Back pain is the leading cause of disability and work absence, and roughly one in four people experience at least one day of back pain in a three-month period. The spine and surrounding muscles and tissue are an intricate, essential, and fundamental part of our physiological structure, bearing a person’s body weight and its everyday tasks, day after day. There is a large and varied array of reasons and causes that lead to back pain such as muscle spasms, disk problems, sciatica, arthritis, pregnancy, and trauma to name just a few.
Chronic back pain (pain that is ongoing and lasts more than three months) conditions are often the most debilitating and can really affect quality of life while requiring ongoing pain management. People can spend years trying to find the right mix of treatment in both the medical and holistic spheres. Medical pain relief can involve ingesting some very strong substances that can cause unwanted side effects or dependency.
Prescription painkillers are notoriously addictive, with opioids such as Codeine, morphine, and Oxycodone being the most powerful and most widely used. They are usually prescribed for people suffering from long- term pain because they block the nerve signals that transmit feelings of pain to your brain, bringing feelings of pleasure, which is why they are so addictive. Over time, your tolerance to these drugs can increase, requiring more of the painkiller to achieve the same effect.
Common side effects of opioids include nausea, drowsiness, dizziness, itching, sweating, depression, and a weakened immune system. It is no surprise, then, that many people are reluctant to take such medication long- term and instead look for alternative pain relief. One of these alternatives is cannabis.
Cannabis helps to alleviate back pain through its cannabinoids. Cannabinoids have analgesic (pain-relieving) and anti-inflammatory properties and work by suppressing pain signals that are sent to the brain while also reducing inflammation. The effects cannabis has on pain are rather complicated but to put it simply, science believes cannabis acts on specific pain pathways in the body.
There is a wealth of evidence available on the use of cannabis as a solution for chronic pain conditions such as back pain, arthritis, MS, and cancer. One example is a 2017 survey carried out in the US that found when used as a substitute for other pain relief medication, 97 percent of those surveyed managed to reduce their use of opioids. Furthermore, 81 percent of the participants agreed strongly that cannabis alone was more effective at treating their condition than their regular medication. Chronic pain accounts for most prescriptions of medical marijuana. So, let’s have a look at the best ways to use cannabis for pain relief.
Cannabis and Pain Relief
In terms of effective pain relief, there are two options: inhaling or edibles. Topicals such as oils, lotions, and even transdermal patches don’t penetrate the skin into the bloodstream and have been found to be largely ineffective for intense pain like back pain.
Edibles will give you pain relief but take a long time to kick in as the cannabis has to be broken down and passed into the bloodstream via digestion, so are not ideal for sudden intense attacks of pain. Once they have onset, however, edibles do have a longer lasting effect than inhalation and so can be used at regular time intervals like medicinal pain relief to provide a steady constant base of pain management for chronic unrelenting pain conditions.
Inhaling is the preferred choice of many and for good reason. Inhaling allows cannabis to be absorbed directly into the bloodstream giving quick relief, ideal for chronic pain that manifests suddenly. Smoking or vaping allows you to feel the benefits of pain relief when you need it and then wears off relatively quickly, allowing you to continue with your day/work/everyday tasks unaffected.
If the episodes of pain fluctuate in strength, then inhaling is also ideal as you can alter the amount of cannabis smoked accordingly. Smoking or vaping throughout the day is a convenient way to keep a baseline of pain management while giving you the motivation to keep positive and get things done as constant back pain can cause depression, fatigue, and a lack of motivation and enjoyment of life.
Find the Right Strain
So, what cannabis strains are best for treating and managing the symptoms of back pain? It really depends on what kind of pain you have. Is it constant and dull? Acute and unpredictable? Do you have any further side effects from the pain such as depression or insomnia? Here are a few of the most popular and widely available strains that are considered effective at managing back pain to give you an idea.
OG Kush — An indica-dominant psychoactive strain with high levels of THC (23 percent) and low levels of CBD (one percent). It gives a euphoric high, relieving pain and muscle spasms.
Gorilla Glue — A well-balanced hybrid strain with high levels of THC (25 percent). It is a strong strain that will leave you couch-locked for a few hours and is a good choice for serious back injuries that produce a chronic pain condition. It is also a good choice for those suffering with associated insomnia as its strength induces deep peaceful sleep.
ACDC — A sativa-dominant hybrid that is high in CBD (16-24 percent) and low in THC (0.4-1.2 percent). The high CBD means it has hardly any psychoactive side effects but it is a brilliant pain killer for chronic pain conditions.
Any budtender worth their salt in your local dispensary will be able to guide you to a perfect strain, perhaps with a little trial and error. That really is the beauty of cannabis — it can be personalized if you are prepared to do your research and sample a selection of strains in order to find the perfect fit for you and hopefully the perfect solution to your pain predicaments.