EducationCannabis for back pain management

Cannabis for back pain management

8 min read

Sam North

Cannabis for back pain management


Back pain. What starts as a small niggle can quickly spiral out of control, leading to a lifetime of chronic discomfort. And while there is a huge range of conventional pharmaceutical options available to help manage and control back pain, the need for new, effective therapeutic allies is ever-present. Opioids are the most commonly prescribed pain relief for chronic back aches, but the potential for addiction and other heavy side effects related to long-term opioid use has led to an increased focus on alternative therapeutic options.

Enter medicinal cannabis. This wonderful, interesting plant has long been heralded for its range of wellness boosting properties. Stretching as far back as 2800 BC (when cannabis was first documented to be administered medicinally for inflammation and pain reduction) to the present day, where medical researchers are finally being allowed access to conduct in-depth research into the potential therapeutic properties. 

The almost century long prohibition on cannabis has, unfortunately, ensured that the full potential of this plant as a therapeutic agent has been masked from medical research. However, with the increasing liberalization of cannabis laws, not just here in the UK, but globally, medical professionals are looking to cannabis as an alternative treatment option for those suffering from back pain.  

So, in today's write-up, we are going to look over everything there is to know regarding the efficacy of medicinal cannabis in reducing back pain and see exactly what the science has to say. 

How Cannabis Can Help With Back Pain?

Human spines, and the entire back, are complex structures filled with intricate muscle, bone, and nerve systems. Pain relief for any part of the back can be difficult to achieve, as there is just so much going on in the human back. Add to this veritable smorgasbord of separate health issues that can cause back pain and you are left with an almost impossible puzzle to solve, in many cases. 

Conventional pharmaceuticals, physical therapy, and surgery are all options, but there is no one-size-fits-all solution. This is where medicinal cannabis comes in - as a potential treatment option for chronic, hard-to-treat pain.  

How medical cannabis interacts with the body

You, I, and every single other human (as well as all mammals) have a vital system constantly working in the background that has the ability to interact with cannabinoids. The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is widely thought to be the most vital bodily system, and it has been linked to a range of different health issues – including pain management. 

Researchers believe that the main function of the ECS is to maintain homeostasis. In simpler terms, this means the ECS is constantly working to keep your body in a balanced state. This balance involves a range of bodily functions, including pain perception, inflammation, mood, sleep, and appetite. 

The ECS is made up of three main components: 

  • Endocannabinoids – signalling molecules produced by the body
  • Receptors – The CB1 and CB2 receptors allow cannabinoids to bind with them, which triggers a range of different effects
  • Metabolic enzymes – enzymes that break down the endo and phytocannabinoids 


That’s right. Any cannabinoid that is produced outside the human body is referred to as a phyto cannabinoid, and this includes the cannabinoids found in cannabis. 

So far, researchers have isolated 113 phytocannabinoids from cannabis, but the vast majority of research (so far) has been focused on the two major cannabinoids in cannabis - THC and CBD.

THC is the main intoxicating cannabinoid, which is why it is most often associated with producing the ‘high' that recreational users enjoy. But THC holds an extremely similar structure to one of our endocannabinoids, anandamide. This allows THC to interact with the CB1 receptor in a very similar way to anandamide, offering a range of possible therapeutic benefits. 

CBD, on the other hand, is completely non-intoxicating and can actually modulate the effects of THC. It is thought to interact with both the CB1 and CB2 receptors, although in a much weaker fashion than THC. It has also been shown to reduce the efficiency of the enzymes responsible for breaking down cannabinoids, which may lead to longer-lasting therapeutic effects of our own endocannabinoids. 

So far, research has shown that THC and CBD both offer potential pain management benefits, and anti-inflammatory and relaxation effects. 

What does the research say when it comes to medicinal cannabis and back pain?

At present, medicinal cannabis research is still in its infancy. As we mentioned earlier in the piece, the long-standing prohibition on cannabis has meant that very little research has been able to be conducted into the full potential of this plant as a therapeutic agent. 

