Can you get a medical cannabis card for chronic back pain in the UK? 

Can you get a medical cannabis card for chronic back pain in the UK? 


Kerry is an experienced author specialising in content and business writing for health and cannabis industries, with expertise in social equity plans, licensing applications, and marketing materials.

Chronic back pain is a common medical condition that affects up to 23% of adults globally at any one time, with more than 80% of adults here in the UK battling through it at some point in their life. For back pain to be classified as ‘chronic’, it has to be present for at least 12 weeks.

That’s more than enough to do you in. Many sufferers find themselves turning to opioid-based painkillers for relief, or even considering surgery. But thanks to sweeping reforms in the UK, medical cannabis is now finally available as an alternative for chronic back pain.

Medical cannabis is a popular treatment option for people suffering from chronic back pain. But to legally access it in the United Kingdom (UK), you need a physician registered to the General Medical Council Specialist Register to prescribe you cannabis. That means that, more than likely, your current GP won’t be able to help you get a medical cannabis prescription.

While medicinal cannabis is available through the NHS, it is currently only available to a small number of patients with very specific conditions, and back pain is not included on that list. But private clinics have the power to prescribe cannabis-based products for a much wider range of health issues, so if you’re looking for a medical cannabis card for your chronic back pain, this is the best way to go.

NHS medical cannabis patients are also not provided with a medical cannabis card, as unlike some other countries, it is not a legal requirement to carry a card. Again, if you are looking for the added protection that holding a medical cannabis card offers, then a private clinic is the best way to go.

In today's article, we will break down the full process of obtaining a medical cannabis card for chronic back pain in the UK.

How is chronic back pain diagnosed?

Doctors use different ways to diagnose potential causes of back pain to determine an appropriate course of treatment. They include:

  • Medical and family history
  • Physical exam
  • Imaging and blood tests, including X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computerised axial tomography (CAT), electrophysiological tests, and bone scans

Distinct types of back pain may require different diagnostic methods.

Medical cannabis as a potential treatment option

Medical cannabis is being increasingly prescribed as a treatment option for chronic back pain. A growing body of clinical research is showing that it has the potential to help patients experience chronic pain relief without resorting to addictive opiates or pain relievers. Cannabis can relieve pain and reduces inflammation, which is common among people who are suffering from the condition.

Patients who have treated back pain with medical cannabis have reported reduced pain, anxiety, and depression, better mood and sleep, and improved quality of life. It can also help relieve nausea from chronic pain.

Can you get a medical card for chronic back pain in the UK?

Yes, but here in the UK, there is no legal requirement to have a medical cannabis card, as there is in some other countries.

However, holding a medical cannabis card does offer a certain level of protection, as it is a document that shows you are legally allowed to possess and take medical cannabis.

Most medical cannabis cards will display:

  • Your photo
  • Your name
  • The name and address of the clinic that issued it

Each Releaf patient is issued a card that also contains a unique QR code. This code serves as a verification tool for law enforcement and healthcare professionals to confirm the card's authenticity and validity. Upon scanning, the prescriptions associated with the patient will be displayed, accompanied by information notifying the authorities of the patient's active status. The QR code is secured with a password, and the patient will receive a one-time password in their designated email each time the code is scanned. This is in place to help keep the patient's medical information totally secure.

How to obtain a medical cannabis card for chronic back pain

The first step is to book an appointment with a registered private clinic that offer medicinal cannabis health solutions. In the initial appointment, you will be asked to fill out a medical questionnaire that will be assessed by one of our team's specialists. You will also need to provide access to your Summary Care Record (SCR).

The doctor will then review your case and determine if you meet the eligibility criteria to continue the process. If so, you will then have a full consultation with a specialist via video call. The specialist will assess your medical history, the severity of your chronic back pain symptoms, and you will be required to answer more in depth questions about your condition and your past recreational and medicinal cannabis use.

If the specialist prescribes you medical cannabis treatment, you will be instantly provided with a digital copy of your medical cannabis card. The physical copy will be shipped to your doorstep with your first order of medical cannabis.

The potential benefits of medical cannabis for pain management

  • Reduced pain intensity
  • Improved quality of life
  • Decreased inflammation
  • Reduced anxiety and depression
  • Improvement in sleep quality.
  • Relieves feelings of nausea due to back pain
  • Decreases dependence on opioid pain relievers

The possible side effects and risks of medical cannabis

As with all treatment options, medical cannabis comes with some side effects and potential risks. These are, for the vast majority of patients, seen as only minor, but it is important to be aware of them.

  • Dry mouth
  • Gastrointestinal effects
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Short-term memory impairment
  • Paranoia or panic

Alternative treatments for chronic back pain

  • Meditation and mindfulness
  • Diet improvements
  • Lifestyle changes such as avoiding strain on the back and quitting smoking

Non-pharmacological treatments

  • Back exercises
  • Local heat therapy
  • Massage
  • Acupuncture
  • Spinal manipulation
  • Laser therapy
  • Electrical nerve stimulation
  • Back supports

Pharmaceutical treatments

  • Acetaminophen
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Topical analgesics
  • Muscle relaxants
  • Opioids
  • Corticosteroids
  • Antidepressants
  • Anticonvulsants

Surgical interventions

  • Spinal fusion
  • Laminectomy

Final thoughts on getting a medical cannabis card for chronic back pain in the UK

When administered in conjunction with other treatments as part of a holistic treatment plan, medical cannabis can be an effective and safe treatment for chronic back pain. However, it is important to remember that it is not suitable for everyone, and must be prescribed by a specialist doctor.

If you are interested in how medical cannabis may help you manage your chronic back pain, please feel free to reach out to the team at Releaf and book an appointment with one of our specialists. We are one of the few private clinics that offer the added security of a medical cannabis card, and our specialists have the knowledge and experience to help provide you with the best treatment for your condition.

Releaf - Removing the Stigma from Medical Cannabis

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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