Medical Marijuana for Chronic Back Pain

Medical marijuana or medical cannabis can be used to treatback pain. But to understand how medical marijuana treats back pain, whetherupper 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 cannabisdoes to affect the body.

Medical marijuana patients in my practice understand thatback 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 statethat physical stress from a traumatic car accident, a slip and fall injury, ora sports related injury is often linked to the pain. The key to identifying atraumatic injury is a significant change in pain level over a small period oftime.  However, the most common source ofpain according to medical marijuana patients is manual labor or sports relatedwear and tear. This type of pain source occurs gradually. However, 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 have a drastically different lifestylethan our ancestors did.  Going back asrecently as 200-300 years, the human beings of today walk less, are in moremotor vehicle accidents, participate in high impact exercise but overall usetheir bodies less, sit more, are heavier, and have a more constant low level ofstress.

Many patients who seek medical marijuana cards are lookingfor pain relief for their lower back.  The common medical marijuana patient has seenmultiple health care practitioners. They have seen their primary care physicianand 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” orspinal stenosis. They have seen their chiropractor and are often diagnosed with“scoliosis.” They have tried ibuprofen, Advil, Motrin, and opioids for theirpain. They might have had cortisone injections or back surgery. The commonthread is that they still have persistent back pain. It often wakes them up inthe night or prevents them from sleeping. They often have symptoms of painshooting down their leg (sciatica). They come to the medical marijuana doctoras they have heard from many of their friends how medical cannabis has helpedtheir pain.

How effective is medical marijuana in treating back pain?Studies have shown that cannabinoids in medical cannabis are most effective intreating neuropathic pain, such as the pain associated with sciatica. Medicalmarijuana use has also been reported by medical marijuana patients to relaxmuscle spasms that aggravate or are often the source of the back pain.  Many medical marijuana patients often reportthat the tension associated with the back pain is what really bothers them andmedical marijuana helps “relax” the pain. Many medical marijuana patients alsostate that medical marijuana distracts them from the pain and helps them to notfixate 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 usefulin treating mild to moderate pain as well, if not better than, opioids such ascodeine, Vicodin, Norco, OxyContin, Dilaudid. For immediate relief of painsmoking is superior to other methods. An under the tongue spray is also helpfulfor immediate relief. For long lasting pain relief oral medication or ediblemarijuana is suggested.

Of course, just managing the pain with a rescue medicationlike medical marijuana won’t fix your back. Pain management using medical cannabis is intended to allow you toexercise with the pain and the ability to work on things like flexibility, corestabilization, and weight loss in order to reduce your risk of back injuriesnow and in the future. You should be doing abdominal exercises three times aweek for at least five minutes. These exercises that help lower back paininclude plank dynamic and isometric exercises, crunches, Pilates. What aboutYoga? Many of my patients who use medical marijuana do participate in Yoga andstate 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 Yogathat can be stressful for the back. It is also important to stretch yourhamstrings, so at least 3 times a week for five minutes attempt to touch yourtoes. If you are sitting or standing a long period of time, I suggest you alsowear a mover’s belt. Besides adding support to your already injured and spasmback muscles, a mover’s belt will compress the inflammation in your back.

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