appointment for a medical consultation, please contact us at Integro Clinics:  

Website: www.integroclinics.com

Email: Contact@integroclinics.com

Twitter: @clinicsintegro

 For support groups and charities please visit the following links:

https://backcare.org.uk/

https://painuk.org/

https://www.sbpr.info/

https://www.csp.org.uk/

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Study finds ‘one in four’ started using CBD during COVID-19

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Market research company High Yield Insights ran the survey

A new study has found that almost a quarter of CBD consumers in the US began using the cannabinoid during the coronavirus pandemic.  

Newly released findings from a study of over 35,000 adults in the US highlights the age and gender divide in Covid-19’s impact on mental health. 

According to the survey, almost seven in ten women have felt isolated from family and friends compared to just roughly half of men who have experienced the same. 

Almost four in ten women also report feeling more depressed than usual compared to fewer than three in ten men. Sleep issues have also arisen at greater rates (32 percent) for women than for men (22 percent). 

Gen Z and Millennials appear hardest hit by the economic fallout during the survey period. On average, one in four Gen Z and Millennial respondents reported having lost a job or taken a reduction to hours or pay. 

However, most of the spending cutbacks are driven by older consumers, with respondents aged 40 years and over making up 65 percent of those who report reduced household spending due to Covid-19.

Market research company High Yield Insights ran the survey from September to October 2020, collecting data from over 35,000 adults aged 21 and over. 

Respondents addressed how the pandemic has stirred mental health concerns, upended shopping habits, and sparked interest in new wellness products. 

The study also delved deep into the use and interest in CBD as a source of relief for health issues associated with or exacerbated by the pandemic.

“Our findings capture an image of what some are rightly calling the mental health epidemic in America,” said Mike Luce, president of High Yield Insights and a 20-year veteran in consumer insights and market research. 

“Consumers are thinking about wellness holistically today to encompass both mental and physical health. For product categories like CBD, which can address a range of conditions, the pandemic is having a historic knock-on effect. The growing popularity of CBD is evidenced by the number of people who started using one or more CBD products last year. For example, we discovered almost one in four US CBD consumers started using CBD in the six months leading up to our survey.”

UK retailers have also reported a rise in demand for CBD products since the start of the pandemic.

Newcastle based companies, Naturally North CBD and Karma Coast both told Cannabis Health that the vast majority of their customers are now using CBD to target anxiety and stress-related issues. 

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“This is not compassionate”: Ireland’s medical cannabis scheme ‘excludes thousands of patients’

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Campaigners have said the scheme is not inclusive enough

Ireland’s government has finally announced funding for its Medical Cannabis Access Programme – but the scheme remains ‘extremely restrictive’, say campaigners.

Almost two years since the legislation was introduced on Thursday 21 January, Ireland’s Health Minister Stephen Donnelly announced funding for the Medicinal Cannabis Access Programme.

The programme is expected to commence later this year, with Donnelly claiming it will allow for “compassionate access” to cannabis medicines.

But campaigners have been quick to criticise the scheme, which only offers access to four low dose cannabis-based medicines to people living with one of three qualifying conditions.

These include intractable nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy, severe treatment-resistant epilepsy and spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis (MS). 

But despite all of the patients who are currently being prescribed cannabis under a ministerial license, using Bedrocan products from the Transvaal pharmacy in the Hague, none of these have been approved for the programme.

This suggests children – including 11-year-old Ava Barry – who have had their quality of life significantly improved by Bedrocan oils, will have to switch products in order to have their prescriptions reimbursed.

Ava Barry is prescribed Bedrocan oils for severe epilepsy

As has been highlighted extensively by campaigners in the UK in recent weeks, in regard to the issues importing Bedrocan due to Brexit, changing treatments for epilepsy can lead to a worsening of seizures and could be life-threatening. 

Alicia Maher is a patient and advocate who moved to Spain in 2019 in order to have better access to cannabis medicines, which she uses to manage chronic pain.

While she welcomed the news that the programme would finally be funded, she will still not be able to return to her hometown of Limerick.

“Many people have asked me whether this will impact me and whether I will be able to come home, but sadly the answer is no,” she said.

“Chronic pain is not one of the qualifying conditions, despite the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) acknowledging in their 2017 report that it is the most researched indication for cannabinoids, with the majority of reports concluding that cannabis is an effective treatment for chronic pain.”

