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Dosing for Chronic Pain: A Guide for New Medical Marijuana Patients

    • Cannabis is a highly personalized healing tool, and dosing is just as personalized.


    • Some professionals suggest starting at 5mg of CBD and increasing by increments of 10mg every two to three days until you find the amount that works for you, or until you hit 40mg. Then you can add THC in low, 2.5mg dose increments.


    • Ultimately, how you dose your cannabis depends on you, your endocannabinoid system, and the products you buy.


When you live with chronic pain, it can be difficult to find the perfect pain relief solution that aligns with your risk tolerance. Depending on your past experiences, you might be willing to try anything that could offer relief.

If you’ve found yourself in this position, consider giving medical marijuana a try. With a rich history as a medical tool, marijuana helps reduce inflammation, decrease pain, and even support more restful sleep. In fact, many in the chronic pain community embrace marijuana as a way of enjoying life with fewer limits.

To use medical marijuana for chronic pain, you’ll need a medical marijuana card. In this guide, we’ll touch on how to apply for a card while exploring the finer points of dosing for chronic pain relief.

What is Medical Cannabis?

While you may have only heard about the healing power of cannabis recently, its roots in natural medicine run deep. For thousands of years, cultures and societies across the globe have used cannabis to relieve pain.

Medical cannabis is different from black-market, recreational cannabis in a few notable ways:

  • Dispensary-grade products are highly regulated – Unlike black market products, cannabis sold in dispensaries is lab-tested for purity and safety; products are also well labeled.
  • Cannabinoid concentrations are certain – Since dispensary products are well-regulated, patients have more power to fine-tune their treatment with highly specific formulas.

Because cannabis use was illegal for so long—and still is, in some states—more scientific studies are needed for the Western medical community to wholeheartedly endorse it. However, studies completed in recent years show preliminary evidence for the reduction of pain. Most importantly, strong anecdotal evidence has persisted for generations; people safely and successfully use cannabis for pain relief every day.

How Cannabis Treats Chronic Pain

If you’re considering medical marijuana for chronic pain, you’re probably wondering: just how does it work? To understand marijuana as an analgesic, you have to break down its components.

The cannabis plant contains a mix of cannabinoids, terpenes, and other compounds. Cannabinoids and terpenes interact with your body’s built-in endocannabinoid system, attaching to sensors throughout your body and turning nerve signals on and off.

With regard to chronic pain, these cannabinoids can:

  • Activate brain and nerve receptors that regulate pain
  • Activate immune system receptors that control inflammation
  • Modulate the immune system’s response

As such, marijuana has potential as a treatment for arthritis, fibromyalgia, nerve pain, and other chronic conditions. It’s also a potential treatment for the pain and swelling common in autoimmune diseases.

THC vs. CBD in Chronic Pain Management

Two cannabinoids, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), take center stage in studies on cannabis and its efficacy as a treatment for pain. Though CBD has a reputation as a pain reliever, some studies suggest that THC is equally important in pain management. Let’s define both of the major cannabinoids in more detail:

  • CBD – CBD isn’t a psychoactive component, so it doesn’t get you high. Prized for its body relaxation effects and ability to help with chronic pain, insomnia, and anxiety, CBD is an excellent option for patients looking to avoid intoxication (or balance their THC intake with a more mellow compound).
  • THC – THC is psychoactive; it’s responsible for the cerebral high that many recreational users seek. But just because it’s an intoxicant doesn’t mean that it creates negative impacts. On the contrary, THC can boost your energy and mood and support concentration and pain reduction.

Preliminary evidence suggests that using marijuana with CBD and THC has quality-of-life benefits, like pain reduction. Together, they change how pain interferes with your daily life and can improve your mood, general health, and sleep quality.

Dosing for Chronic Pain

When taking medical marijuana for chronic pain, dosing is key. Marijuana is a highly individualized health tool, so what works for one person won’t necessarily work for you.

