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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:

  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Low blood pressure

More severe side effects, while rare, include:

  • Mental confusion
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

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

Cannabidiol, or CBD, is a new medical treatment that may be effective for back pain. It has relatively few side effects and does not come with the high associated with marijuana.

CBD and Degenerative Disc Disease: What You Need to Know

Degenerative disc disease describes a host of physical and psychological factors. The umbrella term encompasses a range of spinal conditions, from stenosis to facet joint syndrome. Early research shows that CBD might play a future role in combating both the physical damage and psychological stress involved in the condition. Let’s take a look.

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Back pain plagues the world as one of the leading causes of disability and chronic pain. Back pain stems from a multitude of different musculoskeletal and nervous system conditions, including degenerative disc disease (DDD). According to the World Health Organisation, all of these conditions impact a person’s well-being, quality of life, and even their ability to work.

Addressing a World Plagued by Back Pain — Where Does CBD Fit In?

Many different modalities are available to treat back pain, yet very few are scientifically validated or provide consistent results. With the search still very much ongoing for a panacea for back pain, how does cannabis fare as a viable option?

Humans have used cannabis for thousands of years in an attempt to remedy a whole host of mental and physical ailments. The resinous flowers of this fascinating herb are loaded with a rich cocktail of phytochemicals, not limited to over 100 cannabinoids and 200 terpenes. Among these, CBD—or cannabidiol—stands out as one of the most prominent.

CBD already shows promise in various clinical settings, yet the research remains early. As cannabis science continues to advance, what do we know so far about CBD’s impact on DDD?

What Is Degenerative Disc Disease?

As opposed to being a specific diagnosis, DDD encompasses a group of spinal conditions that involve the degradation of intervertebral discs. These vital structures are situated in all major areas of the human spine: cervical (upper), thoracic (middle), and lumbar (lower). Overall, a total of 23 discs sit between movable vertebrae in the spine. Before we delve into the details of this spinal pathology, we need to know exactly what spinal discs are.

What Is Degenerative Disc Disease?

What Is Degenerative Disc Disease?

Spinal Discs: An Anatomical Overview

Intervertebral discs fulfil several critical functions within the human spine. They allow for flexible movement between each vertebra, without sacrificing strength and stability, and help to absorb shock from the ground when walking, running, jumping, and doing other activities.

When looking at spinal discs from an anatomical perspective, they’re actually quite simple. They’re made up of three distinct parts:

  • Nucleus pulposus: This structure sits in the middle of the disc. Made primarily of water, the gel-like material also contains several types of collagen and allows for movement in different directions. The nucleus pulposus forms the compression-resisting unit of the spinal disc.
  • Annulus fibrosus: This tough outer layer comprises several layers of collagen fibres. It’s a ring of connective tissue that houses the nucleus pulposus and helps to resist excessive movement in particular directions. As opposed to resisting compression, the annulus fibrosus primarily resists tension.
  • Vertebral endplate: Spinal discs sit between single vertebrae, which are stacked vertically one after the other up the spinal column. Vertebral endplates are specialised tissues positioned between each disc, connecting the two structures. They also diffuse nutrients into the discs, keeping them healthy and strong.

Spinal Discs: An Anatomical Overview

Conditions Associated With Degenerative Disc Disease

Numerous conditions fall under the umbrella term of DDD. Although they all feature distinct pathological traits, they share at least one thing in common: gradual damage to and breakdown of the spinal discs. These conditions include:

  • Lumbar radiculopathy
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Spondylosis
  • Myelopathy
  • Lumbar stenosis
  • Facet joint degeneration

Degenerative disc disease is a common source of back pain, and the condition involves numerous physical and mental factors. Could CBD help to alleviate both?