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Pain relief is one of the main reasons mature adults are using medical cannabis. And lower back pain is very common – and particularly problematic – for those of us over 40, as it affects our mobility, mood, and lifestyle. If you’re thinking about using medical cannabis to relieve lower back pain, continue reading to learn how cannabis may help relieve lower back pain. Plus we’ll discuss the cannabis strains, products, and ways to use it that could help you achieve the result you’re looking for.
How Common is Lower Back Pain?
If you suffer from mornings where you are waking up with lower back pain, you are not alone. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), about 80 percent of adults experience lower back pain at some point in their lifetimes. It is the most common cause of job-related disability and a leading contributor to missed work days. According to the American Chiropractic Association, “Low-back pain costs Americans at least $50 billion in health care costs each year. It is the third most common reason for doctor’s office visits, behind skin disorders and osteoarthritis/joint disorders.” For mature adults with back pain, a 2017 study found that it is “one of the major disabling health conditions among older adults aged 60 years or older.” The researchers noted that 80 percent of older adults in long-term care facilities suffered from musculoskeletal pain, one-third of which was lower back pain. The study also revealed that older adults’ pain was often underreported and treatment was inadequate.
Types of Lower Back Pain
Lower back pain can range in intensity from a dull, constant ache to a sudden, sharp sensation that leaves the person incapacitated. There is no single cause or point of origin for lower back pain. It can begin abruptly as a result of an accident or by lifting something heavy, or it can develop over time due to age-related changes of the spine. Sedentary lifestyles also can set the stage for lower back pain, especially when a weekday routine of not much exercise is their normal routine. Older weekend warriors — people who go out and exercise after being inactive all week are more likely to suffer painful back injuries than people who make moderate physical activity a daily habit.
Information from NINDS shows that most lower back pain is short term and lasts a few days to a few weeks. It tends to resolve on its own with the right self-care, and people generally recover. Chronic back pain is defined as pain that persists for 12 weeks or longer, even after an initial injury or underlying cause has been treated. In some cases, treatment successfully relieves chronic lower back pain, but in other cases, pain persists despite medical and surgical treatment.
The first attack of lower back pain typically occurs between the ages of 30 and 50, and back pain becomes more common the older we get. As people grow older, loss of bone strength from osteoporosis can lead to fractures, and at the same time, muscle elasticity and tone decrease. The discs in our vertebrae begin to lose fluid and flexibility with age which decreases their ability to cushion the vertebrae. This also decreases the amount of space between the vertebrae on either side of the disk, possibly leading to pain and discomfort.
How Can Cannabis Help Relieve Lower Back Pain?
THC, CBD, and Terpenes are three prominent elements in cannabis (among others) which play a synergistic, integral role in fighting pain. THC produces the euphoric effects or “high” in cannabis which many people find helpful in alleviating pain. CBD appears to balance THC’s euphoric effects, reduces anxiety, and studies show it is helpful for reducing pain and inflammation. Terpenes are what gives all plants their flavors, aromas, and potential medicinal benefits. In cannabis, the presence of certain terpenes helps determine how it affects your body. Terpenes may induce relaxation, sedation, and stimulation in complimenting the effects of THC and CBD. When you’re talking with a cannabis expert about a particular strain, the terpenes are just as important as the THC and CBD content.
Choosing the Right Cannabis Strain to Relieve Lower Back Pain
The science of medical cannabis is still evolving which means some experimentation on your part may be necessary. Our bodies react differently to the compounds within cannabis strains creating different results from person to person. To help give you a starting point, we looked at several popular strains for dealing with lower back pain, and keep in mind there are many more that may help.
For the strains listed below, you’ll see that the general THC to CBD ratio and main terpenes fluctuate. They may also vary depending on the source of the strain, and whether it is a natural flower or processed cannabis product like an oil, concentrate, tincture, etc.
When deciding what cannabis strain is best for your lower back pain, it’s important to consider what time of day you’re planning on using the cannabis product, the kind of lower back pain you’re experiencing, and the level of psychoactivity you’re comfortable experiencing.
OG Kush – an indica-dominant hybrid with a high THC to low CBD ratio. Its terpenes are Aryophyllene, D-Limonene, and Beta-Myrcene. OG Kush can be very effective for pain, but users will often experience high levels of psychoactivity. OG Kush has very low levels of CBD, less than 1%, but it shows promise beyond just its high levels of THC. People often use the OG Kush strain for:
- Chronic pain
- Muscle spasms
Harlequin – a sativa-dominant hybrid strain of marijuana. Since Harlequin is CBD heavy, it helps reduce inflammation and pain with little to no psychoactivity. Its terpenes are Linalool, Beta-Myrcene, Alpha-Pinene, D-Limonene, and Beta-Caryophyllene. People often use the Harlequin strain for:
- Chronic pain
- Muscle spasms
- Chronic pain
- Chronic pain
Choosing the Right Cannabis Product, Method and Dosage
There are a variety of cannabis products for adults seeking relief from lower back pain. Your preferred way to use cannabis also plays a large part in how it may affect your body. Topicals like salves, lotions, and balms may provide relief in a specific area of your body. If you have time for a relaxing soak in the tub, bath soaks take it a step further with full body relief. For immediate relief after waking up with lower back pain, smoking and vaping tend to provide fast-acting whole-body results followed by tinctures and edibles. Many older adults suffering from back pain use microdosing to medicate throughout their day. This generally means limiting a dose of THC to between 2.5 and 10 milligrams.Edibles and tinctures are a consistent, convenient, and discreet way to microdose, and many edibles like mints, chocolates, gummies, cookies, and beverages are delicious as well.
So, if you’re thinking about using medical cannabis to relieve lower back pain, Three Wells is here for you as you explore and learn about different cannabis medication choices. Of course, before adding cannabis to your pain management regimen, always consult your doctor or health care professional.