Does CBD oil for chronic back pain work?
For the 16 million adults in the US who experience persistent pain or inflammation, that’s a burning question that’s being asked more and more these days. Ever since the passage of the Hemp Farm Act of 2018, which made hemp-derived CBD oil federally legal in all 50 states, cannabidiol (CBD) has quickly become one of the leading natural remedies for pain management.
Despite the popularity of CBD for chronic back pain, perhaps you’ve heard mixed things about it. Maybe on a TV show, an “expert” said that there is no proof that it works. But maybe you’ve also heard plenty of anecdotal evidence that it’s a miracle worker. Or maybe the answer for some people is somewhere in between.
If you’re considering using CBD products for pain management, it may seem overwhelming to know how to distinguish marketing hype from legitimate science and efficacy.
Before buying and trying, here’s what you need to know about using it for pain relief. This article will cover the three main reasons why CBD oil may in fact help relieve chronic back pain—provided it’s the right type of CBD oil and it’s applied correctly at the recommended dosage.
Also covered in this article:
- How CBD oil works to relieve chronic back pain
- Research that supports using CBD for pain and inflammation
- Best CBD dosage for back pain
- CBD creams and lotions vs CBD oil (tincture): what’s better for pain management?
- Using CBD oil for nerve inflammation
- Is CBD oil intoxicating? (Will it get you high?)
- The best type CBD oil for chronic back pain
How Serious Is Chronic Back Pain?
Some people associate back pain as a minor annoyance, an intermittent condition that may keep you off the golf course or tennis court every once in a while. But chronic back pain, a condition that affects roughly 8 percent of all adults in the US, is as serious as death and taxes.
Persistent back pain is one of the biggest things that denies Americans a high quality of life. Simple daily tasks such as tying shoelaces or lifting a package off the ground can be a miserably-frightening, paralyzing experience.
Moreover, the economic burden caused by the condition is steep. Georgetown University estimates that health care costs attributed to back pain exceed $12 billion a year. This makes back pain the sixth most costly medical condition in the nation. Collectively, Americans call in sick over 80 million times a year because of back pain.
In light of these facts, it’s no wonder millions of Americans over the last several years have tried to manage their pain with prescription synthetic opiate drugs (opioids).
However, as the devastation of the opioid epidemic has revealed, these medications are highly addictive—and far too often, deadly. According to 2018 data from the American Psychiatry Association, two million Americans were addicted to prescription painkillers. Tragically, in 2017, there were 17,000 overdose deaths attributed to prescription opioids.
It’s no wonder that more and more people are turning to CBD oil for chronic back pain.
Reason #1 To Consider CBD Oil For Chronic Back Pain: It’s Safer
Unlike synthetic opiates, CBD is non-habit forming. On one hand, if you select a CBD oil that offers relief for chronic back pain, you should make a habit out of using it every day, optimally, twice a day or more.
However, pure CBD oil is non-habit forming.
If you find a high-quality, pure CBD oil that works to manage your pain, you may become addicted to the positive outcomes. But you won’t develop a physical addiction to CBD.
Reason #2: It’s More Affordable.
In comparison to prescription opiates, surgery and other chronic pain relief options, CBD oil is far less costly. Arguably the world’s most notorious pharmaceutical pain pill, OxyContin costs $6 per 80-mg pill, the dose for severe chronic pain. Paying out of pocket for OxyContin costs hundreds or even thousands of dollars a month. This steep cost explains the huge illicit market in opioid drugs.
Then, of course, there’s the heart-breaking cost of opioid drugs, which has devastated communities all across the country.
How much can you expect to pay for CBD? For a one-month dose of CBD oil you can expect to pay anywhere between $50 to $150.
Usually in life, you get what you pay for. That’s not always the case with CBD oil. However, if a product that includes hemp or CBD is very cheap, that’s a good indication it won’t work for chronic back pain.
Reason #3: CBD Oil For Chronic Back Pain Can Be Effective
The fact that industrial hemp-derived CBD is non-addictive and relatively inexpensive are two big advantages. But if you have persistent back pain, the thing you probably want to know first and foremost is this: does it work?
Unfortunately, there’s no yes or no uniform answer. The only one-word answer that applies is: maybe.
