Back pain is one of the most common types of pain. Roughly 80% of the Canadian population can expect to experience some kind of back pain over the course of their lifetime. Medical expenditures in Canada that are related to low back pain are estimated to range between $6 and $12 billion annually.
3 Main Categories of Back Pain
Back pain typically belongs to three major categories: axial, referred and radicular.
- Axial pain, also called mechanical pain, can vary greatly; it can be dull or sharp, and it can be persistent or occasional. The most common source of axial pain is muscle strain, which occurs when muscles are torn or stretched to an extreme.
- Referred pain is often a dull, achy pain that tends to move around the back and body. Referred pain, which can vary in intensity, occurs away from the direct source of the pain. For example, referred pain can occur in the hips and thighs when a problem such as degenerative disc disease occurs in the lower back.
- Radicular pain is also known by another name: sciatica. This type of pain is deep and intense, following nerve pathways into the extremities. It can lead to numbness and weakness. Radicular pain is often caused by inflammation, compression or an injury, usually to the root of the spinal nerve.
Studies Show Marijuana Can Help Your Aching Back
A study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that cannabis could help reduce chronic pain in men and women. The subjects were administered three different marijuana potencies at different times during the study. The strengths were rotated with a placebo, and none of the subjects knew what they were taking at any given point.
Pain was measured by patients on a 10-point pain scale. Patients who took the highest-potency cannabis experienced a one-point reduction in pain on average. Though these results are modest, they were still considered successful as most strains of marijuana have percentages of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
Another study in December 2014 by the College of Family Physicians of Canada recommended that patients with chronic pain smoke cannabis. It stated that patients with severe neuropathic pain conditions could find relief with cannabis if they hadn't had adequate responses to other medications.
The paper also stated the recommended maximum dose of cannabis that a patient should consume in one day is one inhalation, four times a day; this amounts to roughly 400 mg a day of cannabis containing 9% THC. Though the guidelines are fairly vague, they back up anecdotal evidence that higher-THC consumption is best for chronic pain.
Best Cannabis Strains for Back Pain
Each cannabis strain affects everyone differently, but folks often find that THC-heavy strains are most helpful in combatting pain. Don't discount cannabidiol (CBD) though; it's extremely effective at reducing inflammation, which could also help decrease the cause of your back pain.
Keep in mind that higher-potency THC strains have more psychoactive effects. Some people prefer taking a marijuana strain that's got lower levels of THC during the day and then something that's higher in THC in the evening. The key is finding which cannabis strains, consumption method and dosage work best for you. Here are some strains that have been shown to be helpful at relieving back pain.
- Headband is a hybrid of OG Kush and Sour Diesel. It contains 20-27% THC and less than 1% CBD. A potent sativa, Headband can help relax muscle strains and relieve general pain. It's also known for its long-lasting effects.
- Candyland is a sativa-dominant hybrid of Granddaddy Purple and Bay Platinum Cookies. Effective at reducing pain and muscle tension, Candyland has uplifting and stimulating side effects. It's also known to relieve stress and fatigue. Like Headband, Candyland is also a potent strain-THC levels hover around 24%, while CBD and cannabinol (CBN) are each around 1%.
- OG Kush is an indica-dominant strain that's known for its high levels of THC, which can go as high as 26%. Meanwhile, CBD content is about 1%. Helpful at relieving pain and muscle spasms, OG Kush is also one of the more psychoactive strains of cannabis on the market.
- Bubba Kush is an indica with 14-22% THC and 0.06-0.1% CBD. Believed to be a hybrid of Northern Lights and OG Kush through an accidental pollination, Bubba Kush is helpful at easing muscle tension and decreasing stress.
- Skywalker OG is an indica-dominant hybrid of Skywalker and OG Kush. Skywalker OG is known for its effectiveness at reducing pain symptoms and decreasing physical limitations caused by pain.
- ACDC is a sativa-dominant hybrid that's high in CBD. With a CBD:THC ratio of 20:1, it's about 16-24% CBD and 0.4-1.2% THC. ACDC is particularly helpful at reducing pain with little to no psychoactive side effects.
Do you have questions about cannabis and back pain? Go to HelloMD's Answers page where you can connect with a health practitioner or well-informed member of our community who will respond to your queries.