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How Can Cannabis Help Treat Sciatica Symptoms?

September 23, 2020 03:27 pm ET
How Can Cannabis Help Treat Sciatica Symptoms?

Cannabis has proven to be a highly effective pain management tool. Whether your pain comes from an injury or a chronic condition, you may find that cannabis is effective in helping to reduce symptoms and get you back on your feet. And when you choose the right cannabis product with the right combinations of cannabinoids and terpenes, you could easily see relief to an extent that you had never previously imagined or hoped for. Cannabis as a pain management tool is so effective, in fact, that many patients prefer it to the opioids that are more traditionally prescribed to help alleviate pain. Although cannabis is not as powerful as opioids, the long term effects on the body and the addictive properties of the substance are much lesser, making it safer and less harmful to consume. Many patients recognize this and choose to go with cannabis rather than opioids, especially when managing a chronic condition that will necessitate the long term use of a drug.

One such chronic condition that can be very painful to live with is sciatica. But can cannabis be effectively put to use for patients with this condition?

What is Sciatica?

The sciatic nerve begins in the lower back and travels through the hips and buttocks and down each leg. When part of the nerve is compressed, often as a result of a herniated disc, bone spur, or narrowing of the spine, pain radiates down the nerve. This pain can be moderate to severe. Most sciatica patients experience pain on only one side of the body, though it is possible to experience it on both sides. Traditional anti-inflammatory and muscle relaxing medications are often used to treat sciatica. But when the pain caused by the condition is severe, doctors may prescribe narcotics to help manage it. 

Reports have indicated that, when possible, it’s a good idea to consider replacing opioid treatments for pain management with cannabis-based treatments. Side effects of opioid use include dependence and fatal overdose, neither of which is a serious concern when it comes to cannabis use. But can cannabis be used effectively to treat sciatica?

Using Cannabis Treatment for Sciatic Pain

A 2018 study examined the effects of cannabis on fifteen men suffering from chronic nerve pain. Nine of the men were given an average of 15 milligrams of THC every six hours. The other six men in the study were given placebos. Before the treatments were administered, the participants rated their pain level at an average of 53 out of 100, with 100 being the highest and zero representing no pain. After the treatment, the participants who had received THC reported their pain decreasing to an average of 35. Those who were given placebos reported an average pain level of 43—enough of a difference to indicate that the THC did have an effect.

Sciatica has also been known to be instrumental in exacerbating anxiety and depression, and cannabis is very helpful at managing these two conditions. Opioids, meanwhile, have no significant history of alleviating anxiety or depression—in fact, some studies have indicated that opioids might make depression more severe.  

Before beginning any medical treatment, and before stopping any currently existing medications, you should consult with your doctor and make sure you have their approval. It’s important, especially when going off a medication you might be currently taking, to have a doctor’s supervision. But with the help of your physician, you may find that cannabis is the pain management tool you’ve been looking for to help you manage sciatica and other nerve pain issues.

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