Back pain is the second most common cause for doctor’s visits in America, with approximately 65 million Americans suffering from some sort of back injury (sports, vehicle accident, etc.). Lower back pain affects approximately 1 in every 4 adults between the ages of 30 and 50 which is due in part to a sedentary lifestyle and the aging process.
Back pain can be nociceptive or neuropathic; Nociceptive pain is caused by diseased tissues outside the nerves with pain that is described as described as a sharp, throbbing, aching pain; Neuropathic pain is caused by damage to a nerve with pain described as a burning, heavy sensation, often with a numbness along the course of the affected nerve, Most patients who seek medical attention for their back pain will have some sort of medical evaluation such as X-rays, MRI or CT scan and in some cases a bone scan or myelogram. Unfortunately, there are many times that the cause of back pain cannot be determined.
Patients suffering from acute pain that occurs more than 3 times a year or who go through long periods of back pain that effects daily activities like driving the car, standing, sitting, walking, bending and sleeping are more likely to develop chronic back problems. Some patients with chronic pain don’t respond to conventional treatments and have to find a way to deal with the pain which is extremely difficult and can lead to drug addiction, insomnia, depression and anxiety.
Complex pain receptors are present in the spine and its surrounding tissue so injury to any of the spine’s structures (vertebrae, joints and discs between each vertebrae, ligaments, tendons, muscles, nerve roots etc.) will be recognized as pain. In most cases, low back pain problems clear up in around 6 weeks. Unfortunately, around 10% of cases, back pain becomes chronic, usually caused by a bulging or herniated disc, spinal stenosis, myofascial pain (pain in the muscle and encompassing connective tissue) or due to a narrowing of the opening the spinal nerves pass through.
The Pain Treatment of Choice
Medical marijuana has become the chronic pain treatment of choice for many patients and it comes with minimal side effects. Conventional pain treatment remedies, including over the counter inflammatory and non-steroidal like aspirin, naproxen sodium and ibuprofen (NSAIDS) can be helpful, but they also come with side effects that include nausea, ulcers and gastric bleeding. Prescription medications like Celebrex (other NSAIDS) or Norco and Vicodin (opiates) can be effective at treating pain, however they also cause a long list of adverse side effects including their addiction potential. A lot of people have tried to live with the pain to avoid taking prescription medications because of their side effects but now many are considering using medical marijuana and those who have been using this healing herb have found it to be a very effective remedy for their chronic back pain.
How Medical Marijuana Helps Chronic Back Pain
- Reduces and/or eliminates pain, allowing patients to live active lives
- Reduces or eliminates the need to take medications that have dangerous side effects include addictive properties
- You’ll experience a sense of relief knowing you’re using a safe and natural solution for chronic pain
- Reduces or eliminates depression, anxiety, nausea and problems sleeping
- You will have better quality of life
Scientists have discovered that there are more than 100 distinctive molecules in the marijuana plant referred to as cannabinoids. Some examples of cannabinoids include psychoactive THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and non-psychoactive cannabinoids (CBD or cannabidiol). These cannabinoids work by binding to the natural receptors found throughout our bodies known as endocannabinoid receptors, exerting a wide array of positive medical benefits that include the relief of inflammation, muscle spasms, pain, inflammation, insomnia and anxiety and depression.
Cannabinoid CBD in particular shows promise for being particularly effective in the treatment of muscle spasm, nerve pain, insomnia and anxiety, all symptoms that can be caused by lower chronic back pain problems. CBD is more dominant in marijuana strains identified as Indica.
A recent study at the Spine Center at University of Coloradoís Spine Center analyzed in 200 patients that suffered from degenerative disc issues and other back pains. The results of the study were that 89% of the test subjects that ingested marijuana, said it moderately or greatly relieved their back pain and 81% said it worked as well as or much better than narcotic pain relievers. Patients in the study that used the marijuana only did so one or twice a day. (http://www.medpagetoday.com/MeetingCoverage/AdditionalMeetings/42228?xid=nl_mpt_DHE_2013-10-12)
Several additional studies have found that marijuana is often associated with some kind of improvement in when it came to back pain symptoms. In 2010, Scientists from McGill University and McGill University Health Center found that patients with chronic neuropathic pain encountered pain relief, better quality of sleep and improved mood after smoking marijuana. Researchers at Imperial College London discovered, reported in the journal Anerthesiology, that Cannador, another marijuana plant extract, successfully relieves pain after major surgery.
Side Effects of Medical marijuana
Side effects from medical marijuana are minimal and include sleepiness, increased appetite and dry mouth in some cases. Opiates and other prescription medications come with a long list of dangerous side effects, many more (and more severe) than marijuana. As with most prescription medications, you should avoid driving or operating heavy machinery when using medical marijuana. Wait a minimum of 1 to 2 hours after medicating before getting behind the wheel.
Medical marijuana is becoming the treatment of choice for more and more chronic back pain patients. In fact, due to its broad range of medical benefits, some back pain patients have even been able to eliminate some, or in a few cases all, of their prescription medications by using medical marijuana. If nothing else, marijuana can improve the pain relieving effects of opiates and vaporized marijuana has been shown to significantly augment the analgesic effects of some prescription pain killers in patients suffering with chronic pain. It’s important to note that there are several ways to use marijuana besides smoking it including tinctures, topical applications, vaporization and edible products.