In the event of abnormal circumstances (i.e. a herniated disc pressing up against your sciatic nerve), the endocannabinoid system becomes overwhelmed and cannot perform at its normal rate of efficiency. This is when – and why – we experience bouts of unbearable pain. It is also when the therapeutic effects of CBD may become useful.
While many things can irritate the nerve and cause acute or temporary discomfort, the most common cause of chronic sciatica is a herniated (slipped) disc. This is where the jelly-like disc protrudes from the spinal column and presses up against the nerve itself.
Treatment options for sciatic nerve pain are about as far-reaching as the vast assortment of medical conditions that cause it. While some individuals may find relief through lower-back stretches and body strengthening workouts like yoga and pilates, many others are left with not much alternative other than to rely on heavy-duty prescription painkillers.
The Importance of Research Studies
That said, high-quality products are still readily available in the US, with or without a medical cannabis license. These products are derived from hemp, which is a legal commercial crop under the 2018 U.S. Farm Bill.
Basically, take into consideration the following criteria before you rush to buy any random CBD oil for sciatica:
What Is Sciatica… and Can CBD Really Help?
The real question is how exactly does CBD and medical marijuana for sciatica work to appease the intense pain that comes along with the condition? Can it really be effective for things like pinched nerves or herniated discs?
Functionally, CBD appears to act as a ‘reinforcement’ to the body’s natural pain management system. That is, to its network of endocannabinoids and cannabinoid receptors. As a cannabinoid itself, CBD increases the number of pain modulators that are available to initiate a response to harmful stimuli. ‘Harmful stimuli’ can include anything from a bulging disc to an inflamed tissue pressing up against the sciatic nerve. In other words, it appears that CBD increases the body’s ability to minimize pain under “abnormal conditions”.
CBD might help with the pain, but likely will not improve the condition itself. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
A 2019 study in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology examined sciatic nerve injuries in mice. Mice were treated with oral THC or CBD, and CBD was mildly effective in reducing pain. The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Washington, used a unique method to administer CBD the same way that humans consume it; by voluntarily eating CBD-containing gummies. However, the rodent sciatic nerve injury model is not a basis of comparison to the human condition of sciatica, and researchers need to understand more about how CBD affects sciatic pain in people before drawing a concrete conclusion.
Stretching with the assistance of a physical therapist or at home may be the best natural alternative to painkillers for sciatica. Surgery is a last resort for most sciatica patients, especially those whose chronic pain is manageable.
Was Tapp’s pain relief linked to the massage, the CBD oil, or a combination of the two? The answer is debatable, but medical experts advise against expecting CBD to heal sciatic pain.
As with many other conditions, positive lifestyle changes may be the best treatment for sciatica. Rae’s advice for people dealing with sciatica is clear: “Spend money on a good standing desk and a physical therapist. “
According to Dr. Adie Rae, an assistant scientist at Legacy Research Institute in Portland, Oregon, and scientific advisor to Weedmaps, there is a lack of evidence that CBD oil is effective in treating sciatic pain.
There is a scarcity of studies regarding the effects of CBD for sciatica in either animals or humans. However, studies are emerging and recent research has indicated that CBD could offer modest relief for individuals with nerve-related pain, including sciatica.
Despite limited research, many people have found pain relief with CBD. One Canadian woman who suffers from sciatica wrote an article for the Huffington Post titled, “Does CBD Really Help with Pain?” In the article, writer Fiona Tapp describes her life as a working mother who sits behind a desk all day and has been seeking relief for a long time. To address her sciatic pain, Tapp booked a massage in which the therapist used CBD oil to soothe her muscles.