It’s estimated that up to 40% of Americans will experience sciatic pain at some point or another. Each year, millions of people end up resorting to heavy pharmaceutical drugs to treat the agonizing pain associated with sciatica.
Sciatica is one of the most common, yet widely misunderstood conditions. While it often gets compared to regular back pain, the two are not the same thing. The pain originates in the sciatic nerves – these are the body’s two largest nerves and are as thick as your little finger. It’s a condition that becomes more frequent as you age and people who suffer from acute or chronic back pain are more susceptible to developing it.
While there are many people who are able to find relief by means of body strengthening workouts like pilates and yoga, as well as lower-back stretches, others are left with no other option than to rely on heavy-duty prescription medication. In the most severe cases, surgery is an option. However, this should always be considered as a last resort.
Enters CBD. Over the past few years, CBD oil has been explored by an increasing amount of people as alternative option. Some physicians, are even starting to think of CBD as an excellent alternative to pharmaceutical options.
In this article, we will take a look at just what sciatica is, what research says about CBD oil for sciatica, and how it works.
What is Sciatica?
Sciatica is a condition that is a result of an issue in the spine, most commonly the lower back. There are different forms of sciatica, the most common being a trapped nerve, bulged disc, or prolapse of the disc. As we have mentioned, sciatica is not the same as general back pain. Instead, the condition manifests in the sciatic nerves. These nerves start in the lower lumbar spine, and pass through the buttocks area, down the back of each leg, through to the soles of the feet and end in the big toes.
Pain occurs when a root that makes up one of the sciatic nerves, or the nerve fibers themselves, either becomes irritated or pinched. You might feel the pain anywhere along the nerve’s branch, which includes the buttocks, calf, lower back, foot, or leg.
It’s also important to note that each sciatic pain episode can differ dramatically. They vary from numbness, tingling, or soreness, to feelings of throbbing heat, stabbing pain, or an electric shock. The severity could also vary from an irritating ache to a pain that is so intense it’s tough to walk or stand.
Typically, sciatica is not a medical condition in itself, but rather a symptom related to other back trauma. Sciatica is the blanket term for tingling, weakness, and pain in the legs and buttocks caused by pressure on or injury to the sciatic nerve. Pain could be intensified with regular movements like sitting, standing, sneezing, coughing, twisting, lifting an object, or anything that puts a strain on the back or the nerve itself.
Often, sciatica starts with a herniated (slipped) disc in the lower spine. In cases where a disk between the vertebrae gets worn down, the soft center may begin to push out from the harder outer ring. As a disc herniates, it could put pressure on the nerves around it. If one of these nerves is a sciatic nerve, it could cause excruciating pain. Other trauma to the back that could harm the sciatic nerve include pelvic injury, fractures, tumors, spinal stenosis, or inflammation of the Piriformis muscle.
What the research says about CBD oil for Sciatica
Based on what we have discussed above, it’s understandable that people suffer significantly with sciatica. The mainstream medications that are typically issued as treatment are paracetamol and Ibuprofen, but these are not 100% effective for sciatic pain relief. Patients who have been medically certified to have a sciatic condition might be given Pregabalin, Gabapentin, Naproxen or Codeine for their condition.
Codeine is usually ineffective for treating nerve-based conditions, which is why it’s still hard to understand why doctors would even prescribe it for sciatica. And, while Gabapentin and Naproxen combined usually provide short-term pain relief, they only last for a few hours and have some horrible side effects.
Thankfully, CBD has shown to be effective helping to combat sciatica through a number of medical studies. This shouldn’t be too surprising, considering that CBD has been found to be an excellent way to help to deal with pain. Let’s look at one of the studies that looked specifically at CBD oil as a treatment for sciatica.
There was a study*, conducted by CBDExperia and published in CBD Medical and Health research journal, which was done on 50 people who had a genuine medical sciatic condition. The main goal was to determine how much CBD would be needed to provide pain relief for sciatic nerve pain. The results were incredible and very clear – all participants received some form of pain relief for their sciatica.
As part of the study, candidates were split into two groups of 25. The first group was told to take 100mg of CBD for three days and then reduce their intake to 60mg a day for ten days before switching down to 20mg a day for the remainder of the three month trial. The second group was told to take 200mg for two days and then reduce it to 100mg for ten days, and finally take 20mg a day for the remaining time.
It was found that both groups experienced a significant reduction in pain. The main difference was the length of time for the CBD to take effect. The first group, who had taken 100mg over three days felt pain relief within 96 hours, while the second group who had taken 200mg over two days experienced pain relief within 48 hours.
Therefore it was concluded that group two – who had consumed more CBD – experienced quicker results than those who had used a lower dosage. Also interesting to note is that those in the first group reported that, while they had a significant reduction in pain, they would still experience short spells of discomfort. The second group, on the other hand, experienced a consistent reduction in pain.
How CBD oil Works for Sciatica
Various studies have shown that there are basically two main functions of CBD oil – mood balance and pain relief – both of which are thought to be effective for conditions such as anxiety, inflammation, spasms, and of course, sciatica, to name a few. Many medical professionals are now considering recommending CBD oil as as an effective analgesic, giving CBD to patients who suffer from various chronic pain conditions.
Although the mechanisms of CBD oil as a pain reliever are not yet fully understood, it’s still being thought to be one of the safest cannabinoids, with plenty of positive reviews regarding its effectiveness against certain chronic pain conditions. Please note that as CBD has not been approved by the FDA, it is impossible to say that CBD is an effective treatment for treating Sciatica.
Still, one of the easiest ways to explain just how CBD oil works for sciatica is by referring to a peer-reviewed study* that was conducted by Perry Fine and Mark Rosenfeld and published four years ago. In the study, they showcase the physiological functions of endocannabinoids as therapeutic pain modulators. Ultimately, they determined that every person – whether they’ve smoked weed or not – has an innate network of cannabinoids and endocannabinoids that work together to regulate the pathways of nociception. This is the body’s reaction to “harmful stimuli.”
When something abnormal occurs, such as when a herniated disc presses up against the sciatic nerve, the endocannabinoid system (ECS) becomes overwhelmed and is not able to perform at its usual rate of efficiency. This is why we experience stints of unbearable pain, and most importantly when the unique benefits of CBD become crucial.
Practically, CBD acts as a “reinforcement” to the natural pain management system of the body. In other words, it provides extra strength to the network of cannabinoid and endocannabinoid receptors. CBD, being a cannabinoid itself, increases the amount of “pain modulators” that are present in order to initiate the response to harmful stimuli. Essentially, it increases the overall ability of the body to reduce the pain sensation experienced under “abnormal conditions.”
Think of it this way – when we have a bacterial infection, we use antibiotics to strengthen body’s immune system and to help it overcome the presence of the the unexpected and harmful bacteria. CBD does exactly the same thing with pain and the natural physiological process of pain management.
Keep in mind that you shouldn’t expect immediate results when you use CBD oil and for some people unfortunately it may not even help. It’s a process, and it may take a while for the CBD to start affecting your system.
Final thoughts on CBD oil for sciatica
Research into CBD oil and the many different conditions, including sciatica, is still very much in its infancy. As cannabis becomes increasingly accepted by society and those in power, we are bound to see an increase in the research being done into cannabis and more specifically CBD.
Research up to now seems to show that CBD oil could certainly aid in specific conditions. Multiple studies have shown that CBD is effective for chronic pain, so it only makes sense that it may work sciatica. Nevertheless, you should always do your research and if necessary, consult with a medical professional before using any CBD oil products.
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