Updated on June 4, 2021.
Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
Having a “bad back” is a common complaint—nearly half of all working Americans say they experience back pain each year—but it’s a different beast altogether when a backache becomes a way of life. When any kind of pain persists longer than a few months, it’s considered chronic—and it wears on the sufferer’s overall health, well-being and happiness.
Physical therapy is a first-line treatment for back pain, prescribed by doctors to help stretch and strengthen muscles. But for people who don’t respond well to physical therapy, or may suffer from back pain due to other issues such as arthritis, ruptured or bulging discs, skeletal irregularities, ligament problems or osteoporosis, there are only a few other options.
The most commonly recommended medications for back pain are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as Ibuprofen, epidural steroid injections, and as a last resort, opioid pain medications. After prolonged use, all three treatments come with undesirable side effects, not least of which is dependency on opioids.
If you factor in these risks, medical cannabis is by far the safest and most effective treatment for chronic back pain. According to a study by University of Colorado Spine Center, 80% of study participants found cannabis to be equal to, or more beneficial, than opioids for the same pain.
For back pain associated with muscle spasm or weakness, inflammation, and/or for overall pain, these are some of the most widely used cannabis strains:
ACDC: Exceptionally high in CBD, this sativa-dominant hybrid is effective for chronic pain, including back and neck pain.
Bubba Kush: Fairly psychoactive for an indica-dominant strain, and great for relieving stress and muscle tension.
Candyland: Effective in reducing both spasms and chronic pain, this sativa-dominant strain offers energizing and stress-relieving effects.
Granddaddy Purple: Like most indicas, this strain is well equipped to combat pain, stress, insomnia, appetite loss and tension.
Gorilla Glue: A balanced hybrid, this strain has strong pain-relieving effects for the back, and also helps induce a deep sleep.
Harlequin: Widely viewed as having a calming and therapeutic effect, this strain’s relatively high CBD levels can treat pain without a high.
Headband: With THC levels as high as 29%, this hybrid offers a small amount of CBD to help ease pain and muscle tension.
OG Kush: OG Kush is an indica-dominant strain known for its high THC levels, offering relief from pain and muscle spasms along with a euphoric high.
Purple Kush: This indica-dominant hybrid has similar pain-relieving effects to OG Kush but is suitable for daytime use.
Skywalker OG: A well-known indica effective for reducing pain, stress, and back-related symptoms such as muscle tension.
Sour Tsunami: This hybrid has one of the highest levels of CBD, and is a great pain-relieving option for THC-sensitive individuals.
Uncle Andy: This under-the-radar strain offers a long-lasting, intense high—up to three hours—and seems to do well in relieving pain and discomfort of the back.
About the Author
Sarah A Lybrand is a writer specializing in lifestyle, health, finance, cannabis—and fun. She’s written for Bust, Juno, Yahoo, MarketSmiths and Toast Media, among many others.