And the reason for this is that CBD oil is currently not regulated by the FDA. As such, all CBD products are considered dietary supplements—not drugs. Like other dietary supplements such as vitamins, not all CBD products are created equal. Some are of very high quality while others are made by manufacturers with poor quality assurance standards.
(The only FDA-approved CBD drug is Epidiolex, which is used to treat two rare and severe forms of epilepsy.)
Despite the lack of federal regulation, CBD has been the focus of dozens of research studies. To date, researchers have identified over 100 chemicals in the cannabis plant. The majority of the research from cannabis compounds have focused on THC and CBD. And now that industrial hemp is legal in all 50 U.S. states, a flurry of studies on CBD have been conducted.
One persistent problem of CBD research is lack of uniformity in product quality, product type and dosage consistency. If the FDA issues guidance or outright regulates the industry, perhaps this will result in more consistent controls in clinical trials and weed out unscrupulous manufacturers and distributors.
But the good news is that high-quality, pure CBD oil has demonstrated very promising results for chronic pain in preliminary research studies.
What Does The Research Say About CBD Oil For Chronic Back Pain?
According to an article from 2020 on Harvard Medical School’s website, “CBD may prove to be an option for managing anxiety, insomnia, and chronic pain.”
Harvard adds that “CBD may offer an option for treating different types of chronic pain,”
pointing to a study from the European Journal of Pain that showed that when CBD is used topically it may help lower arthritis-associated pain and inflammation.
Furthermore, Harvard references another study that demonstrated how CBD inhibits inflammatory and neuropathic pain. These two types of pain, Harvard describes, are two of the most difficult types of chronic pain to treat.
A study from 2020 published in Frontiers in Pharmacology also offered a favorable conclusion for chronic pain management using CBD. Clinical evidence suggests that CBD acts as an analgesic (pain reliever), the researchers noted.
The above study laid out the pros and cons for using CBD to treat chronic pain. The positives:
- Effective for intractable pain
- Improves quality of life
- Makes other pain relievers such as NSAIDs more effective
- Improves sleep quality
As for the downsides, a few were mentioned above, including the lack of regulation for commercial CBD products. Other considerations include the lack of long-term studies.
How Does CBD Oil Help For Chronic Back Pain?
The truth is, researchers don’t have all the answers. But here’s what’s known thus far…
In the early 1990s, two chemists working in Israel, while researching THC, the psychoactive chemical in marijuana, discovered what would eventually become to be known as the endocannabinoid system, or the ECS.
The ECS is perhaps the least understood system in the body and without doubt one of the most important. It functions as the body’s chief operating system or master regulator. And in doing so, it promotes homeostasis in the body. You can think of homeostasis as a perfectly-running engine in a car.
By maintaining homeostasis, the ECS regulates virtually every marker of health and wellness in the human body such as the immune system, sleep, metabolism, mood, and pain and inflammation.
Pure CBD oil for chronic pain works by interacting with the body’s internal cannabinoid receptors. This, in turn, activates the body’s internal cannabinoid system (or endocannabinoid system). ECS receptors are located throughout the internal human body. Dogs, cats and all other animals also have an internal cannabinoid system. (Which is why many pet owners administer CBD to their dogs and cats for joint pain.)
People living with obesity, type 2 diabetes as well as chronic pain may have a dysfunction of the endocannabinoid system. This means that their internal cannabinoid receptors are essentially dormant. CBD is an external cannabinoid which can indirectly activate receptors to spring into action, thereby regulating homeostasis.
According to Benjamin S. Gonzàlez, MD, Medical Director of the Atlantis Medical Wellness Center in Silver Spring, MD, “There are specific glycine [an amino acid] receptors that have been found to interact with cannabinoids that mitigate pain, especially in the central nervous system.” CBD, Gonzàlez adds, has “multiple mechanisms for pain relief that we have not figured it all out yet.”
In short, researchers believe that compounds in the cannabis sativa plant, including CBD, by activating ECS receptors, dampen pain signals to the brain.
CBD Back Pain Dosage: How Much Is The Most Effective & Safe?
Because CBD is unregulated, there is no uniform dosage recommendation for severe pain. Complicating matters is the fact that there are many different kinds of CBD products, from tinctures, to gummies, capsules, bath bombs and more.
