EducationCan 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? 

11 min read

Kerry Charron

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

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 lives. With that in mind, it should come as no surprise that those dealing with chronic back are seeking alternative back pain treatment options, and medical cannabis may be a great addition to their arsenal of therapeutic options.

Patients suffering through chronic pain often find themselves being offered 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 those needing chronic back pain relief.


How to legally access medical cannabis for back pain in the UK

To legally access it in the United Kingdom, you must be prescribed it by a physician registered to the General Medical Council Specialist Register. That means, more than likely, that your GP won't be able to write the script for medical cannabis themselves, but that is not to say that finding a doctor qualified to do so is a laborious task.

And while medicinal cannabis for chronic back is available in the UK, it is not offered through the NHS. At the time of writing, the NHS is only willing to offer medical cannabis treatment options to a small number of patients with very specific conditions.

However, 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 it is not a legal requirement for medical cannabis patients here in the UK.

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?

Diagnosing chronic back pain is anything but straightforward. The full range of possible underlying issues is massive, so undergoing a chronic back pain assessment is essential. Understanding how chronic back pain is diagnosed is crucial for exploring potential treatment options.

Doctors employ various methods to help diagnose the root causes of chronic back pain. These approaches encompass a range of techniques and assessments. By using these targeted diagnostic practices, healthcare professionals can accurately identify and address the root causes of back pain, leading to effective and targeted treatment strategies. During this chronic back pain assessment, the doctor will need to know a couple of things to help with the diagnosis, such as:

  • When did the pain start?
  • Your medical and family history
  • You might be asked to perform a physical exam
  • You may have to go for imaging and blood tests, including X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computerised axial tomography (CAT), electrophysiological tests, and bone scans

Medical cannabis as a potential treatment option

Medical cannabis therapy for back pain is now a real option for UK citizens, and there's research to back it up, its implementation. A growing body of clinical studies are showing it has the potential to help patients find chronic pain relief without resorting to addictive opiates or pain relievers.

Cannabis has been shown to not only offer targeted pain reduction but also the potential to reduce inflammation, which is often one of the major underlying causes of chronic back pain. On top of this, medical cannabis treatment has been shown to offer a calming effect on the body and mind, which can greatly benefit those dealing with the emotional burden of chronic pain.

Patients who have treated their chronic 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 for chronic back pain treatment (or any other condition), unlike some of the other countries that have medicinal cannabis as a legal treatment option.

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.

What information is on your Releaf Cannabis Card?

Most medical cannabis cards will display the following:

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

Each Releaf patient is issued a medical cannabis card that displays the above information, and also displays a unique QR code. This code serves as a verification tool for authorities 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. When the QR code is scanned, the card also outlines the relevant legislation as a quick reference point for police, and displays Releaf's dedicated phone line for authorities.

Each and every QR code is protected by a password, and the patient will receive a unique one time use password in their designated email each time the code is scanned. This measure is implemented to ensure the utmost security of the patient's medical information.

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 offers medicinal cannabis health solutions, and one that also offers the added security of a medical cannabis card.

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 medical history, which you can get from your GP.

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 concludes that medical cannabis is an appropriate treatment option for your specific chronic back pain, 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

Medical cannabis card for chronic back pain FAQs

How do I know if medical cannabis is right for me and my chronic back pain?

As with any treatment option, it is essential to consult with a medical professional who specialises in medicinal cannabis treatment. They can assess your medical history to fully understand your condition and determine if medical cannabis is a suitable option for your specific case.

Is medical cannabis addictive?

As with any medication or substance, there can be a psychological dependence on it, especially if you are taking THC-based products. Medical cannabis-based products that are THC-free but contain high levels of CBD are totally non-addictive.

It is essential to follow the recommended dosage and administration instructions provided by your prescribing physician, as they will consider your specific needs, your tolerance level, and your condition's severity.

Can medical cannabis cure my chronic back pain?

Currently, there is no known cure for chronic pain. Medical cannabis has shown promising results in managing symptoms and improving quality of life for patients suffering from chronic back pain.

How can I receive a medical cannabis card in the UK?

You can obtain a medical cannabis card by booking an appointment with a registered private clinic that offers medicinal cannabis health solutions and also offers patients the added security of holding a physical medical cannabis card. During your consultation with Releaf, you will be assessed by a specialist and instantly provided with a digital copy of your card if you meet the eligibility criteria. Your physical card will then be shipped to your nominated address with your first delivery.

Will my medical cannabis card protect me from legal repercussions?

While having a medical cannabis card is not a get-out-of-jail-free card, it does provide an extra layer of protection to patients who have been prescribed medical cannabis for their chronic back pain. It serves as proof that you are legally registered and authorised to possess and take medical cannabis for medicinal purposes.

All UK medical cannabis patients are legally required to carry their original prescription whilst in possession of their medical cannabis. The prescribed medical cannabis products must also be kept in thier original packaging. However, having a physical card can provide additional peace of mind and serve as a convenient form of identification should you need to prove your status as a medical cannabis patient.

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

When administered under the supervision of a medical professional, and in conjunction with other treatments as part of a holistic treatment plan, medical cannabis can be an effective and safe treatment for those suffering from 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 options for your condition.

We also have an extensive blog and a huge education section, so feel free to head over if you want to learn more.

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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Kerry, with experience as a medicinal cannabis cultivation technician and expertise in business licensing applications, is passionate about developing educational content and advocating for better access to medical cannabis worldwide.

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.

Further reading

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Back pain continues to be a prevalent issue not only here in the UK, but globally. While there is a range of both 'over-the-counter' and prescribable pharmaceuticals available, many patients are seeking natural therapeutic options that don’t cause excessive side effects or risk of dependence and can be easily added to a holistic treatment plan.

Sam North

The four best terpenes for pain reduction

While traditional cannabis-based medicine mainly focuses on the therapeutic potential of cannabinoids (mostly THC and CBD), recent developments in the field have seen terpenes gain more recognition as a major factor in the medicinal benefits of medical cannabis.

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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.

Sam North