That said, twenty experts from nine different countries created a guideline on marijuana dosing for chronic pain patients. This guideline has several suggestions, including:

  • Starting off with a 5mg high CBD formulation—a product containing no more than 1:10 THC to CBD content—2 times per day
  • Increasing the dose by 10mg of CBD per day every 2 to 3 days as needed
  • Adding THC in low, 2.5mg dose increments only after increasing the CBD dose to 40mg

These experts don’t recommend going over 40mg of THC per day, but the reality is that dosing looks different for every patient. Consult with your cannabis healthcare provider to create a treatment and dosing plan that works for your needs.

Personalized Dosing

Because cannabis creates such highly individual responses in patients, you may have to stray from the above guidelines to see results. As you explore cannabis as a healing tool, you’ll likely contend with:

  • A lack of standardized dosing guidelines
  • Your unique endocannabinoid system
  • Differences between each strain of cannabis

As mentioned above, consulting with a cannabis-informed healthcare provider to create a chronic pain management plan is one of the best ways to carve a path to healing. Your marijuana dosing needs to be tailored to your life and circumstances.

This is where TeleLeaf offers a helping hand. We help build bridges with medical professionals who understand life with chronic pain and want you to have access to every possible tool.

Our providers will also guide you through the process of applying for your medical marijuana card. During this journey, you can ask questions about how medical marijuana may work in your life.

Incorporating Medical Marijuana Into Your Pain Treatment

Adding marijuana to your pain management routine is simple—you have numerous administration options to choose from. The most popular methods include:

  • Tinctures and oils – Tinctures are alcohol-based cannabinoid extractions; oils are fat-based extractions. You can use these liquid products sublingually (under the tongue) or by mixing them into a beverage of your choice.
  • Dabs and concentrates – These highly concentrated formulas can pack a serious punch; use them carefully and always follow the instructions. You can vape, dab, smoke, or add concentrates to your joints and bongs for an intense hit.
  • Smoking or vaping – A long-time patient favorite, smoking is the most traditional method of consuming flower. Smoking offers a relatively quick onset of effects. Some people also enjoy savoring the smell and flavor of different buds.
  • Edibles – Whether you use tinctures and oils to make your own edible products or purchase pre-made edibles from the dispensary, these offer a simple, precise, and discreet dosing method. Edibles can take longer to produce effects, but they’re also typically longer lasting than smoking applications.
  • Transdermal creams and lotions – Cannabinoid-infused topical products are great for targeting specific areas of pain. Primarily made from CBD, they’re meant to relieve swelling and soreness.

You can take marijuana at any time of the day or night. Many people living with chronic pain claim that a dose after waking up helps with all-day pain management. Taking marijuana before bed, on the other hand, can also help you get a full, restful night’s sleep.

Work with TeleLeaf to Build a Bridge to Relief

Don’t live your life through the haze of chronic pain. If you’re looking for a tried and true pain relief option (and you’ve exhausted the Western model’s available options), medical marijuana for chronic pain could offer the life-changing results you’re looking for—and TeleLeaf can help you get started.

TeleLeaf connects patients with medical professionals who understand the value of marijuana as a healing tool. Our providers understand how harrowing it feels to comb through doctors, trying to find someone who will recommend medical marijuana without judgment. TeleLeaf takes the guesswork out of this process, fast-tracking you to the next step in your pain management story.

If you’re ready to start your healing journey, contact TeleLeaf today. We’ll be with you every step of the way as you discover a pain-free future.


U.S. Pharmacist. Medical Cannabis for Chronic Pain.

GoodRx Health. Your GoodRx Guide to Managing Chronic Pain With Cannabis.

National Library of Medicine. Medical Cannabis for Treatment of Chronic Pain.

PubMed Central. Consensus recommendations on dosing and administration of medical cannabis to treat chronic pain: results of a modified Delphi process.

Sage Journals. Medicinal cannabis for pain: Real-world data on three-month changes in symptoms and quality of life.

GoodRx Health. Your GoodRx Guide to Managing Chronic Pain With Cannabis.

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