Can Cannabis Help with Back Pain?

Julia Granowicz
Julia Granowicz - Content Writer

Jan 13 2021 - 4 min read

Chronic pain affects roughly 1.5 billion people around the world, according to the Boston University School of Public Health. Of those billions of people, the World Health Organization says non-specific back pain accounts for 60 to 70 percent of the population. The American Chiropractic Association says 80 percent of individuals will experience back pain at some point in their lives. Often, patients start with treatments like seeing a chiropractor, physical therapy, and massage. But when those treatments don’t relieve the pain, the options are limited. In lieu of prescription painkillers, many people are instead asking whether cannabis could help relieve their back pain.

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Does Cannabis Help with Back Pain?

So, will cannabis help you find relief from your back pain? Millions of people will tell you that the answer is yes. Thousands of doctors will back up these patients, who are speaking from first-hand experience. Science also backs up these claims again and again.

In fact, one of the most common uses for medical marijuana is treatment of chronic pain. Options for treatment of chronic pain, whether it’s back pain or elsewhere, are limited. For years, prescription pain killers were the only option. Opioid painkillers, while able to relieve pain in the short term, have been found to cause more problems in the long run.

Not only are opioids dangerously addictive but they come with a long list of negative side effects. In recent years, studies have even suggested that use of opioid painkillers will make your chronic pain worse over time. Seems counter intuitive, yes? With medical marijuana as a safer and effective alternative, it’s no wonder so many people have turned to this incredible plant over potentially deadly prescriptions.

Best CBD products for pain - treating pain with cannabidiol. Picture of a woman with back pain.

How Does Medical Marijuana Relieve Back Pain?

The main reason that anyone turns to medical marijuana is to have a better quality of life. In the case of back pain, the story is no different. But how exactly does medical marijuana improve your condition?

Pain Relief

The main reason that people turn to medical marijuana for back pain is for the pain relief. In various studies, medical marijuana has been found to provide pain relief. According to WebMD, one Israeli study found that more than half of 1,200 cancer patients reported pain relief over a six-month period. A German study found that marijuana-based medicines increased the number of people who reported pain relief by 50%.

Muscle Relaxant

In many states, muscle spasms are approved qualifying conditions for medical marijuana, completely separate from chronic pain even though the two are often closely related. A study on patients with MS, who often suffer from muscle spasms, found that medical marijuana was effective in relaxing muscles and reducing spasms.

Anti-Inflammatory

Inflammation is often a cause of pain. In patients with back pain this inflammation often causes degenerative disc disease, which gets worse as time goes on. While you might not be able to prevent degeneration with medical marijuana, you can certainly reduce inflammation and therefore reduce the amount of pain you’re in on a regular basis. Both tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) have anti-inflammatory effects. Cannabis’ muscle relaxant and anti-inflammatory effects make it very useful for treating strains and sprains associated with heavy labor and exercise as well.

Nausea, Anxiety and Depression

One more downside of opioids and other narcotics, besides being addictive and dangerous, is the fact that their side effects can be just as problematic. Nausea and vomiting are some of the most common side effects of prescription painkillers and medical marijuana can provide relief for this if you’re not able to entirely walk away from your pain medication. It also goes a step further, helping to reduce anxiety and depression, which often develop in patients who already suffer from chronic pain.

Neuropathic Pain

Neuropathic pain, aka nerve pain, is often associated with problems related to the spine and nervous system. Unfortunately, there are few effective medications available that aren’t physicially addictive sedatives, and opioids are not really recommended for nerve pain in many instances. Naturally-derived cannabinoids, on the other hand, may prove to be very useful for nerve pain.

Ways to Use Medical Cannabis for Pain

There are lots of ways that you can go about using medical cannabis to treat your back pain. Most people immediately think about smoking, or more modernly, vaping, when it comes to marijuana. That of course, is not the only way that you can choose to medicate with the plant and not the way most medical marijuana patients consume their product. While smoking and vaping may provide the quickest relief, they are not always healthy or safe consumption methods for the patient, depending on other conditions they may have.

Tinctures and Edibles

One of the common alternatives to smoking medical marijuana is to eat it. This could mean a pot brownie, cookie, or gummy, or it could mean mixing a few drops of a cannabis tincture into your drink or snack. This consumption method will take up to an hour or two to take effect, which is something you should consider when looking for pain relief. We also have plenty of healthy edible recipes to get you started:

Oils and Topicals

Another option for patients suffering from back pain is cannabis oils or topicals like creams, salves, and gels. This method allows the THC, CBD, or both to be absorbed through your skin, providing local relief that will work much faster than edibles, but without the potentially intoxicating effects of smoking or vaping.

If you think you could benefit from medical marijuana for your back pain, then Leafwell is here to help get you in touch with a medical marijuana doctor in your state.

Written by
Julia Granowicz
Julia Granowicz - Content Writer

Julia Granowicz-Johnson is a freelance writer from Florida with a passion for the cannabis industry. Since 2015 she's covered legalization news and educated medical marijuana patients, caregivers and their families through her work.

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