EducationCan medical cannabis offer relief for scoliosis patients?

Can medical cannabis offer relief for scoliosis patients?

8 min read

Kerry Charron

Can medical cannabis offer relief for scoliosis sufferers?

Scoliosis is a condition in which the spine twists and curves causing pain, and other related symptoms. Scoliosis is typically identified during childhood or early adulthood, often during the growth spurts that occur during puberty. Early therapeutic interventions can effectively halt the progression of spinal curvature and minimize associated symptoms. As scoliosis patients age, there is a possibility of an increase in spinal curvature, leading to further discomfort and potential respiratory risks.


The majority of scoliosis cases are idiopathic, meaning the cause is unknown, but there does seem to be at least a slight genetic link as the issues sometimes runs in families. When traditional treatments prove ineffective in bringing symptomatic relief, as they often do, individuals with scoliosis may turn to alternative options for pain and inflammation relief. As a result, there is a rising curiosity surrounding the potential of medical cannabis to alleviate symptoms associated with scoliosis.

In today's article, we aim to illustrate the potential of medical cannabis in alleviating scoliosis pain and managing related symptoms by covering all of the relevant medical research currently available. We will also comprehensively explore the advantages and limitations of administering medical cannabis as a treatment option for chronic pain, with a focus on scoliosis.

The different types of scoliosis

There are four main types of scoliosis:

  • Idiopathic - about 80% of all scoliosis cases are classed as idiopathic. This type of scoliosis is usually diagnosed at the start of puberty, and genetics are most likely a contributing factor, although the link is still yet to be proven.
  • Congenital - Congenital scoliosis is characterized by a misalignment that arises from deformed vertebrae or ribs when born. This deformity can stem from various developmental factors.
  • Neuromuscular - Neuromuscular scoliosis arises from underlying neuromuscular conditions that impact the development of the spine. The surrounding musculature plays a crucial role in the spinal growth process. Conditions like cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy can compromise muscle strength and tone, thus affecting the development of the spine. Additionally, diseases such as spina bifida can contribute to spinal deformities and scoliosis. This particular form of scoliosis is often the most severe, as multiple factors come into play.
  • Degenerative - This form of scoliosis develops in patients over 65 and is a result of ageing, loss of muscle tone, and the degradation of the spinal bones.

What are the signs that scoliosis may be developing?

Some signs of scoliosis, other than an obvious C or S-shaped spinal curve, include:

  • One hip or shoulder appears higher than the other
  • Back pain
  • One leg seems shorter than the other
  • One shoulder blade may seem to be more pronounced than the other
  • One side of the rib cage juts forward

Numbness and tingling sensations can be experienced throughout the back and down the legs due to the pressure and inflammation caused by the curvature. Patients describe this sensation as unpredictable and uncomfortable, and conventional medication options may not always provide the relief sufferers seek.

Conventional treatment options for scoliosis

There are several conventional treatment options available for scoliosis, depending on its severity. These options can be tailored to the patient's needs, ensuring optimal care and management of the condition. They include:

  • Non-surgical treatments: Mild scoliosis can often be treated with physical therapy or bracing to help correct posture and reduce pain levels.
  • Surgical treatments: In more severe cases, surgery may be recommended to help straighten the spine. Surgeons may insert rods and screws to help correct the curvature over time.
  • Pharmaceutical options: In some cases, medications like NSAIDs and muscle relaxers may be prescribed to help manage the associated pain and discomfort. In more severe cases where the pain is pronounced, heavier pain relief options, such as opioids, may be prescribed.

Lifestyle changes may also help to reduce the intensity of symptoms. These can include engaging in low-impact exercises like yoga, swimming, aqua aerobics, and pilates. Stretching regularly, attending regular appointments with a physiotherapist or chiropractor, and practising good posture habits are also beneficial for symptom management.

Can medical cannabis provide symptom control for scoliosis?

Although more research is needed before any conclusive and definitive claims can be made, there is a growing body of evidence that suggests medical cannabis may provide symptomatic relief for those suffering from scoliosis and- may even forge a pathway for patients to reduce the amount of heavy pain-relieving pharmaceuticals they may be taking.

