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  • Alec Chenkus

Understanding Pain That Is Chronic, Severe or Intractable

Updated: Aug 20, 2021

As of February 2019, Ohio has approved over 17,000 patients for Ohio medical marijuana cards. Of those 17,000 recipients, a staggering 11,000 MMJ cards were given to pain patients. That's 65% of all qualifying Ohio medical marijuana patients! This number was followed by nearly 2000 fibromyalgia patients (a similar illness rendering incalculable pain), which brings the grand total of qualifying pain patients to over 13,000, nearly 76%.

And this doesn't take into account that pain already comes with a variety of qualifying ailments, be it PTSD, MS, Parkinson's, spinal cord injuries, head injuries, ulcerate colitis, Crohn's disease, cancer and even AIDS/HIV. Combining those patients numbers and you're close to 95% of all medical marijuana patients, each dealing with pain of some sort. With that in mind...

Welcome to the first entry in a two-part series from Ohio Marijuana Card's own, Alec Chenkus, discussing one of Ohio's most recognized qualifying conditions for medical marijuana: pain that is chronic, severe or intractable.

Hand-Drawn Characters Holding Different Parts of Their Body Highlighted with Red to Designate Pain
Chronic Pain Qualifies for Medical Marijuana in Ohio

Understanding Chronic Pain

Did you know that roughly 80% of medical marijuana patients in Ohio qualify for medical marijuana treatment due to pain that is chronic or intractable? This is in large part due to it being the only condition that may stem from additional conditions not explicitly included on the Ohio Board of Pharmacy’s 21 qualifying conditions.

Our Patient Support Center gets a lot of questions related to what might qualify under “chronic or intractable pain”, and while only a certified doctor has the final say in approval, in this article we will dive into how chronic and intractable pain have been defined, and some of the conditions that can qualify under chronic pain.

How Common is Chronic Pain?

According to data from the CDC, in 2016 approximately 50 million (20%) of American adults suffer from chronic pain, and 20 million (8%) had high-impact chronic pain - meaning pain that limited at least one major life activity.

These numbers are staggering, as this means that chronic pain affects more Americans than diabetes, heart disease, and cancer ...combined. Chronic pain is not just a minor problem in the United States -- this is a plague that's devastating millions of American families.

Man Leaning Against a Wall Holding His Back in Pain
50 Million Adults Have Chronic Pain

What is “Chronic Pain”?

In order to understand what qualifies as chronic pain, it is important to differentiate between chronic pain and acute pain. Generally, acute pain is defined as a normal sensation, triggered by the nervous system, alerting you to possible injury and to take care of yourself. For instance, if you were to touch something hot, your nerves send pain that alerts you to quickly remove your hand.

Unlike acute pain, which lasts temporarily, chronic pain is persistent and the pain signals continue for weeks, months, or even years. Chronic pain has been recognized as pain that persists past normal healing time, and is generally regarded as lasting or recurring for more than 3-6 months. Chronic pain may arise from an initial injury, such as a motor vehicle accident, or there may be an ongoing cause, such as illness; however, there may also be no clear cause. Further health problems, such as fatigue, sleep disturbance, decreased appetite, and mood changes, often accompany chronic pain.

Diagnosing chronic pain is a very personal and subjective experience, and as a result there is no test that can truly measure and locate pain with precision. For this reason, health professionals rely on the patient’s own personal description of the type, timing, and location of the pain. Defining pain as sharp or dull, constant or on-and-off, or burning or aching may give the best clues to the cause of the pain.

Your descriptions would be recorded over the course of the patient’s treatments, and those records could be used for medical marijuana approval. Records such as these are essential for our Ohio Marijuana Card doctors to qualify a patient for medical marijuana treatment under pain that is chronic or intractable.

5 Handprints with Chronic, Severe, and Intractable Pain Repeatedly Written and Formatted into the Shape of the Hands
Chronic, Severe, or Intractable Pain Qualify for Medical Marijuana in Ohio

What is “Intractable Pain”?

Based on clinical observations, within the chronic pain population, a subgroup has an intractable pain syndrome or disease. All have incurable, extremely painful conditions, as evidenced by failure of various treatments to control their pain, including surgery, nerve blocks, physical rehabilitation, and weak opioids.

Patients describe their pain as constant, debilitating, and severe enough to interfere with daily functions. The State Medical Board of Ohio Administrative Rules defines intractable pain as a state of pain that is determined, after reasonable medical efforts have been made to relieve the pain or cure its cause, to have a cause for which no treatment or cure is possible or for which none has been found.

Distinctions to this definition include pain experienced by a patient with a terminal condition, or pain that is associated with a progressive disease that, in the normal course of progression, may reasonably be expected to result in a terminal condition.

What Conditions are Associated Under Chronic/Intractable Pain?

Below are some examples of the more common conditions associated under chronic pain. This should help guide any potential patient who is curious if they qualify for medical marijuana in Ohio based on their medical condition and diagnosis.

It is worth noting that these conditions do often have chronic or intractable pain associated with them, this is not necessarily implied and therefore our Ohio Marijuana Card doctors will require records that directly relate to the chronic or intractable pain symptoms associated with the original diagnosis.

Woman Sitting Up and Holding Her Back with X-Ray Effect Applied to Show Spine in Red to Designate Pain
What Conditions Are Associated with Chronic Pain?

Common qualifying conditions include:

  • Chronic Pain Syndromes: complex regional pain syndrome, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, endometriosis, and myofascial pain syndrome

  • Chronic Back Pain: slipped or bulging discs, spinal stenosis, compression fractures, soft tissue damage caused by strain or trauma, spinal fractures, or structural deformities such as scoliosis or lordosis.

  • Chronic Headaches: a headache which occurs for at least 15 days per month for no less than three consecutive months. The most common types of a chronic headache are tension headaches, eye strain headaches, migraines, and cluster headaches.

  • Chronic Joint Pain: osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, repetitive motion injury, bursitis, and tendinitis.

  • Chronic Nerve Pain: sciatica, diabetic neuropathy, peripheral neuropathy, carpal tunnel syndrome, and trigeminal neuralgia.

  • Autoimmune Disorders: celiac disease and lupus.

  • Infectious Diseases: meningitis, shingles, and lyme or other tick-borne diseases.

So now that you have an understanding of what chronic and intractable pain are, click here to head on over to the second part in this exciting series. You'll learn how medical marijuana can help, commons experiences with medical marijuana, and what evidence there is to support the efficacy of cannabis for pain. Stay tuned!


If you are an Ohioan suffering from one of these 21 medical conditions you may be eligible to treat your ailment with medical marijuana, which includes both THC and CBD products.

Click here to learn more about what Ohio Marijuana Card's state-certified medical marijuana doctors can do for you, or give us a call at 1-866-457-5559 and our friendly support team can walk you through the entire process, and set you up with an appointment.

Also, be sure to check out our latest episode of Ohio Marijuana Pod!


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