Medical cannabis can be an effective treatment for lower back
As many as 23 percent of people worldwide have chronic back pain,
Treating lower back pain effectively can be challenging, although pain relievers, physical therapy, cortisone injections or in some cases, surgery, can often provide some level of relief for patients. Alternative therapies include medical cannabis, acupuncture, biofeedback and chiropracty. For most people, lower back pain will last from a few days to a few weeks, although nearly a quarter of patients will experience chronic symptoms for an extended period of time.
Dr. Dror Robinson and Dr. Mustafa Yassin of the Orthopedics Department of Hasharon Hospital of the Rabin Medical Center in Petah Tikva, and Sivan Ritter of the University of Haifa, recently conducted a study on medical cannabis as a treatment for lower back pain. The results of the study, which was recently published in the Rambam Maimonides Medical Journal, determined that medical cannabis could be an effective treatment for lower back pain.
The team of researchers studied a small group of 24 patients with a diagnosis for a herniated disk or spinal stenosis, giving them separate treatments with two forms of medical cannabis. First, patients were given a sublingual extract rich in cannabidiol (CBD) for a period of 10 months. Then, after a month of no treatment, the patients were given dried cannabis flower rich in Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Delta-9 THC), the primary psychoactive compound in marijuana. Patients smoked the cannabis flower rolled into joints over a period of 12 months.
Side effects reported by the participants, which included seven women and 17 men, included nausea, drowsiness, dizziness, sore throat and fatigue. Most side effects were mild and disappeared after participants reached dose tolerance.
Inhaled THC Worked Better Than Sublingual CBD for Lower Back Pain
The researchers determined that the CBD sublingual extract did not dramatically relieve participants’ lower back pain over time. But the team was impressed by the pain relief provided by smoked cannabis flower.
“Our findings indicate that inhaled THC-rich therapy is more effective than CBD-rich sublingual extract therapy for treating low back pain and that cannabis therapy is safe and effective for chronic low back pain,” the researchers wrote,
Many physicians who recommend medical cannabis for their patients prefer sublingual extracts because they can be easier to dose and use. Sublingual administration also often is easier to obtain from pharmacies in Israel and makes consistent dosing more practical while avoiding the negative health aspects associated with smoking. But the doctors involved in the study noted that their clinical experience with patients in the real world “indicates a relative lack of efficiency of sublingual extract treatments compared to smoking.”
The researchers noted some limitations of the study, including the lack of standardized forms of medical cannabis, particularly dried cannabis flower.
“A major obstacle to the widespread legal use of medical cannabinoid-based (CB) therapy is the lack of sufficient evidence-based data. However, the naturally occurring variation among and between the phytoconstituents of different cannabis cultivars makes it difficult to quantitate and compare studies and subjects,” they wrote.