Did you know that the “runner’s high” that you experience after a really good workout is actually your body naturally producing endocannabinoids? While endorphins have gotten most of the credit, endocannabinoids help reduce anxiety and limit pain. For those same reasons, professional athletes and exercise enthusiasts have started bringing cannabis into their workout routine.
Think of using cannabis pre-workout as a preventative measure. Cannabis has been shown to reduce pain with very little side effects. While THC has been show to counteract neuropathic pain, CBD provides inflammatory relief. Neuropathic pain is caused by nerve damage your somatosensory nervous system, while inflammation is due to tissue damage and swelling that causes pain when it pushes against nerve endings.
Inflammation can be visible on the surface of the skin (think puffy, swollen ankles) or it can manifest underneath the skin as tension in your joints and muscles. Those creaky joints of yours that get inflamed during exercise might benefit from some CBD topical cream prior to working out, or a few drops of tincture under your tongue could do the trick.
Cannabis has been found to be particularly helpful for those experiencing osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis. The endocannabinoid system is naturally present in osteoarthritic joints because the ECS helps the body maintain homeostasis and modulates inflammation and pain. If arthritis is preventing you from working out or from exercising to your fullest, cannabis can help.
Cannabis also inhibits exercise-induced asthma. This might be because THC is a bronchodilator, temporarily increasing lung volume and airflow rates while preventing bronchospasms with patients with hyper-reactive airways.
If you regularly experience chronic or acute pain while exercising, THC-dominant strains may help. And don’t forget to stretch!
Be careful when using cannabis before working out. There is evidence that cannabis use may affect motor control, leading to slower reaction times, so you will want to incorporate cannabis into an existing exercise routine that you are already familiar with.
The first time you use cannabis during exercise, try bringing a buddy along to make sure you don’t overwhelm yourself. Start with a small dosage, and increase it only if you do not feel the desired effects.
The World Anti-Doping Agency lists marijuana as a banned substance, so pro-athletes should use take that into consideration when deciding when and how to use cannabis.
During the post-workout phase, cannabis can be used to counteract pain and inflammation stimulated by exercise.
THC and CBD’s analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties can help combat the Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS), or pain in your muscles that typically shows up 24-48 hours after a particularly intense workout.
Pro-athletes in the NFL have been particularly vocal about allowing cannabis as an alternative to opioids for pain management.
How THC Treats Pain
THC activates cannabinoid receptors that modulate the nociceptive thresholds that trigger pain, meaning that it blocks pain receptors in the nervous system. Cannabinoid receptors also show synergistic effects with other systems that influence analgesia, including the endogenous opioid system.
If you are currently using opioids to regulate exercise-related pain, check out our article on using cannabis to reduce opioid use.