Updated on January 31, 2019. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Richard Koffler, MD, Board Certified Physiatrist
When Tarlov cysts begin to cause severe symptoms, doctors may consider surgery to reduce their size. But, surgery is an invasive process that not every patient wants or can go through. So, what else can they do?
Medical marijuana gives patients another choice for their treatment. Can it help them avoid the need for this kind of operation?
Tarlov cysts are cysts that form on the tailbone and lower spine. Many patients have small Tarlov cysts that don’t cause any symptoms, but patients with bigger cysts can experience discomfort and chronic pain. We don’t know the exact cause behind Tarlov cyst formation.
When you have Tarlov cysts, the cysts attach themselves very tightly to your spine, making them difficult to remove. In fact, the fluid inside the cysts comes from the spinal fluid itself. The cysts also have nerves on the inside connected to your spinal nerves.
Since the medical community is still trying to figure out the best way to deal with Tarlov cysts, we don’t know what kind of Tarlov cyst surgery works best to relieve symptoms. Surgery can prove ineffective or cause irreversible damage, so doctors don’t take the decision to operate lightly.
In these operations, the surgeon removes the vertebrae on top of the cyst to make the cyst reachable. Then, the surgeon makes one or more cuts on the cyst to drain its fluid. Once the fluid drains, they try to discourage further fluid buildup using methods like:
Depending on the nature of the surgery and cysts, the recovery period for a patient can vary. This means some patients find quick relief while it takes a while for other patients to feel any difference.
Not everyone wants to undergo surgery, and sometimes they simply can’t. So, patients who don’t get an operation must manage their symptoms to attain a similar level of relief. Most of them focus on the pain caused by their cyst.
Patients generally treat their Tarlov cyst-related pain using painkillers and TENS therapy. Tarlov cyst patients usually use painkillers that can damage your stomach, kidneys and liver or cause dependency. TENS therapy, an electric shock therapy, doesn’t always work sufficiently on its own.
Chronic pain is one of the top symptoms treated with medical marijuana. Both scientific studies and patient testimonials point to its painkilling powers. Even state legislature agrees — most states that allow medical marijuana let patients use it for pain.
Medical marijuana also doesn’t have as many risks as typical pain medication does. It can cause side effects like dry mouth and sleepiness. But, they don’t have long-term dangers like damage to organs or addiction.
Plus, you can use marijuana medicine in a variety of ways. Instead of taking a pill, you can eat an edible, vape a cartridge and use other unique methods to medicate.
While not every patient can use cannabis to eliminate their chance of needing surgery, patients who only worry about pain symptoms can.
Patients who must have their cysts drained to prevent further nerve damage should still talk to their physician about an operation. However, patients with moderate cysts kept under supervision can relieve their pain and avoid surgery for the time being.
To get advice that considers your individual circumstances, you should book an appointment with a medical marijuana-certified doctor. Patients who already take medical marijuana can talk to their dispensary staff to get more information about medication.
For more information about how cannabis can be used to treat Tarlov Cysts, check out our resources: