Understanding CBD (Cannabidiol) for Back Pain
Cannabidiol, commonly referred to as CBD, is a new and relatively understudied treatment for pain, including back pain. Studies suggest it may help relieve inflammation, which is often a factor in chronic back pain. 1
CBD is available in many forms; topical creams and gels have shown promising results for inflammation and neuropathy, which may make them a good option for back and neck pain. 2
CBD requires more research in order to prove and explain its effectiveness as well as to better understand potential side effects (especially long-term) and potential drug interactions.
What Is CBD?
CBD oil is derived from a plant called cannabis sativa. The plant has over 100 chemical compounds, called cannabinoids, that have a range of effects, including anti-inflammatory and analgesic (pain relieving) qualities.
The cannabis sativa plant has two main varieties that are grown for specific purposes:
- THC content. THC is the compound associated with the “high” feeling of marijuana use.
- Industrial (non-drug) uses. This form of the plant contains trace amounts of THC (less than .03%) and can be used to make paper, clothing, and some building material. This variation of the cannabis plant is called hemp.
While CBD is present in both varieties, many of the CBD products available to consumers are from the hemp plant. CBD does not come with the high or psychogenic effects of marijuana.
Ways CBD Treats Back Pain
Research indicates that CBD may reduce back pain by:
- Reducing inflammation 3
- Combating anxiety, often associated with long-lasting or chronic back pain 4
- Helping with sleep and improving overall state of relaxation 5
Some studies suggest that CBD can have an effect on how an individual perceives pain, but more robust research is needed. CBD is generally considered a full-body treatment, which means that it does not target back pain specifically—except in the case of topical products—but contributes to an overall feeling of relaxation and pain relief.
Advocates of CBD believe it can be used to treat a range of conditions in addition to back pain, such as anxiety-related disorders. 5
Potential Risks and Side Effects of CBD
Cannabidiol, even in high amounts, is generally safe. Side effects from CBD may include:
- Dry mouth
- Low blood pressure
More severe side effects, while rare, include:
- Mental confusion
As with other natural products, there is potential for adverse reactions when taken with other medications, especially those that come with grapefruit warnings, such as certain blood thinners. These warnings indicate that certain medications should not be taken with products containing grapefruit.
CBD use prior to surgery
Before having surgery, all cannabis use, including CBD and marijuana, should be disclosed to the surgeon or anesthesiologist. A recent study suggests that cannabis use may have an effect on medications used to sedate patients. 6
Best and Most Effective CBD Oils for Sciatica [2022 Update]
Sciatica is not a medical condition in itself; it’s a symptom of another underlying problem. For example, a lumbar herniated disc or spinal stenosis could be the root of the issue.
Generally, sciatica describes symptoms of pain that travel through the large sciatic nerve. Sciatica is more common than one might think because this pain can stem from so many different medical conditions. Recent estimates suggest that up to 40% of U.S. adults will experience sciatic nerve pain at some point in their lives.
Prescription drugs are routinely consumed by people living with sciatica, but such medication can lead to adverse side effects, not to mention a risk of addiction. Now, the use of CBD oil for sciatica has increased to the point where some consider it an alternative option for pain management.
This article will discuss irritation of the sciatic nerve and how CBD might work to ease the pain itself and the underlying conditions. At the end, we outline what we feel are the best CBD oil brands.
What Is Sciatica?
The sciatic nerve is the longest and widest nerve in the human body. It starts in the lower back and extends downwards through the buttocks and into each leg, innervating everything from the toes to the lower back muscles.
Pain associated with the nerve can range from a mild tingling sensation in the feet or toes to completely debilitating and immobilizing lower back and leg pain.
Sciatic nerve pain can cause anything from a mild tingling sensation to complete debilitation of the lower back and legs.
While many things can irritate the nerve and cause acute or temporary discomfort, the most common cause of chronic sciatica is a herniated (slipped) disc. This is where the jelly-like disc protrudes from the spinal column and presses up against the nerve itself.
