Medical Marijuana and Chronic Back Pain

Published by Jan


Medical Marijuana and Chronic Back Pain

Chronic Back Pain is one of the most common illnesses seen by physicians.  Almost everyone has back pain at some time in their adult life.  Back pain occurs most commonly between the ages of 30 and 50 due to the aging process and due to a more sedentary lifestyle that begins in this age group.  The pain can be neuropathic or nociceptive.  Neuropathic pain is caused by damage to a nerve.  This kind of pain is felt as a sharp stabbing or burning.  Nociceptive pain is caused by disease to the tissues outside of the nerves.  It is felt as a dull ache or sense of pressure. Examples of these kinds of pain are a pinched nerve (neuropathic pain), and arthritis (nociceptive pain).  It is frequent for patients to have both types of pain at once, called mixed pain.

Fifty percent of patients with back pain have experienced some type of trauma, such as a sports injury or motor vehicle accident. But the other fifty percent have no known cause of their back pain.  Most patients who seek care for their back pain will undergo some type of evaluation that may include x-rays, CT scan, and/or MRI; occasionally some patients will have a myelogram (dye injected into the spinal cord area followed by x-rays) or bone scan (dye injected into the blood which will then concentrate in an abnormal area of bone).  Many times no obvious cause of the pain is found.

Patients who have acute back pain will often improve or recover in six to eight weeks.  Patients with acute pain occurring more than three times in one year or who experience longer episodes of back pain that interfere with daily activities (e.g., sleeping, sitting, standing, walking, bending, riding in or driving a car) are more likely to develop a chronic back condition.  Sometimes these chronic back pain patients will have pain, numbness or tingling in their legs.  Some patients with chronic pain do not respond to conventional therapy and have to find a way to live with their pain.  Physicians have found that living with chronic pain is extremely difficult and can lead to opioid dependency (addiction), anxiety, depression, and insomnia.

The Treatment of Choice

Medical marijuana is increasingly becoming the treatment of choice for many chronic back pain patients.  Conventional treatment therapies such as over the counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications – NSAIDS – (such as ibuprofen, naproxen sodium, or aspirin) can be helpful but can cause side effects such as stomach upset, nausea, gastric bleeding, and ulcers.  Prescription medications like other NSAIDS (like Celebrex) or opiates (like Vicodin or Norco) can be effective at treating pain but can also cause many adverse and unacceptable side effects.  The addictive potential of opiates is very concerning to patients who struggle with chronic pain and need relief; it is this concern that leads patients to consider using medical marijuana, a very effective treatment for chronic back pain.

In 1975, scientists began studying THC in cancer patients and found that it was a very effective pain reliever without significant or toxic side effects.  Other studies followed and the conclusion was the same: marijuana safely and effectively treats chronic pain with little to no side effects.  No nausea, no stomach upset, no ulcers, no addiction – many patients jokingly only refer to an increased appetite (”munchies”) the only “bad” side effect.  Marijuana side effects of elevated mood, improved sleep, and reduced anxiety are welcomed by most patients and considered beneficial to having a good quality of life when you suffer daily with chronic pain.

How can medical marijuana help your chronic back pain?

  • You will reduce or eliminate pain, allowing you to continue being active
  • You will reduce or eliminate the use of potentially addictive medications or dangerous medication side effects
  • You will reduce or eliminate the anxiety, depression, and insomnia associated with chronic pain
  • You will feel better knowing that you are using a natural treatment for the pain
  • You will have better quality of life

Evidence for Medical Marijuana

In 1999, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) issued an evidence-based report on medical marijuana. It listed conditions that may be helped by cannabinoids, including neuropathic pain, acute pain, spinal cord injury, post operative pain, cancer pain, multiple sclerosis, nausea and appetite control among others.

The report says that discovery of a cannabinoid receptor in the parts of the nervous system that detect and control pain perception means that marijuana is a very promising source of pain relieving medications in the future.

The IOM found that cannabinoids are capable of giving mild to moderate pain relief comparable to codeine. In one study cited in the report, 10 milligrams of THC (marijuana's active ingredient) yielded the same amount of pain relief as 60 milligrams of codeine. Side effects were similar with both drugs, but the THC seemed to be more sedating than the codeine. The patients taking the THC reported a greater sense of well-being and less anxiety.

The IOM also found that by combining cannabinoids with an opioid, the opioid may work better. This may decrease the dose of addictive narcotics needed to control pain. 

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3 years 9 months ago JBranch11I am 19 years old and i have been diagnose with Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD). I am not against Med marijuana. But, I don't want to be addicted to it. I can't stand that i am having problems that a 50 year old should have. And i live in Kansas, how can i get this without getting trouble with the law. And If Insurance will help pay for it?

3 years 9 months ago JBranch11I am 19 years old and i have been diagnose with Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD). I am not against Med marijuana. But, I don't want to be addicted to it. I can't stand that i am having problems that a 50 year old should have. And i live in Kansas, how can i get this without getting trouble with the law. And If Insurance will help pay for it?