According to Alicia, recent reports suggest that approximately 25 percent of the population suffer from chronic pain, with the condition affecting over 1.5 million people.

She was granted a ministerial licence to be legally prescribed medical cannabis last year, but would have to fund the costs of the prescription herself.

She continued: “I, along with many others that currently hold the ministerial licence and fall outside the three qualifying conditions, will not be allowed onto the access programme, even though our doctors are currently prescribing cannabis. 

“We won’t have access to any of the cannabis products that have been approved and we won’t have our costs reimbursed. 

Alicia added: “It is fiscally irresponsible as the cost of my cannabis prescription is less than my prescription was for 30 opioids per day, yet they were completely covered on my medical card.”

Campaign group, Cork Cannabis Activist Network said excluding patients from accessing these medicines is in no way “compassionate” or “acceptable”.

“The headlines are designed to paint a rosy picture favouring those in government, but this is not the truth, and most certainly for not the countless Irish citizens who consume cannabis daily for various medical reasons,” Nicole Lonergan spokesperson for the group, told Cannabis Health.

“Cannabis is complex and so are patients and their individual physiological needs. Yet the Irish government thinks it’s acceptable to offer limited access to four cannabis-based medicines and restrict access to three qualifying conditions.”

Nicole is among those who want to see cannabis legalised in Ireland, with thousands of patients still forced to access medication illegally.

The group has called for an education programme to improve understanding of the medicinal benefits of cannabis among healthcare professionals.

“Week after week, I receive hundreds of messages from people of all ages and backgrounds crying out for cannabis to be legalised,” she said.

“A comprehensive cannabis education programme needs to be urgently rolled out to GP’s and consultants in Ireland and the law needs to be changed so that no one is forced to continue relying on the illegal market for their medicine.”

Nicole added: “It is not ‘compassionate’ to exclude certain patients from accessing cannabis medicines, or to offer an extremely limited selection of products that do not suit the majority of patients’ needs. It is not ‘compassionate’ to condemn patients to rely on an illegal market or force patients to leave their homes and families to access cannabis legally.

“We deserve answers as to why the Irish government continues to uphold a law that ruins lives and prevents access to legitimate, effective medicine in all its forms.”

Announcing the provision of funding and delivery of the Medical Cannabis Access Programme, Minister Donnelly said:  “The purpose of this Programme is to facilitate compassionate access to cannabis for medical reasons, where conventional treatment has failed. It follows the clear pathway laid out by the Health Products Regulatory Authority in their expert report ‘Cannabis for Medical Use – A Scientific Review’. 

“Ultimately it will be the decision of the medical consultant, in consultation with their patient, to prescribe a particular treatment, including a cannabis-based treatment, for a patient under their care. 

“It is important to state that there are no plans to legalise cannabis in this country.”

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Vitality CBD ‘leading the way’ with novel food application

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CBD firms have until the end of March to submit their novel food applications

A UK CBD firm believes it is one of the first to submit its novel food application ahead of the March deadline. 

Birmingham-based Vitality CBD confirmed it has submitted its novel food dossier for Food Standards Authority (FSA) approval.

The brand is widely distributed in UK high street retailers, stocked in the likes of Tesco, Boots, Lloyds Pharmacy, Sainsburys, Ocado and is listed on Amazon UK as part of its global trial of CBD.

In tandem with its raw material supplier, the company has submitted its Novel Food application for validation of its wide range of ingestible CBD products, assuring customers that it is ‘leading the way’ in helping to create a more regulated industry.

CBD products can remain on the shelves providing an existing CBD brand, which is defined as “on the market” prior to 13 February 2020, receives validation of its application before the 31 March deadline. 

In the meantime, no new brands are permitted to launch in the UK until they have completed their Novel Food application and received full Novel Foods authorisation.

Vitality, which recently expanded and sources its CBD from Colorado in the US, supports the FSA’s move to better define the responsibilities of CBD retailers towards customers. 

The company believes the new novel food guidance will end a ‘period of uncertainty’ and move the industry toward clearer and more concise regulation, ensuring consumers are provided with safer and higher quality CBD.

It expects the move will help to ‘legitimise its venture; and lead to greater consumer confidence in CBD.

Phillip Glyn, commercial director, commented: “It is important for our trade customers and consumers alike, to know that Vitality CBD, together with our raw ingredient provider, are one of the first in the UK CBD industry to submit a Novel Food dossier, and are therefore leading the way in future compliance and regulation.”

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