However, the research that has been conducted so far has shown very promising results in multiple areas. And thankfully, as the social and political climate surrounding medicinal cannabis continues to improve, increasingly research is being conducted. 

When it comes to back pain in particular, there are a few key research papers we can look at.

The first, titled The Efficacy of Cannabis in Reducing Back Pain: A Systematic Review”, is a systematic review of four studies that met the inclusion criteria. The results of this paper, while not going into great depth regarding the underlying processes of medicinal cannabis in reducing the symptoms of back pain, did show a quantifiable advantage of cannabis therapy for alleviating back pain. The paper concludes that cannabis is effective in treating back pain with an acceptable side effect profile.

Another, this time titled "Medical Cannabis for Chronic Nonmalignant Pain Management”, found that patients reported finding some forms of symptomatic relief from cannabis consumption through various routes, and that cannabis administration has lesser adverse effects when compared directly with opioids, and it could even lessen opioid dependence.

Okay, but what are the process behind these purported therapeutic benefits?

This paper discusses the antioxidative and anti-Inflammatory properties of CBD. It found that CBD has potential beneficial pharmacological effects, including anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, and has therapeutic potential for many diseases. 

Inflammation is the main cause of many chronic pain conditions, including back pain. CBD is known to be a potent anti-inflammatory agent, suggesting it could help reduce inflammation related to back pain, as well as pain itself. 

This study, published in Molecules, looked at the treatment of pain and inflammation in rat models. It found that cannabinoids have potential therapeutic benefits in various clinical conditions such as pain, inflammation, epilepsy and sleep disorder. 

Another found that “after critically reviewing existing research on THC and pain relief, they concluded that cannabinoids can provide mild to moderate relief from pain, on a par with codeine.”  

So, while the need for further investigation is ever-present, the current research points towards medicinal cannabis being a safe and effective treatment option for chronic back pain.

How To Obtain Cannabis For Back Pain?

To obtain medicinal cannabis in the UK, you must first get a prescription from a doctor. Not all (in fact, very few) doctors in the UK are currently qualified and registered to prescribe medicinal cannabis, with less than 1% of potentially eligible patients successfully securing a prescription for medical cannabis in the UK.

Here at Releaf, we offer an all-in-one medicinal cannabis service, from consultation to doorstep delivery. We are anything but the only avenue for medicinal cannabis in the UK, so check with your GP to see if they are able to legally prescribe medicinal cannabis if you are considering it as an option for managing your chronic back pain.  And if not, there is a range of other options available to you.

Either way, once you have received your prescription, you are eligible to receive the best in medicinal cannabis. One of the great things about medical cannabis is that the sector is highly regulated, and the products are quality-controlled, meaning you will be receiving safe and dependable medicine.  

Final Thoughts On Cannabis For Back Pain Management

The effective management of chronic back pain is a difficult and complex challenge. While the evidence for the application of medicinal cannabis in chronic back pain is still limited, studies have found that cannabis has the potential to offer anti-inflammatory and pain relieving qualities. 

However, it is important to recognize that cannabis is not a cure-all and should be taken as part of a comprehensive treatment plan. 

If you are interested in learning more, reach out to us here at Releaf. We understand that medical cannabis can be life-changing for many people. That's why we offer tailored monthly packages based on your cannabis prescription, specialist consultations for medical cannabis, and a unique medical cannabis card for protection.

The bottom line is that cannabis has shown the potential to help in managing the issues that come along with chronic back pain.

It is important to seek medical advice before starting any new treatments. The patient advisors at Releaf are available to provide expert advice and support. Alternatively, click here to book a consultation with one of our specialist doctors.

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Sam North, a seasoned writer with over five years' experience and expertise in medicinal cannabis, brings clarity to complex concepts, focusing on education and informed use.

medically reviewed

Our articles are written by experts and reviewed by medical professionals or compliance specialists. Adhering to stringent sourcing guidelines, we reference peer-reviewed studies and scholarly research. View our editorial policy.

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