The tough thing about treating slipped discs is that once they become “dislodged” from beneath the vertebrae, they don’t typically heal well or go back into place independently. Naturally, this can cause frustrating and long-term conditions. Intense pain can be a day-to-day occurrence, and sleep can become difficult. Other causes of sciatica can include:
- Pinched/compressed nerves in the lower vertebrae
- Acute injuries
- Lumbar spinal stenosis
People with overly strenuous physical labor jobs are more likely to develop sciatic nerve pain. Individuals who sit for long periods (i.e., 8+ hours a day for years) without walking/stretching breaks are also at higher-than-average risk.
Conventional Treatment Methods (Other than CBD) for Sciatica
Treatment options for sciatic nerve pain are as far-reaching as the vast assortment of medical conditions that cause it. Some individuals may find relief through lower-back stretches and body strengthening workouts like yoga and Pilates. Others are left with no alternative other than relying on heavy-duty prescription painkillers.
When the pain stems from inflamed tissue coming into contact with the nerve, alternating hot and cold packs have proven effective. General over-the-counter drugs like ibuprofen can work as well.
In terms of conventional sciatica treatment, surgery should always be a last resort option. Physical therapy is much more common.
Physical therapy is also an efficient treatment, as is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). With CBT, patients are trained to react differently to pain sensations. While an interesting approach, results can be hit or miss.
Surgery is an option in the most severe of cases. Procedures like lumbar laminectomies (widening of the vertebrae to minimize pressure on the nerve) have been effective in some instances. Discectomies (complete removal of slipped discs) can also work. In any instance, surgery should be a last resort option.
CBD oil for sciatica is becoming a popular alternative for individuals looking to avoid heavy-duty dosages of prescription medication.
CBD Oil for Sciatica: A Realistic Alternative to Prescription Meds?
Compared to prescription drugs, CBD oil is less expensive and results in fewer adverse effects. So, is CBD a potentially effective remedy for sciatica?
To understand the specific physiological role of CBD in the body, we need first to understand the basic role of the endocannabinoid system as it relates to pain sensation and pain management pathways in the central nervous system.
Four years ago, doctors Perry Fine and Mark Rosenfeld published a peer-reviewed study showcasing the physiological functions of endocannabinoids as therapeutic pain modulators.
The researchers wrote that everyone has an innate network of endocannabinoids and cannabinoid receptors. This network helps modulate the pathways of nociception – the body’s response to harmful stimuli.
In the event of abnormal circumstances (i.e., a herniated disc pressing up against the sciatic nerve), the endocannabinoid system becomes overwhelmed. As a result, it cannot perform at its normal efficiency rate. This is when – and why – we experience bouts of unbearable pain. It is also when the therapeutic effects of CBD may become useful.
Discussing the SCIENCE. …
Functionally, CBD appears to act as a “reinforcement” to the body’s natural pain management system. That is, to its network of endocannabinoids and cannabinoid receptors. As a cannabinoid itself, CBD increases the number of pain modulators available to initiate a response to harmful stimuli. Harmful stimuli can include anything from a bulging disc to an inflamed tissue pressing up against the sciatic nerve.
In other words, it appears that CBD increases the body’s ability to minimize pain under abnormal conditions.
Consider it like this. When we have a bacterial infection, we take antibiotics to reinforce the body’s immune system and help it overcome the presence of harmful bacteria. CBD appears to do the same thing, albeit with pain and the natural physiological pain management processes.
CBD Oil for Sciatica: Anecdotal Evidence
Cain Velasquez is a popular MMA fighter who openly uses CBD oil for sciatic nerve pain. The fighter claims his pain was so severe at times that he could only stand for minutes at a time. In fact, he had to pull out of a few high-profile fights due to sciatica-related issues.
Since discovering CBD oil, Velasquez says he recovers properly and can train harder after fights. He also claims that CBD is superior to pain meds due to its non-addictive nature and minimal side effects.
“Sciatica is an achy pain that goes down your leg … it gets to a point where if you’re standing for 10 minutes, you have to sit down. CBD is the only thing that allows me to still train – and I’m not taking a harmful painkiller into my body that I’ll later become addicted to.”
MMA fighter Cain Velasquez
Countless other CBD oil users suggest that the cannabinoid is at least as effective as prescription medication for sciatica, but what does the research say?
