, Volume 70, Issue 18, pp 2409–2438 | Cite as

Role of Cannabinoids in the Treatment of Pain and (Painful) Spasticity

  • Matthias KarstEmail author
  • Sonja Wippermann
  • Jörg Ahrens
Review Article


Both the discovery of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) and its role in the control of pain and habituation to stress, as well as the significant analgesic and antihyperalgesic effects in animal studies, suggest the usefulness of cannabinoids in pain conditions. However, in human experimental or clinical trials, no convincing reduction of acute pain, which may be caused by a pronociceptive, ECS-triggered mechanism on the level of the spinal cord, has been demonstrated. In contrast, in chronic pain and (painful) spasticity, an increasing number of randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies have shown the efficacy of cannabinoids, which is combined with a narrow therapeutic index. Patients with unsatisfactory response to other methods of pain therapy and who were characterized by failed stress adaptation particularly benefited from treatment with cannabinoids. None of the attempts to overcome the disadvantage of the narrow therapeutic index, either by changing the route of application or by formulating balanced cannabinoid preparations, have resulted in a major breakthrough. Therefore, different methods of administration and other types of cannabinoids, such as endocannabinoid modulators, should be tested in future trials.


Neuropathic Pain Anandamide Mechanical Allodynia Chronic Constriction Injury Fatty Acid Amide Hydrolase 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We would like to thank Gabriele Huwald for her support in editing the reference list. The authors state no conflict of interest. No type of funding was received from the pharmaceutical industry.


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Copyright information

© Adis Data Information BV 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Matthias Karst
    • 1
    Email author
  • Sonja Wippermann
    • 1
  • Jörg Ahrens
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of AnaesthesiologyPain Clinic, Hannover Medical SchoolHannoverGermany

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