Updated on April 1, 2020. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
Back pain can afflict anyone and when seeking treatment to alleviate the pain, many people are now turning to medical cannabis. Estimates show the prevalence of common (non-specific) back pain is around 60 to 70 percent in industrial countries each year. Back pain can bring on symptoms like significant pain and muscle spasms — even nausea from the medications to help ease it. Fortunately, medical marijuana for back pain can help.
One alternative treatment for back pain is medical cannabis. Medical weed is increasingly becoming a preferred treatment for patients with chronic back pain. Although conventional treatments can be effective in treating the symptoms of back pain, they can also come with side effects like nausea, stomach upset, ulcers and gastric bleeding.
Medical marijuana can be an alternative medicine for back pain, and it does not have the same side effects association with traditionally chronic pain medications. Marijuana for back pain can help with your back pain in the following ways:
A University of Colorado’s Spine Center research project looked at 200 patients who had back pain or degenerative disc problems. Out of all the participants who used cannabis for back pain, 89 percent said it eased their pain moderately or greatly. Eighty-one percent claimed it worked as well as or even better than narcotic pain medication. They also stated that they didn’t need to consume weed more than one or twice a day.
As you know, back pain can present a wide range of symptoms. Medical pot has many medicinal properties to it that help alleviate a variety of different symptoms. For patients with back pain, marijuana can help relieve:
With more states now allowing medical marijuana, researchers can begin to see more data about cannabis and its ability to treat pain. In a study, participants reported a 45 percent reduction in the intensity of their pain within 20 minutes of inhaling the treatment. Cannabis is particularly helpful for muscle spasm of the back.
In many states, muscle spasms are an approved condition for the use of medical marijuana. North Dakota has approved chronic back pain as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana use.
There is great value in marijuana’s anti-emetic properties. Doctors typically prescribe pain patients with opioids or other narcotic drugs. The main side effects of these types of medications are nausea and vomiting.
Because cannabis treats both nausea and pain, many people attest to its widespread healing powers. And, this doesn’t even include its strong mood enhancing properties that help with depression and suicidal thoughts. Because of these effects, many states have included nausea as a qualifying condition for marijuana.
Most back pain cases are due to inflammation causing degenerative disc disease. As you might already know, medical weed is an outstanding natural medicine for addressing inflammation and chronic pain. Therefore, it’s no surprise that patients suffering from back pain due to degenerative disc disease find relief with this treatment as well.
To obtain medical cannabis for back pain, you first need to consult with a licensed cannabis doctor. They’ll go over your symptoms, give you a diagnosis and then recommend medical weed for you. You’ll have to go get a medical cannabis card and then shop around your local dispensaries to find the cannabis products and strains you desire.
Use cannabis for back pain topically or internally to find relief. Some of the best methods of using medical weed include:
Each marijuana strain works differently for each person. However, heavy THC strains seem to work best at relieving pain while CBD strains are better at decreasing inflammation. When you decrease inflammation, it decreases your back pain.
It’s also essential to understand that strains with a higher percentage of THC also have more psychoactive effects. So, during the day, you may wish to use a strain that’s lower in THC and save it for the evening before you go to bed.
Below are some good strains of medical cannabis when you’re struggling with back pain:
While medical marijuana is very effective at treating back pain, there is the potential of experiencing side effects. They are usually mild and go away once your treatment wears off. In any event, it’s good to know what they are so you can sit down with your doctor and discuss them. Here are some common side effects you could experience:
The University of Colorado Spine Center released a study which found marijuana alleviated back pain in a manner safer than opioids. In fact, 90 percent of individuals who used the herb reported a substantial reduction in their back pain and 80 percent considered medical pot to be an equal, if not better, treatment than opioids.
So, we’ve now gone over how medical marijuana and back pain treatment can significantly help with your pain and other symptoms. Let’s now go over what back pain is, its symptoms, causes and other information.
Back pain is a problem that many people are all-too-familiar with. It can range from a constant, dull ache to a sharp, sudden pain that incapacitates you. A fall, an accident or improperly lifting heavy objects can bring on back pain suddenly, or you can develop it gradually as your spine changes with your age.
Structural problems can cause back pain including:
No matter how your back pain came about, you know how it feels and how it can affect daily living. Back pain is among the common reasons people seek medical care or self-treat.
When considering your treatment options for your back pain, it can be helpful to learn what the major types are.
Common types of back pain include:
Mechanical pain, also called axial pain, is the most common cause of pain in your lower back. The pain is mainly from your ligaments, muscles, bones in your spine and surrounding it and joints (sacroiliac joints, facet joints). Mechanical pain is often localized to your buttocks, lower back or the top of your legs.
Loading your spine influences this pain and different motions can change how it feels such as:
Radicular pain occurs when your spinal nerve root becomes inflamed or impinged. The pain might include pain radiating down into your leg or buttock, or it may follow a particular nerve root pattern. You’ll experience a distinct sensation that’s an electric, sharp and burning type of pain, sometimes accompanied by weakness or numbness. Chances are you’ll feel it on only one side of your body.