This study, from 2022 and titled "Medical Cannabis Use Reduces Opioid Prescriptions in Patients With Chronic Back Pain", found that patients who engaged in medical cannabis administration reported a significant decrease in opioid prescriptions and made considerable improvements in self-reported pain scores.

While there is still a stark lack of targeted research regarding medical cannabis and scoliosis in particular, there are a range of studies that suggest medical cannabis can be beneficial for providing relief from chronic pain, inflammation, and muscle tightness.

"The Efficacy of Cannabis in Reducing Back Pain: A Systematic Review", also published in 2022, looked at 4 articles that cover the potential of medical cannabis in providing relief from chronic and acute back pain. It found that while medical cannabis shows great potential in effectively treating back pain, with a very low risk of negative side effects, long-term follow-up data is still insufficient.

An earlier study, which looked into the efficacy of cannabinoids as novel anti-inflammatory drugs, found that cannabinoids downregulate cytokine and chemokine production and can upregulate T-regulatory cells (Tregs) to suppress inflammatory responses. In simpler terms, this means that medical cannabis may be useful in reducing inflammation and pain associated with scoliosis, as well as providing an alternative to conventional pharmaceutical treatments.

Another interesting study relating to medical cannabis, and specifically CBD administration, and pain is "CBD Effects on TRPV1 Signaling Pathways in Cultured DRG Neurons" . It concluded that CBD inhibits or desensitizes neuronal TRPV1 signalling by inhibiting the adenylyl cyclase - cAMP pathway, which may contribute to the therapeutic effect of CBD in both animal models and human patients with acute and chronic pain.

Scoliosis sufferers may also deal with certain mental health issues stemming from their condition, such as anxiety, and may find achieving a restful night's sleep difficult. Medical cannabis has shown that it may offer certain benefits here also.

This study looked into the effectiveness of CBD in reducing anxiety while also helping patients achieve a better quality of sleep. It found that, of the 72 participants, "anxiety scores decreased within the first month in 57 patients (79.2%) and remained decreased during the study duration. Sleep scores improved within the first month in 48 patients (66.7%) but fluctuated over time."

The potential risks and side effects associated with medical cannabis administration

There are two primary risks associated with the use of medical cannabis: negative interactions with pharmaceuticals and dependence. Dependence will only occur when THC is administered, as this is the only psychoactive cannabinoid found within the cannabis plant. Due to this, it's important to ensure that any medical cannabis treatment plan is tailored to the individual, and overseen by a doctor who is experienced and registered to prescribe such medication.

Other minor side effects of medical cannabis can include:

  • Dryness of the mouth
  • Increased appetite
  • Cognitive impairment (especially after taking higher doses containing THC)
  • Dizziness or headaches
  • Sleepiness or fatigue in some people
  • Increased heartrate

It's generally recommended to start with a low dose and increase incrementally as needed. It's also important to ensure that all medical cannabis products are sourced from reputable suppliers. The medicinal cannabis sector is subject to much more stringent regulatory oversight than the consumer CBD market.

Weight, height, and overall health condition are also key factors when it comes to finding a suitable dosage size.

The current legal status of medical cannabis in the UK

Thanks to sweeping changes in legislation on the 1st of November 2018, medical cannabis treatment options are now fully legal in the UK. This means that, with the guidance of a doctor registered to prescribe cannabis-based medication, affected individuals can now access medical cannabis without fear of penalty or criminal repercussions.

Releaf offers a further level of legal protection by providing a unique medical cannabis card that can be presented to law enforcement during any interactions.

While medical cannabis can be obtained through the NHS, the process is slow, and complicated, and is often only prescribed for serious health conditions such as epilepsy. By seeking the advice of a private medical cannabis clinic, patients can generally access the medication faster, and for a wider range of health-related issues.

Final thoughts

If you, or a loved one, are suffering from scoliosis and exploring your options for treatment, it may be worth considering medical cannabis. Although the research is still in its early stages, there is a growing body of evidence indicating that medical cannabis may offer a safe and effective treatment option for chronic pain, inflammation, and muscle tightness - all of which may prove beneficial for scoliosis sufferers.

At Releaf, we believe that everyone should have access to the treatment they need, without fear of stigma or legal consequences. With the right guidance and support in place, medical cannabis can help you get back to living a pain-free life. To learn more about our services, or to book an appointment with one of our doctors, contact us today.

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.

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