Sciatica is characterized as lower back pain caused by a problem with the sciatic nerve. This type of pain can escalate to the buttocks, legs and hips. While medical CBD for sciatica is not a cure, it can help manage pain and discomfort.
What is Sciatica?
Sciatica is a common type of pain that starts from the lower back, radiating deep into the buttocks, and travelling down the leg. It usually affects one side of the lower body. Sciatica is not a medical condition in itself, but rather most often a result of an underlying condition such as back trauma.
The most common cause of sciatica is compression of the sciatic nerve by a herniated disk. In about 90% of cases, sciatica is caused by a herniated disc compressing the nerve root. As the disc herniates, it puts pressure on the sciatic nerve root. This causes irritation or inflammation of the sciatic nerve.
Other common medical conditions that may cause sciatica include:
- Lumbar spinal stenosis (a narrowing of the spinal canal in the lower back region)
- Lumbar degenerative disc disease (low back pain from damaged spinal discs)
- Spondylolisthesis (a spinal condition that impacts the lower spinal bones)
- Muscle spasms
- Sacroiliac joint dysfunction (irregular movement of the bottom joints)
The pain caused by sciatica can be very distressing and debilitating, often affecting mobility. The pain can vary widely, ranging from a mild ache to sharp, burning pain. Often, numbness, tingling, or muscle weakness accompanies the pain in the affected leg.
Sciatica accounts for less than 5% of the cases of lower back pain, and in most cases, they resolve spontaneously. However, 30% of the patients experience persistent symptoms at one year, 20% are out of work, and 5-15% require surgery.
How can CBD for Sciatica help treat the pain?
Most of the patients with acute sciatica get better within 4 to 6 weeks with nonsurgical sciatica treatments. There is a wide variety of treatment options available, ranging from over-the-counter and prescription pain medications to stretching and exercises, physical therapy, and in some cases, surgery. Conservative treatments for sciatica are aimed mainly at pain reduction. However, sciatica is often challenging to treat because it usually involves two different kinds of pain: nociceptive and neuropathic pain.
Nociceptive pain refers to pain that has a physical cause, for example, stubbing your toe on a piece of furniture. Neuropathic pain is pain that is related to a malfunctioning nervous system.
The types of medications that are prescribed and can provide nociceptive pain relief for sciatica include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), muscle relaxers, and narcotic pain relief. Anticonvulsants or antidepressants can be prescribed to relieve neuropathic pain.
Corticosteroid medications can also be injected into the epidural area where the inflammation is located to reduce the pressure being exerted to the sciatic nerve. If there are severe neurological deficits with sciatica, recovery may take longer. In these cases, surgery may be indicated.
More recently, medical CBD for sciatica has been gaining popularity in the treatment of pain and helping to ease the symptoms of sciatica. CBD has few known side effects, and some patients prefer them over the prescribed medications because of their associated adverse effects.
How to Prevent Sciatica
In general, acute sciatica gets better over time, and most pain resolves after a few weeks. A few things can be done to help prevent sciatica and keep it from occurring again. Conditioning exercises can strengthen the back and core muscles and can also relieve lower back pain. Maintaining proper posture can also help, and this can be done by making sure that chairs offer adequate support for the back. Sciatica is also be prevented by avoiding lifting too heavy.
Depending on the underlying cause of sciatica, the recovery time ranges from excellent to having chronic symptoms.
How is CBD for Sciatica treated?
The exact mechanism of action of CBD is currently not fully understood. CBD appears to act on the body’s network of endocannabinoids and cannabinoid receptors, causing pain modulation response and increasing the body’s ability to minimize pain. Essentially, CBD enhances the body’s natural pain management system.
CBD acts on inflammation through mechanisms of action that are different from NSAIDs, which means that it does not have adverse effects associated with them. CBD also acts as an opioid-sparing agent, potentiating its effects by allowing lower doses to be effective. It works synergistically with the opioids, resulting in lesser side effects from opioid therapy because of the lower dose needed.
Furthermore, because CBD is different from THC in terms of its psychoactive effects, it is often the treatment of choice that appeals to most patients seeking pain relief. Patients with sciatica have used CBD for sciatica instead of a prescription drug.
A research in 2005 by Costa et al. showed that CBD exerts an effect in the nerve demyelination. The compression of the sciatic nerve by a herniated disc causes damage to the nerve, destroying its protective coating called myelin and causing its degeneration. In their study, it shows that repeated administration of CBD treatment reduced the damage. This suggests that CBD may have a beneficial effect on the reduction of myelin damage and can potentially promote myelin tissue repair.
Long-term clinical trials are still needed to have a better understanding of the mechanism for treating CBD for Sciatica.
What Are the other options to treat CBD for Sciatica?
Different formulations of CBD oil have varying effects for sciatica. CBD oil can be used by dropping a few drops under the tongue.
- CBD capsules, pills, and gummies can be taken by mouth.
- CBD creams, lotions, or salves can be applied to the area of the skin where the pain is.
The dosages can be patient-specific, and it will require adjustments until it relieves the sciatica pain. There is no specific form or dosage that works for everyone. A medical professional can significantly assist in assessing the correct dosage in the treatment of CBD for Sciatica.
What Patients Can Do Now
Sciatica can be excruciatingly painful, and the underlying condition that is causing it must be addressed to begin treatment. There are many ways to relieve the symptoms of sciatica, with CBD as one of the promising ones. More research will need to be done to determine the exact mechanism of actions of CBD in the treatment of sciatica. However, it has become an increasingly popular alternative treatment because of its low side effect profile compared to other prescribed medications.
It is highly recommended to let your doctor know if you are going to start incorporating treatments for CBD for sciatica. Your doctor can help formulate a treatment plan tailored to you.
Lewis R, Williams N, Matar HE, Din N, Fitzsimmons D. The clinical effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of management strategies for sciatica: systematic review and economic model. Health Technol Assess 2011;15(39)
Fine, P. G., & Rosenfeld, M. J. (2013). The Endocannabinoid System, Cannabinoids, and Pain. Rambam Maimonides Medical Journal, 4(4). doi:10.5041/rmmj.10129
Costa, B., Trovato, A. E., Colleoni, M., Giagnoni, G., Zarini, E., & Croci, T. (2005). Effect of the cannabinoid CB1 receptor antagonist, SR141716, on nociceptive response and nerve demyelination in rodents with chronic constriction injury of the sciatic nerve. Pain, 116(1), 52–61. doi:10.1016/j.pain.2005.03.043