Your body has nociceptors, also known as sensors, that spot stimuli that are potentially harmful. The receptors alert you when you have an injury to your tendons, ligaments, muscles, joints, skin, bones or other organs. Your central nervous system and brain receive pain signals that result in you feeling pain.
Many describe the nociceptive pain as a deep throbbing, gnawing, aching or soreness. Some back pain-related nociceptive pain examples might include:
As your injury heals, the nociceptive pain eases.
Neuropathy, also known as neuropathic pain, is pain caused by injury or damage to your nerve tissue. Nerve damage can occur from an injury or infection elsewhere in your body. Once you have damage, your nerves continue sending pain signals even after the injury heals.
Back-related neuropathic pain causes the symptom known as sciatica. Sciatica occurs when the nerve root in your lower back is pressed upon or compressed, triggering numbness and pain along your sciatic nerve that stretches from your feet to your buttocks. You may also have pain that travels down your arm from your spine and persisting pain following back surgery.
Both nociceptive and neuropathic pain can be broken down even further into acute and chronic pain. Both differ significantly in function and form.
Acute pain falls under the umbrella of nociceptive pain. With acute pain, the level of your tissue damage level determines your pain severity. Acute pain is a sign of diseased or injured tissue. Your body has a type of protective reflex for avoiding pain like this. Once healed, your pain dissipates.
Chronic pain doesn’t have a protective reflex or any other biological function that’s helpful. Instead, your nerves continue sending pain signals even after the initial tissue damage heals. Chronic pain falls under the umbrella of neuropathy pain.
Sudden back pain that is acute or doesn’t last any longer than six weeks could be caused by things like heavy lifting or a fall. If it lasts longer than three months, it’s considered chronic.
Back pain frequently develops for no apparent reason, but your doctor can run an imaging study or test to identify the cause. Some conditions often associated with back pain are:
Statistics on back pain reveal how common the condition is and its impact on individuals and society as a whole.
Back pain has affected people throughout recorded history. How back pain is understood and managed has changed, however. In the nineteenth century, two central beliefs formed the basis of the modern approach practitioners use today for back pain:
Researchers classified back pain as a rheumatic disorder. It was during this time that doctors began considering and treating back pain and sciatica together. The new therapeutic rest orthopedic principle increasingly dominated their management of this type of back pain. In the late nineteenth century, backache began to be considered a chronic disability. This only escalated following World War II.
Back pain produces a range of symptoms. The pain can be mild and only slightly annoying, or it can be so severe as to be debilitating. Your onset of back pain can appear suddenly, or begin slowly and get worse over time gradually — sometimes coming and going. The effects of your back pain effects can be both physical and mental.
You may experience symptoms in a variety of ways, depending on what is causing your back pain. You may, for instance, experience:
When your back pain becomes chronic, it may also impact your mood and emotions. You might blame everything on your backache, claiming that everything would be better if you didn’t have pain in your back.
Chronic pain can interfere with your daily life and activities. It can make it difficult to remember things or concentrate. It can affect your sleep or your appetite.
When you’re in constant pain, you may worry you won’t be able to perform your daily routine or go to work. All this builds stress, making it understandable why some people get irritable, depressed and anxious.
People with chronic back pain also often struggle with depression. Those with chronic pain are much more likely to be diagnosed with clinical depression or major depression. Depression like this is much more than feeling “blue” or normal sadness and is a common psychological effect of constant back pain.
After your doctor does a thorough review, they’ll likely give you an idea of what’s causing your back pain and other associated symptoms as well as discuss your treatment options with you. Some treatments your doctor might recommend include:
If conservative treatments don’t work, and your pain persists, back surgery could be an option. There are several different types of back surgery.
Before agreeing to back surgery, you may want to consult with a qualified spine specialist for a second opinion. Spine surgeons may have differing opinions about the type of surgery you need, when you need the operation and whether your spinal condition even requires a surgical procedure. When experiencing pain in your back and legs, it may take more than one health professional to properly diagnose and treat you.
Many people with back pain seek out a chiropractor for treatment. Chiropractors perform chiropractic adjustment by using a small instrument or their hands to apply a sudden, controlled force to your spinal joint. Also referred to as spinal manipulation, the goal of a chiropractic adjustment is to improve your body’s physical function by correcting structural alignment.
When a trained or licensed professional performs chiropractic adjustment, it’s a safe procedure. Although rare, serious complications with this treatment may include:
Before your chiropractic adjustment, there are no special preparations needed.
Doctors have been giving epidural steroid injections for a long time to safely treat back, leg, arm and neck pain. Even though they’re rare, serious complications of these injections may include:
When an experienced healthcare provider performs the injection using fluoroscopic guidance, it minimizes the risk of any serious complications. Many patients tolerate this treatment well.
If you’re suffering from debilitating back pain and would like to know more about medical cannabis and back pain, search for a dispensary or book an appointment with a qualified physician through MarijuanaDoctors.com and our find a doctor search today. Let us help improve your quality of life!