Reputable brands of CBD products include a dosage guide on their website or in the package insert. Dosage recommendations are based on body weight and pain severity. For example, a person weighing 140-179 pounds with severe back pain may try a 1 mL dose once or twice per day.
“Because there is no set standards and poor regulation, many of the topical cream forms are not consistent and sometimes has little to no actual CBD,” says Dr. Gonzàlez, who decides on patient dosage depending on the condition he is treating, if the patient is on other medications, and the size of the person.
“The range for chronic back pain can be anywhere from 20 mg to 100 mg 2 to 3 times a day,” says Dr. Gonzàlez, who has a staff member that had chronic back pain and knee pain for years. “CBD has outright eliminated his pain at the 30 mg twice a day under tongue dosage,” Dr. Gonzàlez claims.
When it comes to applying CBD topically, Dr. Gonzàlez recommends mixing pure CBD Drops in pure topical aloe vera (with no added colors or preservatives), and mixing it and applying to the problem area.
Although he has several years experience fine-tuning CBD dosage for chronic back pain, Dr. Gonzàlez says, “There does need to be more studies to allow for better standards.”
What’s Better For Back Pain, Ingesting CBD Oil or Can You Rub CBD Oil on Your Back?
The short answer is that you may want to use CBD both internally and topically. By using CBD drops (this term is interchangeable with ‘tincture’ and ‘oil’) under the tongue (sublingually), you will activate your body’s internal cannabinoid receptors; this may help block pain signalling to the brain. And by applying CBD oil topically, you can help dull the pain directly at the site.
CBD oil can be applied to massage oils, balms, salves, creams, lotions and to other topical applications.
Does CBD Oil With Nerve Pain In The Back?
As mentioned earlier, Harvard University says CBD may help improve neuropathic pain, which is caused by damage to the nerves. Harvard made that conclusion based on the findings of Canadian researchers, who reviewed 11 clinical trials, involving over 1,200 patients.
How Long Does It Take For CBD Oil To Work For Back & Joint Pain?
Because everybody is biochemically unique, it’s difficult to say how long it will take to work. Some people may experience positive outcomes immediately while for others, it may take a few weeks. And for some people, especially those that use inferior-quality CBD products, no positive outcomes will be felt.
Will CBD For Chronic Pain Make Me Feel High?
By law, industrial hemp-derived CBD cannot exceed 0.3% THC. Again, THC is the chemical in marijuana that makes users feel stoned. However, even if a CBD product contains the upper limit of THC, this is an amount that will not make you feel high.
Some CBD users report feeling more relaxed. But 0.3% THC is an amount considered non-intoxicating. (CBD and THC are both derived from the cannabis sativa plant. Cannabis can be selectively bred to grow hemp or marijuana.)
What’s The Best Type of CBD Oil For Back Pain?
The cannabis plant contains at least 100 different molecules, of which CBD is but one. Researchers believe that the so-called “entourage effect” of the different molecules contributes to the pain-relieving ability of cannabis. The entourage effect means that the sum of these compounds is greater than the sum of the individual parts.
Full-spectrum CBD oil contains several cannabinoids as well as terpenes. Terpenes are the chemicals in flowers that you can taste and smell. Tasting and smelling terpenes has been proven to activate the brain’s limbic system, which can improve mood and well-being.
With the passage of the Hemp Farm Act of 2018, you don’t have to visit a dispensary to purchase full spectrum CBD oil. You can purchase pure, full-spectrum CBD Oil with the entourage effect online.
Just make sure you choose a brand that prominently displays lab results that certify each batch of CBD oil for purity and THC content. To reduce your exposure to potentially-harmful pesticides, choose a CBD oil that’s made from organic hemp.
If you’re looking for a brand of CBD that meets rigid standards for purity, quality and safety, try Max & Steven’s Full Spectrum CBD Drops.
Conclusion: CBD For Chronic Back Pain
Although more research is necessary, high-quality CBD oil has been deemed in many studies to be an effective remedy for pain management. It’s non-habit forming, non-intoxicating, relatively affordable and very easy to use. Just make sure you choose a reputable brand that’s meticulously third-party tested for purity.