Cannabis for back pain

Liz Filmer
18 Mar 2022

Roughly 1 in 4 people experience at least one day of back pain in 3 months. There are many causes of back pain, including muscle spasms, disc problems, sciatica, arthritis, pregnancy, and fractures, to name but a few! However, long-term persistent back pain conditions can be the most debilitating and affect the quality of life and require pain management. 

Prescription painkillers are notoriously addictive, with opioid painkillers such as Codeine, Morphine, and OxyContin being the most powerful and most widely abused. Your tolerance to these drugs can increase over time, and you will need more of the same painkiller to achieve the same effect. 

Deaths from opioid overdoses have risen significantly in recent times. The longer you use these drugs and the higher your dose, the higher the risk of becoming addicted! Side effects of opioids are well documented and include nausea, dizziness, feeling sleepy, itching, depression, sweating and a weakened immune system. One prominent alternative to opioids is, of course, cannabis. 

When you delve into it, the effects cannabis have on pain are somewhat complicated. Still, to put it simply, science believes that cannabis acts on specific pain pathways in the body. Cannabinoids have analgesic (pain-relieving) and anti-inflammatory properties. They work by suppressing pain signals sent to the brain and reducing inflammation.

A 2017 survey carried out in the USA found that 97% of those surveyed managed to reduce their use of Opioids when used as a substitute for other pain relief medication. Chronic pain accounts for the majority of prescriptions for medical marijuana. 

Cannabis topicals are oils, lotions, rubs, tinctures, and bath salts infused with THC and CBD and help enhance your general wellness. Topicals are effective for localized pain or skin conditions such as eczema. However, they are not adequate for long-term chronic back pain because cannabinoids cannot penetrate the skin, so they cannot reach the site and cause the problem.

If you want to try cannabis but avoid smoking or eating, you can try transdermal patches. This is a medicated adhesive patch stuck on the skin and delivers medication through the skin and into the bloodstream. While there is limited evidence that transdermal patches allow

cannabis to penetrate the skin, the effectiveness is questionable. Their use can lead to further health complications such as skin hypersensitivity or allergic reactions and rashes.

In terms of effective pain relief, this leaves you with the option of the old faithful two, eating or inhaling, so which is best? Edibles will give you pain relief; however, they have a reputation for taking a long time to kick in.

Therefore they are not ideal for sudden intense attacks of pain that may hit without warning. In their favour, however, once they have onset, edibles do have a more prolonged effect than inhalation. You can take them regularly to provide ongoing and consistent pain management for chronic unrelenting pain conditions.

Inhaling is, of course, the preferred choice of many. Smoking or vaping allows cannabis to be absorbed directly into the bloodstream giving quick relief, ideal for chronic pain that manifests suddenly and can disappear just as quickly. It will enable you to feel the benefits of pain relief when needed. It then wears off gently, meaning that you can continue with your day as planned.

Suppose the episodes of pain fluctuate in strength. Suppose you can smoke or vape throughout the day. In that case, inhaling is ideal as you can alter the amount of cannabis smoked accordingly. In that case, it is also a convenient way to keep a baseline of pain management throughout the day and give you the motivation to stay positive and get things done.

Liz Filmer