Current Research on CBD, Sciatica, and Potential Therapeutic Effects
In 2005, Italian researchers conducted a study that looked at the effects of CB-1 receptors on pain response. Specifically, they observed the effects of nerve demyelination (one of the underlying causes of sciatica) in rodents. They also considered the potential influence of cannabinoid receptors on “chronic constriction injury of the sciatic nerve.”
The researchers wanted to see whether cannabinoids like CBD affected sciatica-related pain. Before cannabinoid treatment, sciatic nerve tissue analysis in the animal subjects showed “marked degeneration” of myelinated fibers. In other words, damage to the rodent’s sciatic nerve was prevalent.
After “repeated administration” of cannabinoid treatment, it was observed that damage to the nerve tissue was reduced. This suggests that cannabinoids like CBD could function in myelin tissue repair. They also may be able to “promote long-lasting functional recovery,” as noted by the researchers.
“Present findings suggest that [cannabinoid treatment] is effective not only in alleviating neuropathic pain but also in favoring nerve myelin repair.”
July 2005 article from academic journal “Pain.”
Even with this promising information, it’s important to remember that CBD for sciatic nerve pain is not yet an FDA-approved form of treatment. For this reason, a doctor can’t prescribe it. Long-term clinical trials are necessary to get to a stage where a CBD-based sciatica drug exists.
High-quality products are still readily available in the U.S., with or without a medical cannabis license. These products are derived from hemp, a legal commercial crop according to the 2018 U.S. Farm Bill.
How to Use CBD Oil for Sciatica
There are no CBD products available designed specifically for sciatica. However, there is a wide range of choices for those who want an alternative to prescription drugs. At present, CBD is available in the following forms:
- Vape products
CBD topicals are often the most popular choice for people living with sciatica. These products are creams, balms, ointments, or lotions infused with cannabidiol. Using them is as easy as rubbing the topical into the skin. Yet, it isn’t easy to measure dosage when choosing a CBD topical.
Therefore, one may decide to use a CBD oil or tincture by placing a few drops beneath the tongue and holding them there for 60-90 seconds. Doing so ensures that the CBD is consumed sublingually.
Another option is to consume the cannabinoid orally via edibles or capsules. Such products are easy to use but offer a lower rate of bioavailability than oils or tinctures. They also take longer to have an effect.
Finally, CBD vape products take effect quickly and offer a high bioavailability rate. Manufacturers create CBD vape liquid by adding thinning agents. Designed for use with a vaporizer, the liquid is exposed to heat and becomes a vapor that the user inhales.
How Much CBD Oil to Take for Sciatica?
There is no hard and fast dosage of CBD oil for sciatica pain. Apart from Epidiolex, a pharmaceutical drug containing cannabidiol, there are no FDA-approved CBD products. Therefore, researchers have yet to figure out what constitutes an effective dose of CBD.
Also, the fact that CBD impacts people differently means it is virtually impossible to decide upon a universal dosage in any case. In general, people should start with a small dose of 1mg to 5mg to see how CBD affects them. From there, they can increase the dosage by 2-3mg a day every few days until they experience a noticeable effect.
The complete guide…
Final Thoughts on the Best CBD Oil for Sciatica
Please remember that CBD oil is not a cure for sciatica. Indeed, sellers aren’t allowed to make any medical claims whatsoever. However, many people living with sciatica say that CBD oil has proven a big help. Yet, until further clinical research into the cannabinoid’s efficacy is published, it will not be classified as a treatment for any medical condition.
When purchasing CBD oil, choose a reputable brand that provides third-party lab reports with every product. Select CBD extracted from hemp with a maximum of 0.3% THC. To buy products with a higher THC content from marijuana, one needs to live in a state where the substance is legal recreationally. Alternatively, one must live in a state with a medical marijuana program AND have a valid MMJ card.
When using CBD for sciatica, don’t expect immediate results as it can take a while to have an impact. Also, the cannabinoid has a different effect from one person to the next.
Below, we outline what we believe are the best CBD brands on the market. Each one ticks all the boxes regarding reputation, quality, and product quantity.
A word from Dr. Mosab Deen on using CBD for sciatica:
“Overall, top-tier CBD strains confer the ability to prevent further neurodegeneration, ideal for symptoms of sciatica. In addition, studies suggesting CBD as an essential component of neural repair and endocannabinoid synergy make CBD the top-tier treatment for sciatica exacerbation.”