Back Pain and CBD
Back pain is one of the most common forms of chronic and consistent pain that people experience. According to the World Health Organization, lower back pain is the leading cause of disability around the world, and that it “occurs in similar proportions in all cultures, interferes with the quality of life and work performance, and is the most common reason for medical consultations.”
“Back pain” can be caused by a range of factors and conditions, from self-inflicted bad habits, accidents, muscle strains, and sports injuries. Additionally, nerve and muscular problems, degenerative disc disease, and arthritis can all result in mild to severe back pain. In other words, oftentimes back pain is not even the result of a diagnosable illness or disorder, but just due to overworking, standing too long, sitting too long, lying down too long, sleeping weirdly—literally things that all of us do on a fairly regular basis.
I know what you are thinking, “That’s great, I already know that back pain interferes with my life and well-being, I just have learned to live with it through taking a lot of ibuprofen.” That is probably the attitude that the majority of back pain sufferers take. And no matter the cause of someone’s specific pain, most often they share the same symptoms.
Can CBD Treat Back Pain?
If you have experienced back problems caused by common conditions like sciatica, slipped disc, or spinal stenosis, then you know that the severe and persistent pain is the most hindering symptom of back problems. It follows that the most critical aspect of the treatment is in managing that pain.
Many people are increasingly turning to CBD to treat back pain instead of relying solely or mostly on other medications, especially opioids. Part of the reason for this is the fact that many prescription pain medications are habit forming and can lead to some pretty serious side effects if consumed consistently for too long.
It’s not just people who suffer from back pain that are giving CBD a try, many medical professionals and researchers have begun to look into Cannabis as a whole to learn whether it is an effective remedy for back pain.
Studies, such as this investigation published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine, found that CBD consistently reduces inflammation in laboratory mice. A later study found that it has a similar pain reducing effect in humans, without any adverse side effects. Additionally, a clinical trial undertaken by the pharmaceutical company Zynerba found that a CBD based, topical drug provided pain relief to patients suffering from knee osteoarthritis.
Daniel Clauw, MD, professor of anesthesiology at the University of Michigan and consulting doctor for this clinical trial, had this to say:
“I don’t think we have that many good drugs for pain, and we know that CBD has fewer side effects than opioids or even nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, which can cause bleeding and cardiovascular problems,” he says. “If I have an elderly patient with arthritis and a little bit of CBD can make their knees feel better, I’d prefer they take that than some other drugs.”
CBD and Back Pain: How Does It Work?
Understanding the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS) is crucial to understanding CBD and back pain. The first pieces of the endocannabinoid system were uncovered during the 1960s and 1970s by researchers and scientists who were attempting to understand how cannabinoids effected the human body. Cannabinoids are the chemical elements found in marijuana and hemp (or cannabis) plants like CBD and THC.
What they found was a network of receptors, enzymes, and biochemical pathways involved in manufacturing and using the body’s own form of cannabinoids: endocannabinoids (“endo” meaning "originating within the body"). They also found that this network which makes up the endocannabinoid system responded not only to endocannabinoids but also to their external counterparts called cannabinoids, chemical compounds found within hemp and marijuana plants.
Basically, the way it works is that cannabinoids like CBD trigger receptors found throughout the endocannabinoid system. These triggers then initiate changes throughout our nervous systems and other bodily systems. Scientists have now concluded that cannabinoids can modulate many physiological systems in the human brain and body.
There are two types of these receptors:
- CB1receptors are essential for a healthy functioning brain and are one of the most common receptors in the entire nervous system. They are found especially concentrated in the central nervous system areas of the brain and spinal cord. Depending on what region of the brain they are located in, they can be moderators of your memory, mood, motor function, or your perception of pain.
- CB2 receptors are most often found in the peripheral nervous system. Specifically, on the cells of our immune system. This allows them to help moderate and respond to inflammation and our immune response to pathogens. If you use CBD products to combat conditions of an overactive immune system (i.e. arthritis, asthma, allergies, autoimmune disorders or digestive issues like inflammatory bowel disease), those are your CB2 receptors hard at work.
Let’s Bring It Back to CBD and Back Pain
The way CBD may treat back pain is by targeting the body’s inflammatory immune response. Essentially, the pain you are feeling from these different conditions are your body’s attempt to use the ECS to maintain homeostasis. The problem is that these bodily responses can sometimes be overreactions and can often result in extreme discomfort. Substances like CBD are thought to step in and keep the ECS from going too far or responding too strongly.
In a nutshell, CBD binds to the receptors, but instead of fully triggering them, it temporarily modifies what other endocannabinoids are able to bind with the receptors. This is how CBD is thought to regulate bodily responses like inflammation, stress, arthritis and other conditions.
How to Use CBD for Back Pain
The most common way to consume CBD for back pain is sublingually via tinctures or by consuming capsules. The CBD tinctures, in particular, are the quickest way for the cannabinoid to enter the bloodstream and start influencing the endocannabinoid system. Topical, transdermal CBD application is another popular way for people to use CBD for back pain. Topicals are often preferred because they allow you to apply the CBD directly to the area that is causing you pain and enters your blood stream by being absorbed into the skin.
There has not been much definitive research into whether topical, oral, or sublingual CBD is the best application route for back pain. For now, it comes ultimately down to the individual’s personal preference and what feels better for their body and pain.
When it comes to CBD dosage for back pain, as well as mode of consumption, it is just a matter of experimentation to see what works for you. The good news is, CBD has no known negative side effects and so there is nothing wrong with giving different dosages a try to alleviate your back pain.
Try CBD for your back pain today and see if it can help bring you relief and live your life to the fullest.