Medical Marijuana: Back Pain

Medical Marijuana Back Pain

Medical marijuana back pain patients in my practice understand that back pain can be caused by multiple factors. Emotional stress can cause backpain. The stressors of daily life increase our medical marijuana patients’ anxiety and this leads to increased muscle tension and pain.  Our medical marijuana patients also state that physical stress from a traumatic car accident, a slip and fall injury, or a sports related injury is often linked to the pain. Medical marijuana or medical cannabis can be used to treat back pain. But for the medical marijuana patient to understand how medical marijuana treats back pain, whether upper back, neck or lower back pain, we must discuss the causes of back pain, the types of medical cannabis, and what the different types of medical cannabis does to affect the body.The key to identifying a traumatic injury is a significant change in pain level over a small period of time.  However, the most common source ofpain according to medical marijuana patients is manual labor or sports related wear and tear. This type of pain source occurs gradually. No matter the causeof the back pain for the multiple patients seeking medical marijuana, thetreatment for each type of pain is often similar and combines lifestyle changesas well as natural medication that can help through the difficult pain periods.Many of our medical marijuana patients on initial visit have a drasticallydifferent lifestyle than our ancestors did. Going back as recently as 200-300 years, the presenting patient to the medical marijuana clinic of today walks less, are in more motor vehicle accidents, participate in high impact exercise but overall use their bodies less,sit more, are heavier, and have a more constant low level of stress instead of “healthy”stress periods.

Many patients who seek medical marijuana cards are looking for pain relief for their lower back.  The common medical marijuana back pain patient has seen multiple health care practitioners. They have seen their primary care physician and have x-rays an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) or CT (computed tomography)scan that may or may not show a “disc bulge”, “degenerative disc disease” or spinal stenosis. They have seen their chiropractor and are often diagnosed with“scoliosis.” They have tried ibuprofen, Advil, Motrin, and opioids for their pain. They might have had cortisone injections or back surgery. The common thread is that they still have persistent back pain. It often wakes them up in the night or prevents them from sleeping. They often have symptoms of pain shooting down their leg (sciatica). They come to the medical marijuana doctor as they have heard from many of their friends how medical cannabis has helped their pain.

How effective is medical marijuana in treating back pain? Studies have shown that cannabinoids in medical cannabis are most effective in treating neuropathic pain, such as the pain associated with sciatica. Medical marijuana use has also been reported by medical marijuana patients to relax muscle spasms that aggravate or are often the source of the back pain.  Many medical marijuana patients often report that the tension associated with the back pain is what really bothers them and medical marijuana helps “relax” the pain. Many medical marijuana patients also state that medical marijuana distracts them from the pain and helps them to not fixate on the pain or to be able to function in their daily lives with the pain.Medical cannabis especially cannabis Indica with high CBD (cannabidiol) is useful in treating mild to moderate pain as well, if not better than, opioids such as codeine, Vicodin, Norco, OxyContin, Dilaudid. For immediate relief of pain smoking is superior to other methods. An under the tongue spray is also helpful for immediate relief and reduces interference with the healing process that free radicals with smoking may cause. For long lasting pain relief oral medication or edible marijuana is suggested.

Of course, just managing the pain with a rescue medication like medical marijuana won’t fix your back. Pain management using medical cannabis is intended to allow you to exercise with the pain and the ability to work on things like flexibility, core stabilization, and weight loss in order to reduce your risk of back injuries now and in the future. You should be doing abdominal exercises three times a week for at least five minutes. These exercises that help lower back pain include plank dynamic and isometric exercises, crunches, Pilates.

What about Yoga? Many of my patients who use medical marijuana do participate in Yoga and state it has been helpful for them. If it is helpful for your back pain, continue yoga. However, there are many unnatural poses and positions in Yoga that can be stressful for the back. It is also important to stretch your hamstrings, so at least 3 times a week for five minutes attempt to touch your toes. If you are sitting or standing a long period of time, I suggest you also wear a mover’s belt. Besides adding support to your already injured and spasm back muscles, a mover’s belt will compress and minimize the inflammation in your back.

Medical marijuana is especially helpful for acute and chronic back pain due to its anti-inflammatory properties. The inflammatory cascade occurs after any injury or spasm to your back muscles and after an abdominal exercise regimen (which are micro-injuries). Thus after each exercise session and after an acute exacerbation of the back pain, direct ice should be applied to the injured or exercised area. The chronic back pain patient should also focus on compressing the injured muscle with a back brace. For excessive pain associated with inflammation medical marijuana should be considered to help enhance recovery and discomfort.

Medical marijuana can also be used in combination with myofascial release or deep tissue massage. Myofascial release focuses on releasing chronic muscle spasms and pain associate with the back spasms.Myofascial release therapists directly address the spasm my manually releasing the spasms. Besides strong hands, these therapists use their elbows knees and complete body weight to break up the muscle spasms. The therapist break down of muscle tissue also causes the inflammatory cascade. Thus this is another excellent time to use medical marijuana for the anti-inflammatory properties.

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