3 years 7 months ago CMaloneI was diagnosed with DDD at 17. It's not something that's going to go away or get better on it own. Medical marijuana is the only thing that has helped me, and I'm not addicted to it at all. Opiates never fully got rid of the pain and left me feeling gross and sick. But MMJ works great, and there are a lot of different ways to consume it, I prefer edibles because it's more acceptable and seems to help the best. And insurance doesn't cover it because its an alternative treatment. Good luck.

3 years 5 months ago tetrahydrocannabivarini have congenital back pain i'm 16 years old i plan on moving to colorado when i turn 17 and have a medical marijuana evaluation hydrocodone was my pain killer and through the last 2 years of experimenting with cannabis i have found that when i smoke cannabis i don't have to take hydrocodone and from smoking cigarettes marijuana is not addictive but can have psychological adversital effects that most people consider an addiction but i'm not physically dependent on it like opiates and tobacco and i also don't smoke cigarettes period when i smoke cannabis is an amazing medicine and has helped tremendously and continues to help me.

3 years 5 months ago tetrahydrocannabivarini have 5 missing discs in my lower back i consider it DDD

2 years 9 months ago trailblazeri'm 18 years old and i got into a car accident over a year ago and now have a slipped disk. If i move the wrong way, or am too active the muscles around my spine swell so i know your pain. It has slightly improved with lots of physical therapy but my favorite and most effective pain reliever is cannabis. i personally shied away from pharmaceuticals because of the side effects. i live in california so luckily i have a large and pretty dank selection lol Ive been smoking for almost two years now and its made my daily life much easier, improves my mood, helps with anxiety, and my insomnia. i highly recommend it, its not addictive, and if your still worried you can use a bong, it acts as a filter for any toxins ..depending on the quality of course. Last thing, since your 19 dont worry about the law, get your rec !!!!!

2 years 9 months ago andresenriquemendozamancillaI'm only 18 and I developed this terrible back pain at the age of 13, I can't even do basic yard maintenance for work all because of how bad my back is! If I stand up for 30 minutes and lay down I will struggle and feel like I'm loosing air. If I'm up for an hour and lay down for get it I'll just force my self to lay down and even drop some tears. I want to get this for my medications because an old neighbor in another city had it for his broken arm, and a few of my friends used it for their pain, I just don't know how to even start and from there what do I need to bring with me??? I have maybe 3 or 4 more conditions that can be treated with cannabis and if it's true I really want it I'm on the last anti-psychotic and that does not work for me Dr. said my last choice is seroquel xr but I need to be on regular seroquel for a month but it does not work and I can't stay up long enough for school. Can some one please help me???

2 years 3 months ago djjayc nolimiti have a back pin

2 years 3 months ago peanutkjI have severe DDD in my neck, upper and mid back. I have a stimulator installed and also just had a neck fusion and vertebra removed. I am in constant pain, I have been on pain killers now for over 3 years. After I lost my health insurance I can't see the doctors I need to see. I have been thinking about trying it to see if it helps. Since surgery on my neck they have cut my pain pills down to 1/2 of what I was taking and I am hurting like there is no tomorrow... I have not been able to do any type of moving around like I need to due to the pain. Every day that goes by I am thinking about it more.

2 years ago LasarevI completely support the use of medical marijuana over drugs they give you through the insurance, but sometimes the only way is surgery. If you don't have insurance or you got screwed over by it, you can use cash to pay for the surgery. On, there is a list of doctors where you can book surgery for cash without insurance. Perhaps it's a better option. Good luck!

1 year ago BigmikehillierI am 67 and have had a back problem since college. It has continually gotten worse . I can only stand or walk for a few min. I don't want the thc high just pain relief. What's the deal with CBD? Does it really work?

11 months 17 days ago jswI am disabled due to spinal stenosis. In 2003 I fell and crushed my L1 vertebra and I have had 2 laminectomies and a spinal fusion. I have had a zillion injections. I have been dependent on the pain medicine clinic for 10 years. I have taken narcotics for 10 years. I presently take dilaudid and tramadol. My life on these drugs has been frustrating. I felt like I was dazed all the time. I enjoyed marijuana in college so I thought I would try it. Within 24 hours I was taking fewer narcotics. My narcotic use eventually dropped to less than 1/3 of what I was taking and I stopped taking tramadol completely. I used a one hitter and took 1 to 2 hits 2 to 3 times a day. My pain center started doing urine drug screens recently. I fessed up and I was given a warning. Getting kicked out of a pain center is not a good thing. Other pain centers won't see you if you have been kicked out of one. With my back problems I will need a pain center for the rest of my life. I quit the marijuana 6 days ago after my appointment. This morning I woke up and I couldn't get out of bed. I think smoking marijuana is better than taking dilaudid. My pain center won't give me any meds if I smoke marijuana. They will give me injections if I use marijuana. Of course they will give me injections because they charge $3000 for 5 minutes of work. Even if I get medical marijuana legally they will not allow that either. It doesn't make sense, but that is the way the system works.

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