Chronic back pain can be brought on by multiple different causes, whether it’s a lingering muscle strain, a legitimate injury, deformity, or a rheumatic disease. No matter the cause, it’s one of the most debilitating types of pain for any person to navigate. It can impact walking, quality of sleep, and of course, hold you back from leading an active life. And while standard back pain and lower back pain affects nearly everyone at some point for nearly any reason, once the pain is present for more than three months, it is deemed chronic. That level of pain can lead to debilitating symptoms that cross the threshold into even disability. It could be linked to a single muscle strain or even a specific degenerative disc disease or herniated disc, but in the case of more general causes, disability benefits typically can’t be granted without a specific diagnosis for what’s causing the pain. This means leaving your pain untreated and unchecked can have severe impacts on one’s quality of life.
What causes most chronic back pain?
-Sprains and muscles strains are the most common causes of back pain. Tearing a ligament will cause a sprain while tears to a tendon or muscle will result in a strain. In both cases, you’ve likely suffered this by overuse or by lifting something improperly.
-A herniated disc is the result of a compressed disc that bulges outward or ruptures.
-Sciatica is a form of radiculopathy resulting from compression of the sciatic nerve. It causes shock-like or burning pain in the lower back combined with pain through the buttocks and through the leg. It can even travel as far down as the feet.
-Scoliosis or a curvature of the spine can bring on pain in middle age.
-Radiculopathy is brought on by an injury to a spinal nerve root. Pressure on the nerve root creates pain, numbness, or a tingling sensation that’s felt in other areas of the body that are served by that nerve.
-Spinal stenosis puts pressure on the spinal cord and nerves that can cause numbness when walking.
-Intervertebral disc degeneration usually comes from aging. As our discs deteriorate, they lose their cushioning ability.
-Spondylolisthesis comes from a lower vertebra slipping out of place and pinching the nerves.
Surgery, prescription pain medications, and physical therapy when applicable are all common treatments. For a myriad of reasons, many people choose to use CBD for chronic back pain as a way to avoid other options. A big reason for that is because some chronic pain actually can’t be cured, it can only be endured or alleviated. Nerve blocks, steroids, or surgeries carry several risks and possible side effects, while CBD for chronic pain is considered a natural remedy for that same pain.
So how does one use CBD for chronic back pain? And why or how is it better than any other number of treatment options, from surgery to opioids? Any research on CBD for chronic back pain or any of CBD’s many health uses will inevitably start with our endocannabinoid system or ECS, cell receptors and molecules in the brain, organs, connective tissues, glands, and immune cells. The ECS has the ability to help your body maintain homeostasis — “the tendency of organisms to auto-regulate and maintain their internal environment in a stable state.” This has an effect on everything from sleep to your mood, appetite, memory, and of course, pain, which helps us start to understand how this impacts treating chronic back pain.
And while cannabinoids like THC have a psychoactive effect (the compound in cannabis that creates a euphoric high), CBD does not affect the same receptors and has no psychoactive effect on the body or brain. The body produces its own endocannabinoids while CBD influences the body to use them more effectively. It either activates or inhibits other compounds in the endocannabinoid system. For example, CBD is known to stop the body from absorbing anandamide, which is a compound associated with regulating pain. Increasing levels of anandamide in the bloodstream can therefore reduce the levels of pain a person feels. With this understanding of CBD, we can start to see how we can use CDB for chronic back pain or really any kind of chronic pain.
When it comes to actual use, it’s common to build a consistent regimen. CBDs are essentially used as a preventative for pain — the same as you would take a daily dietary supplement or vitamin. CBD is fundamentally different from typically prescribed painkillers because it’s not addictive. Studies have concluded that daily doses of CBD (700mg) for 6 weeks did not induce any toxicity in patients, meaning long-term daily consumption of CBD is also safe. In 2001, an NCBI study concluded that “does not induce changes on food intake, does not induce catalepsy, does not affect physiological parameters (heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature), does not affect gastrointestinal transit and does not alter psychomotor or psychological functions.”
That was 2001, meaning we’ve known for nearly two decades now that CBD doesn’t have the same psychoactive effects as THC.
But what ARE the possible negative side effects of using CBF for chronic back pain or any other use? Even regular use of over the counter aspirin can dull the body’s ability to reap its intended benefits and have other side effects on the body. Meanwhile, the list of known and understood side effects from CBD use are generally short and inconsequential, amounting to little more than possible drowsiness, or lightheadedness as a result of low blood pressure with very high doses of CBD. More recently, as we learn more and more about CBD use and its impact on our body, research is still supporting the efficacy of CBD for chronic pain relief. But our most basic understandings of CBD use for chronic back pain show that they can be as effective as prescribed treatments.