How Does CBD Oil Help With Sciatica Nerve Pain?
- The pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties(1) of CBD show potential in providing pain relief to sciatica patients, a painful sensation caused by a compressed sciatic nerve.
- Research has found sciatica pain to be partly neuropathic pain(2). Meanwhile, a study conducted by the Massachusetts General Hospital found that patients with chronic sciatica have inflammation in the central nervous system(3).
- A significant 2008 study found that CBD demonstrates capabilities for relieving both neuropathic and inflammatory pain in various patients(4).
- However, a research study utilizing CBD oil to relieve sciatic pain has yet to be conducted.
- Patients are advised to first consult with medical professionals before the initial administration of CBD oil.
Why People Are Using CBD Oil for Sciatica Pain
Many individuals are discovering the pain-relieving effects(5) of CBD, claiming it can help deal with sciatica pain.
Most of the positive feedback is anecdotal. However, the anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties of CBD have been investigated in various scientific studies(6). These properties may support CBD oil’s narrative as an effective alternative treatment for sciatic nerve pain.
The Mayo Clinic describes sciatica as a painful feeling radiating from the sciatic nerve, which is located along the lower back, through the hips, buttocks, and down each leg(7).
Usually, sciatica affects only one side of the body. It can be mistaken for either back pain, hip pain, or leg pain, which are symptoms of sciatica.
However, the pain is a result of a compressed sciatic nerve, caused by either a herniated disk, a bone spur (hard bumps that form on the spine), or spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spine).
Individuals with jobs that require intense physical labor are prone to developing sciatica pain. Those who sit for long periods without taking breaks for stretching or walking may also develop this medical condition.
Sciatica is troublesome; a simple fit of sneezing or coughing can exacerbate the painful sensation. Severe cases, characterized by intense nerve pain, are common among patients.
CBD cannot cure sciatica since it cannot address the underlying conditions that cause pain in patients.
However, cannabinoids, like CBD, were found to be effective in providing pain relief for neuropathic and inflammatory pain(8). Both types of pain characterize sciatica.
A 2004 research classified sciatic pain to be a mix of neuropathic and other kinds of pain(9). Another study, conducted by the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), found inflammation in the nervous system of patients with chronic sciatica(10).
Neuropathic pain arises from injuries or diseases of the somatosensory system. The somatosensory system is part of the sensory nervous system that deals with touch, pressure, pain, and movement from the joints, muscles, skin, and connective tissues (also referred to as fascia)(11).
Meanwhile, inflammation in the human body occurs when the immune system sends a flurry of antibodies as a response to an injury or infection.
This action causes small blood vessels to widen, in an attempt to bring more blood to the injured tissue(12), which causes some areas of the body to become red, swollen, and painful.
One significant animal study found that transdermal (on the skin) application of CBD was effective in reducing inflammation and behaviors related to pain in rat subjects with arthritis(13).
However, arthritis is different from sciatica as a medical condition, and no study has yet examined the effectiveness of CBD in managing sciatic pain.
CBD oil may not cure sciatica. However, its pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties can be useful in helping alleviate some of the chronic pain experienced by sciatica patients.
How CBD Oil Works for Sciatica Pain
The use of CBD oil may be helpful for sciatica patients in terms of pain management. CBD’s relationship with the endocannabinoid system (ECS) may explain how.
The endocannabinoid system is an essential part of the human body. It helps to maintain homeostasis (stability) by regulating various biological processes, including pain, brain, and immune function(14).
The ECS was also found to affect both the central nervous system (CNS) and its processes(15).
Three main components compose the ECS. These are the cannabinoid receptors, endocannabinoids, and enzymes that help synthesize and break down cannabinoids.
The ECS’ two central cannabinoid receptors are the CB1 and the CB2 receptors.
CB1 receptors exist on the nerve cells of the brain, spinal cord, and tissues.
At the same time, CB2 receptors are abundant in the human body’s immune cells.
CB2 receptors are also integral to suppressing pain and inflammation(16).
Endocannabinoids, on the other hand, are types of cannabinoids created naturally in the human body. Phytocannabinoids, like CBD, naturally exist in plants.
Cannabinoids act as neurotransmitters. When they bind to either CB1 or CB2 receptors, a specific action can be triggered.
When CBD interacts with either CB1 or CB2 receptors, its therapeutic properties are activated.
This function allows CBD to demonstrate its pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory effects(17).
