Updated on January 29, 2019.
Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
Chronic back pain impacts patients all over the United States. Accidents, improper lifting and age can all cause this common ailment. While we all experience back pain now and then, it can become severe enough to reduce your quality of life. You can try painkillers, but they don’t always work effectively and can have side effects like addiction and organ damage. So, many patients with chronic pain in their back and other areas use medical marijuana instead to avoid the side effects associated with pharmaceuticals. For some people, it’s the only thing that truly works for them.
Among people who medicate with cannabis, some opt for cannabidiol (CBD) medicine. CBD appears naturally in the marijuana plant and offers relief on its own when isolated from other cannabinoids. Learn how you can use CBD for your back pain effectively.
Why Use CBD?
If regular medical marijuana already relieves pain and inflammation, why choose CBD medication instead? Patients have plenty of reasons:
It Doesn’t Have Psychoactive Effects: The “high” you experience when you use marijuana comes from the cannabinoid tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), not CBD. When you separate CBD from psychoactive components, you can experience relief without any cerebral effects.
People of All Abilities and Ages Can Use It: Since it doesn’t have psychoactive effects, parents can use CBD to medicate their children without worry. It can also come in products like oils that you can add to food or apply topically. This variety of options lets patients of all abilities find something that they can use independently or with a caretaker’s help.
Can I Use CBD Legally?
In certain situations, CBD receives a little more leeway than medical marijuana in the eyes of the federal government. Growers and producers can create CBD products that follow federal and state laws. CBD is considered legal if it:
Comes from an industrial hemp plant, not a marijuana plant
Has less than 0.3% of THC
Gets extracted from the plant’s shoot, not seeds or stalks
If CBD meets these criteria, the FDA considers it a supplement, not a medication. But, despite this categorization, you can still get medical benefits from hemp-derived CBD. Federally legal CBD can be sold online and in stores, making it more easily accessible than medical marijuana.
However, if you live in a state with legalized cannabis medicine, we recommend looking into marijuana-friendly medical care. Cannabis-positive doctors and marijuana dispensaries have specialized knowledge on cannabinoids, so they can give you expert medical advice. Plus, if you get a medical marijuana card, it can provide you with access to more kinds of CBD medicine, including cannabis-derived CBD.
Best CBD Products for Back Pain
Like conventional cannabis medicine, CBD medications come in numerous products that suit all sorts of patients. But, specific items will work better to relieve your back pain than others.
CBD oil is the most iconic form of CBD medicine. Its effectiveness depends on the severity of your back pain and the concentration of your oil. If you purchase hemp-derived CBD oil, check its CBD content. When your oil doesn’t seem to work well enough, you might need a product with a higher amount of CBD. Some marijuana-derived oils also have THC in them, which works together with CBD to relieve pain. If you have the legal ability to get cannabis-derived CBD, you might want to consider an oil with a little bit of THC, too. CBD can counteract some of the psychoactive properties of THC, reducing the impact of its “high.”
Other products that work well for back pain include CBD-based topicals, edibles, tinctures and pills. Items associated with recreational use like concentrates and bud can also offer relief. Much of the effects related to CBD products depends on how you use them.
When you use CBD medicine correctly, you can get the most benefits possible out of it. The right method partially depends on the patient’s preferences, lifestyle and other health issues. But, putting aside those outside factors, the most effective medical approaches include:
Topical Application: Rubbing an oil or muscle cream directly onto your back or asking someone else to do it for you lets the medicine treat the exact spot where you’re experiencing pain. The CBD will directly penetrate your tissue to reach the muscles and joints causing you pain.
Patch Usage and Pill/Edible Ingestion: Using a patch, taking a pill or eating an edible won’t let all the medicine directly reach the affected area, but these methods can help patients with nerve pain or comorbid pain conditions. Patches slowly administer the medicine, letting you feel its effects over an extended period. Pills and edibles take a little while to take effect because they have to pass through your digestive system first. But, once they do begin to work, the CBD in them travels throughout your entire system, reaching areas beneath the top layer of tissue.
Inhalation: Like ingestion and patches, smoking or vaping cannabis medicine affects your whole body. But, the effects of inhalation don’t last as long. As a trade-off, smoking and vaping offer relief much more quickly. If you have sporadic episodes of back pain, you might want to consider smoking or vaping to get faster benefits.
Some patients choose one way to medicate, while others combine them. Finding the right treatment plan involves experimentation and understanding what you want out of it.
How to Get CBD Medication
If you want to get hemp-derived CBD medicine, you can find it online or at a store that sells natural supplements. When you buy CBD from one of these sources, check online reviews, the product’s content and information about the brand.