CBD oil and sciatica
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- Research overview
- The studies
- Patient perspectives
- What the experts say
- Bottom line
Spanning the length of the lower back to the legs, the sciatic nerve covers a large and sensitive area that can radiate intense pain when aggravated. Causes of sciatic pain include herniated discs or bone spurs in the spine, which may occur in tandem with risk factors such as obesity, prolonged sitting, advanced age, and diabetes. The resulting pain typically occurs on one side of the body, according to the Mayo Clinic, but there are exceptions.
Individuals coping with sciatica may find little relief in over-the-counter pain medications and seek out alternative treatments with few side effects. Research has emerged on CBD topicals and tinctures as complementary therapies for back pain and headaches.
Research has emerged on CBD topicals and tinctures as complementary therapies for back pain and headaches. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
Could CBD also help manage sciatic pain? We’ll delve into current research and hear what the experts say about CBD for sciatica.
There is a scarcity of studies regarding the effects of CBD for sciatica in either animals or humans. However, studies are emerging and recent research has indicated that CBD could offer modest relief for individuals with nerve-related pain, including sciatica.
A 2019 study in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology examined sciatic nerve injuries in mice. Mice were treated with oral THC or CBD, and CBD was mildly effective in reducing pain. The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Washington, used a unique method to administer CBD the same way that humans consume it; by voluntarily eating CBD-containing gummies. However, the rodent sciatic nerve injury model is not a basis of comparison to the human condition of sciatica, and researchers need to understand more about how CBD affects sciatic pain in people before drawing a concrete conclusion.
Despite limited research, many people have found pain relief with CBD. One Canadian woman who suffers from sciatica wrote an article for the Huffington Post titled, “Does CBD Really Help with Pain?” In the article, writer Fiona Tapp describes her life as a working mother who sits behind a desk all day and has been seeking relief for a long time. To address her sciatic pain, Tapp booked a massage in which the therapist used CBD oil to soothe her muscles.
After the CBD massage, Tapp described, “That night, I happily realized that the usual pain I feel when trying to get comfy in bed was missing and I fell into a deep sleep by 9 p.m.”
Was Tapp’s pain relief linked to the massage, the CBD oil, or a combination of the two? The answer is debatable, but medical experts advise against expecting CBD to heal sciatic pain.
What the experts say
According to Dr. Adie Rae, an assistant scientist at Legacy Research Institute in Portland, Oregon, and scientific advisor to Weedmaps, there is a lack of evidence that CBD oil is effective in treating sciatic pain.
Rae shared, “In general, CBD is an anti-inflammatory, and CBD can theoretically reduce swelling and inflammation, thereby reducing pain. This is purely hypothetical; however, there have not been any studies. There is lots of evidence that full-spectrum cannabis and THC are good for several kinds of neuropathic pain, but the evidence for hemp-CBD is sparse and weak.”
However, CBD may have the ability to exert a short-term effect on pain as Rae added, “CBD might help (mildly) with the pain, but likely will not improve the condition itself.”
CBD might help with the pain, but likely will not improve the condition itself. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
Therefore, some people may opt to try full-spectrum CBD oil to assess whether it has any effect on sciatic pain, even if the benefits are short-term.
If you are considering CBD for sciatica, you may have some questions:
How much CBD should I take for sciatica?
CBD is generally safe even in very large doses, but that doesn’t mean you should overdo the application of CBD oils or ingestion of tinctures. It is best to start with small, once-daily doses, such as taking a few drops of CBD oil under the tongue. It is important to talk to your doctor about your daily CBD regimen, especially if you are taking other medications. CBD can interact with some medicine, and your doctor can best help you monitor your health if they are aware of your CBD therapy.
What is the best treatment for sciatica?
As with many other conditions, positive lifestyle changes may be the best treatment for sciatica. Rae’s advice for people dealing with sciatica is clear: “Spend money on a good standing desk and a physical therapist. “
Stretching with the assistance of a physical therapist or at home may be the best natural alternative to painkillers for sciatica. Surgery is a last resort for most sciatica patients, especially those whose chronic pain is manageable.
CBD may be useful in providing minor, temporary pain relief for individuals with sciatica, but lifestyle changes are probably the most effective long-term treatment.
Could CBD help manage sciatic pain? We’ll delve into current research and hear what the experts say about CBD for sciatica.
How Medical Cannabis May Help with Sciatica
Posted on April 23, 2019
Sciatica, which refers to pain caused by a problem with the sciatic nerve, can be debilitating for many Canadians. Anything that irritates this nerve can cause pain, ranging from mild to severe, and it is usually caused by a compressed nerve in the lower spine; some experts estimate that as many as 40% of people will experience sciatica at some point in their lives.
While the problem usually begins in the lower back, sciatica pain can be felt in the hip, buttocks and extend all the way down the leg (usually just on one side). Those who are at the highest risk for sciatica are patients who have occupations that require them to do a lot of lifting or prolonged sitting as well as patients who are obese or who have diabetes.
With such a large percentage of the population experiencing sciatica at some point in their lives, it is no surprise that there are a wide variety of treatments available. These range from over-the-counter and prescription painkillers, to stretching and exercises, physical therapy and for extreme cases surgery.
More recently, medical cannabis has become a viable option for those experiencing sciatica.
Since nerve pain can be difficult to treat, opioids have been commonly prescribed. Opioid drugs, however, are not without some serious risks which include addiction and fatal overdose. A research paper published in the Harm Reduction Journal, recommended that physicians who had patients that they were treating with opioids should evaluate them for a medical cannabis trial and prescribe that instead, if appropriate.
Another article in the Journal of Opioid Management reported that medical cannabis could also be used together with opioids in order to allow the patient to have less frequent and/or lower doses of opioids to manage their pain.
More recently further studies have confirmed that medical cannabis may be an effective method for treating nerve pain. One such study found a correlation between THC and the reduction between certain connections in the brain. The results suggested that THC may alleviate pain from sciatica by disrupting signals between the pathways in the brain that process pain.
For those concerned about the psychoactive effects of THC, they may find some relief for their sciatica by taking CBD which as anti-inflammatory properties. CBD may help to reduce pain by reducing inflammation at the site of the injury.
Is Cannabis the Right Treatment for Your Sciatica?
If you think that cannabis may be a good option for you in treating sciatica pain, it is important to first have a proper diagnosis by a medical professional. If it is determined that medical cannabis is a good treatment option, you will then work with a cannabis counsellor to help determine the correct ratios of THC and CBD as well as the most suitable delivery method.
For more information on medical cannabis and treatment for sciatica, contact us today.
Recently studies have confirmed that medical cannabis may be an effective method for treating nerve pain and THC may alleviate pain from sciatica.