Scientific research found the body’s glutamatergic system influences the effectiveness of some analgesic drugs used in neuropathic pain therapy(18).
The glutamatergic system oversees the discharge of glutamate, a neurotransmitter released by the brain’s nerve cells(19).
Glutamate is essential in many of the body’s physiological functions.
Dysfunctiontional glutamate adversely affects injuries and diseases, examples of which include the development of seizures and brain damage after a stroke(20).
Cannabinoids, like CBD, are known to inhibit the release of glutamate(21) which may help in combating neuropathic pain, a type of pain present in sciatica.
CBD’s pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties can also help relieve the nerve pain experienced by sciatica patients.
However, CBD oil can only aid in relieving pain and does not address the underlying cause compressing the sciatic nerve.
Cannabidiol, or CBD, is one of the hundreds of phytocannabinoids found in the Cannabis sativa plant.
In contrast to its famous counterpart, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD does not contain psychoactive properties that cause its users to experience a euphoric high.
CBD oil extracted from industrial hemp contains less than 0.3% THC. CBD is non-psychoactive, giving it a significant advantage over medical cannabis (also called medical marijuana).
The Pros and Cons of CBD Oil for Sciatica
- Various health organizations and medical professionals have attested to CBD’s excellent safety profile, with the World Health Organization (WHO) citing that CBD is generally well-tolerated by humans(22).
- The 2018 Farm Bill gave way to the legal production and selling of industrial hemp products, like CBD and hemp oil, or hemp seed oil. However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) still heavily regulates cannabis-based products(23).
- CBD oil does not require a doctor’s prescription, unlike medical marijuana (medical cannabis), which is also being used as an alternative treatment in providing patients with sciatica pain relief.
- CBD oil’s rising popularity as a natural option for pain relief has allowed various kinds of CBD products to emerge from the market.
- Individuals suffering from sciatica nerve pain can choose from many kinds of CBD products that best suit their needs and lifestyle. There are CBD tinctures, oil drops, sprays, and CBD topicals, like creams, balms, and lotions. There are also CBD capsules, edibles, gummies, and vape.
- Common side effects from the use of CBD oil may include fatigue, nausea, and irritability(24).
- Individuals must refrain from using CBD oil when taking other prescription medications, as CBD is documented to interfere with other drugs taken alongside it(25). Taking ibuprofen or aspirin together with CBD, for example, can result in low blood pressure.
- There is inconclusive evidence to support the use of CBD as an effective treatment for pain relief in patients with sciatica.
Due to its pain-relieving and inflammatory properties, the use of CBD oil may be an effective alternative treatment option for patients with sciatica pain.
The treatment options medical professionals offer sciatica patients are always within the goal of lessening the pain and inflammation that accompany the medical condition.
Conventional sciatica treatment methods include over-the-counter analgesic and anti-inflammatory drugs (like ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen), utilization of ice or hot packs, and physical therapy.
While medical practitioners commonly recommend the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to combat inflammation and pain caused by sciatica, NSAIDs can only relieve nociceptive pain (physical pain)(26).
As previously mentioned, sciatic pain may be a mix of neuropathic (pain from nerve pressure or damage) and other kinds of pain(27).
A 2004 study hypothesized that a treatment combining both antidepressant and anticonvulsant compounds could help treat sciatica pain since both have been proven effective in treating neuropathic pain(28).
CBD oil also has well-documented antidepressant(29) and anticonvulsant(30) properties, which may explain why it is being used as an alternative, natural treatment for sciatic nerve pain.
Also, CBD oil may function in a similar manner to ice or hot packs and anti-inflammatory drugs, which are both used to reduce inflammation and pain caused by a compressed sciatic nerve.
How to Choose the Best CBD Oil for Sciatica
Patients suffering from sciatic pain have to consider the following factors before settling on a CBD oil product for their medical condition:
- CBD products are labeled as either full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, or CBD isolates. Most recommend full-spectrum CBD oil since it contains the majority of the active cannabinoids (from terpenes to flavonoids), compounds, minerals, and fatty acids extracted from the hemp plant.
All these ingredients work together to bring its user the famed entourage effect.
- Research the exact state provisions of CBD where the product is going to be purchased and used. Although CBD regulation has become lax with the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill, laws may vary depending on the state.
- Individuals must prioritize buying only from legitimate CBD brands and sellers that offer organic, non-GMO CBD products. The CBD oil used must also be extracted using CO2 technology, which is currently the safest and cleanest way to extract hemp products from the industrial hemp plant.
