I have had pain in my hips for some time and went for a second opinion to a hip specialist in Colorado, where they have world-class orthopedists, to review the results of my recent MRI. Even though the MRI showed a tear in the labrum surrounding my hip socket, my doctor was not jumping to do surgery—instead, he wanted to give me a cortisone and lidocaine injection to try to determine if the tear was creating the pain or if it was something else. (As with your back, just because something looks structurally “wrong” on an X-ray or an MRI does not mean that it is creating pain. As Dr. John Sarno said in Healing Back Pain, most people will show some kind of structural issue with their backs if they have an imaging test, but the majority of those people do not have pain. Similarly, approximately 30% of patients with tears in the labrums are asymptomatic.)

I had sworn off steroids in any form 20 years ago after I had a bad experience with them, and even though many people in the universe do just fine with cortisone injections, I didn’t think my hypersensitive body would take kindly to that kind of offense.

Sarah’s Rule #1 of medical treatment: Listen to your body.

So I left the office opting for Plan B—physical therapy.

Then I remembered, Hey, I’m in Colorado—the land of pain-management clinics—and Bottom Line Personal just published a great article about the latest and best uses for medical marijuana, including pain creams and salves that don’t have psychoactive effects. Perhaps a localized pain cream can act as a surrogate for the steroid injection, I thought. And so…I will share my experience here.

While I’m supportive of the legalization of medical marijuana, I am essentially a teetotaler and do not ingest anything that messes with my body’s metabolism, be it alcohol, caffeine…let alone pot. But that’s just me.

There are between 10 and 20 dispensaries within a 15-mile radius of where I stay in Colorado, but I chose the one closest to my home. As I walked up the stairs of the nondescript strip mall plaza, I felt a little like I was heading to the hidden side entrance of some business of ill repute. But once I entered, I was surprised to find it beautiful and very professional—not at all like the “duuuude” head shop I was expecting.

The inside of the store was lovely. It had a very organic design with wood planking on the floors and walls, wood-trimmed display cases and warm lighting. There was a nice little seating area at the front of the store, and plenty of sales help behind the counter. For the middle of the afternoon, the joint was kind of busy.

The cashier greeted me warmly and immediately asked for ID. It didn’t matter that my days of thinking I could pass for 21 have long since passed…apparently, even Grandma Moses would need to show proof of age.

Now on to shopping. There were probably 30 different variations of marijuana displayed in jars. Each variety providing slightly different “experiences.” In addition, there were all sorts of edibles, including beverages, chocolates, gummy bears and more, as well as a variety of paraphernalia, including glass pipes, bongs, bats and papers.

Jess, the sweet 20-something salesperson, said the chocolate was most popular. Even though the sign on the door said that this store sold only recreational products, there actually were three different topicals for pain—two creams and one liquid tincture. For a pot salesperson, Jess was incredibly knowledgeable about the differences between the products. I opted for the tincture made with both marijuana and arnica, since Jess said that the tincture would absorb deeper, and I know that arnica also can help with certain types of pain and injuries. I paid $38 and left with an unmarked brown bag, still feeling a little sketchy going back down the stairs.

Meanwhile, I had just broken Sarah’s Rule #2 regarding medical treatment—even when using natural treatments, talk to a trained medical professional rather than the “nice lady in the apron” at Whole Foods or, in this case, the sweet young woman with the knit cap.

But I figured it was low risk having researched the pain creams and their potential side effects, and the cost wasn’t outrageous.

I had time to apply the tincture only twice before it was time for me to leave the state. Since you can’t bring marijuana across state lines and you cannot ship it, I was forced to leave it in Colorado.

After all of that, did the tincture work? Early signs seemed positive, so I may have to try again, but I will need to find a store in my home state. Seems crazy that even though non-psychoactive marijuana products like these creams have proved successful for many conditions, they are still restricted by each state’s laws. Ah, politics…

So what should you expect when visiting a marijuana dispensary for the first time? Despite the taboo about the recreational use of marijuana and its safety, the dispensary really is just a “green” pharmacy, with educated proprietors selling a variety of solutions for your personal health care. Just like CVS, Walgreens or your local pharmacist, this, too, will one day be “normal.”

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