- Authorized CBD companies and sellers must also have a certificate of analysis (COA), current good manufacturing practices (CGMPs), and third-party lab testing reports for all its products.
- Do not forget to check for customer feedback and product reviews, as these are indications of a product’s high quality.
CBD Dosage for Sciatica
A standardized CBD dosage chart or guideline has yet to be approved by the FDA or any regulatory bodies for the matter.
Existing studies cannot point to a specific CBD dose effective for reducing inflammation and pain in humans.
Studies that utilize CBD for pain relief have also administered different CBD doses for its subjects, some of which are animals.
When in doubt, individuals can simply follow the dosage instructions provided in the CBD product to be used.
Different CBD companies and manufacturers have their unique formulation of CBD oil, with differing amounts and potency, depending on the type of product.
Hence, CBD brands and sellers have their own CBD dosage charts and guidelines, with a specific recommended dose for CBD users.
In general, high doses of CBD are well-tolerated in humans(31). However, it is likely safe to start CBD administration with a small dose, gradually increasing until the desired effects are met.
Keep in mind that CBD oil is by no means a proper cure for sciatic nerve pain. Patients are advised to consult with a medical professional first, as CBD can cause negative interactions when used with other drugs.
How to Take CBD Oil for Sciatica
With CBD oil’s sudden rise to popularity, various CBD products have emerged from the market, each with its administration method.
CBD tinctures are perhaps the most popular CBD product among users, including oil drops and sprays.
These products require a user to administer CBD oil sublingually (under the tongue). After waiting for a few moments, users can then swallow the oil.
Flavored options are available for users who do not prefer the natural, earthy taste of CBD oil. Aside from sublingual administration, users can also easily mix CBD oil to their food or drinks.
Meanwhile, CBD topicals, like CBD creams, lotions, balms, and salves allow users to apply CBD oil onto a specific target area.
These topical CBD products are useful for sciatica patients who want to use CBD for pain relief. They can easily apply CBD oil on the parts of their body afflicted with sciatic pain, such as the lower back, hips, buttocks, and legs.
Lastly, CBD capsules, gummies, edibles, and vape are available for users who want to explore other administration methods.
The most practiced dose frequency among CBD users is twice a day, one in the morning and one in the evening.
However, patients with sciatica should first seek the advice of a health professional before initial administration.
The pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties of CBD show potential in being an effective pain reliever for medical conditions, like sciatica.
Although CBD’s therapeutic potential is undeniable, research has yet to provide ample evidence to support claims of CBD as an effective treatment for sciatica.
Sciatica patients are still advised to first consult with a medical professional since CBD cannot address the cause of sciatic nerve pain.
- Hammell, D. C., Zhang, L. P., Ma, F., Abshire, S. M., McIlwrath, S. L., Stinchcomb, A. L., & Westlund, K. N. (2016). Transdermal cannabidiol reduces inflammation and pain-related behaviours in a rat model of arthritis. European journal of pain (London, England), 20(6), 936–948. https://doi.org/10.1002/ejp.818; Wade, D. T., Robson, P., House, H., Makela, P., Aram, J. (2003). A Preliminary Controlled Study to Determine Whether Whole-Plant Cannabis Extracts Can Improve Intractable Neurogenic Symptoms. Clin. Rehabil. 17 (1), 21–29. doi: 10.1191/0269215503cr581oa; Russo E. B. (2008). Cannabinoids in the management of difficult to treat pain. Therapeutics and clinical risk management, 4(1), 245–259. https://doi.org/10.2147/tcrm.s1928
- Baron, R., & Binder, A. (2004). Wie neuropathisch ist die Lumboischialgie? Das Mixed-pain-Konzept [How neuropathic is sciatica? The mixed pain concept]. Der Orthopade, 33(5), 568–575. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00132-004-0645-0
- Massachusetts General Hospital. (2018, May 9). Neuroinflammation seen in spinal cord, nerve roots of patients with chronic sciatica: Location of inflammation may determine which patients are successfully treated with steroid injections. ScienceDaily. Retrieved June 8, 2020 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/05/180509185451.htm
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- Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (n.d.). Sciatica. Retrieved from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/sciatica/symptoms-causes/syc-20377435#:~:text=Sciatica%20refers%20to%20pain%20that,one%20side%20of%20your%20body.
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