If you suffer from low back pain, like almost 80% of other Americans at some point in their lives, then you have probably tried everything on the market to relieve your pain. You may even be considering trying one of the latest trends — CBD.
The market for CBD (cannabidiol) products has exploded over the past few years and, while there is still so much that we need to learn and study regarding the effects of CBD on the body, there is a growing body of research that we are starting to be able to base our decisions on.
What Is CBD?
CBD (Cannabidiol) oil is a product that is made from cannabis. Although CBD comes from the chemicals found in marijuana plants, it doesn’t create the “high” that marijuana is known for — that comes from a different cannabinoid called THC.
Because of its relationship with the marijuana plant, CBD has caused a bit of a stir but there is a growing body of research to support the potential health benefits of CBD on the body.
How Do I Take CBD?
When creating CBD products, CBD is extracted from the plants as either an oil or a powder. These extracts are sometimes mixed into gels, creams or put into capsules so that they can either be rubbed on to your skin or taken as a capsule.
Just how you take it, depends on what you are using it for. It is important to note that CBD has not been approved for any medical uses by the U.S. FDA (Food and Drug Administration). There are also things to be aware of and side effects to note if you do decide to try a CBD product.
So, what are CBD products used for and how can they help people who suffer from chronic low back pain?
CBD And Anxiety
One of the top uses of CBD products is for the treatment of anxiety. The science behind this use is that CBD may change the way that your brain’s receptors respond to serotonin.
Serotonin is a feel-good chemical that your body produces naturally and it is linked to mental health. CBD can’t boost the serotonin that your body makes, but it can make the receptors more responsive to the serotonin that your body does produce. This, in turn, can lead to reduced feelings of anxiety and increased sensations of wellness.
CBD And Pain Relief
When it comes to receptors, the effects of CBD oil can also influence how your body manages pain. One study, published in the September 2015 edition of the journal Neurotoxicology, found that CBD also inhibits glutamate levels in the brain and spinal cord, which are associated with increased sensations of pain and transmission.
Other researchers think that the reduction in pain may be more as a result of the anti-inflammatory properties than actual pain reduction. While there is no definitive research on the effects of CBD on pain, some studies have shown that cannabis can reduce pain after chemotherapy. The National Institute of Health is currently doing research to explore the role of cannabis in a variety of conditions such as arthritis, chronic pain, and muscle pain.
Is CBD Legal?
CBD oil is a bit of a tricky subject when it comes to legal matters. In the United States, CBD oil is legal in some states, but not all of them. Hemp-derived CBD products, with less than 0.3% THC, are federally legal, and in fact the House just passed a historic bill to decriminalize cannabis. But CBD is still not legal under all state laws.
If your state allows medicinal and/or recreational marijuana use then you are fine. Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming all have specific CBD laws that pertain to their particular state. If you are planning on using or purchasing a CBD product then you should check the laws of the state that you live in, as well as the laws of any state that you might end up visiting.
Lack of Regulation
With such a rapid market growth, CBD is unfortunately being produced without any regulation, which has resulted in an array of products that vary greatly in quality. The FDA has not stepped in to regulate CBD products because of the complicated legal nature of the product. Some states are trying to put their own regulations in place but it is a long and difficult journey.
A 2017 study conducted by Marcel Bonn-Miller, an adjunct assistant professor of psychology in psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, found that almost seven out of every ten CBD products did not contain the levels of marijuana extract listed on the label. Almost 26% of products had too much marijuana, while around 43% of products had too little. Shockingly, 20% of products were found to contain actual “pot” or THC.
What's The Difference Between CBD and THC & Does It Really Matter?
Research has found that many people who are using CBD are not completely aware of how it differs from THC. Many people don't really care. With the lack of regulation surrounding CBD products it can be hard to know if a product contains THC, and if so, how much THC is actually in there.
Why does this matter?
Well, for two main reasons. Firstly, it is important for consumers to know the exact THC content of a product in case they test positive for THC on a drug test. Some products only contain CBD isolate products while others may contain whole plant extracts. If they contain whole plant extracts the THC levels are supposed to be below 0.3% but if the product isn't regulated this may not always be the case.
Secondly, there is data that supports THC's analgesic effects. If a CBD product contains higher levels of THC than it is supposed to, it may be hard to know if the pain relieving effects of the product are the result of the CBD or the THC levels. This means we don't know if CBD really helps with chronic pain.
Potential Side Effects
When it comes to adding CBD products to your treatment plan for low back pain, it is also important to consider what other products or medications you may be taking.
Studies have raised concerns about potential interactions with other drugs. One study on epilepsy found “very clear increases in the blood levels of some other anti-epileptic drugs when people were on CBD”.
In other studies, around 10% of people taking CBD had increased liver enzymes, which would indicate possible liver damage. Individuals taking statins for high cholesterol, or back pain sufferers taking NSAIDs or acetaminophen should definitely consult their doctor before using products containing CBD.
Low back pain is a debilitating condition for many people so it is no wonder that new solutions are needed to treat it. Sadly, well-controlled studies investigating the effects of CBD on pain are currently not available but, according to data from PubMed, 'the number of published research studies investigating the effects of CBD has more than doubled since the year 2016'. As more research is done we will hopefully have more data and more concrete answers about alternative treatments for this issue.
For now, we hope you enjoyed reading about some of the possible uses of CBD oil, just remember to consult with your healthcare practitioner before starting to use it, especially if you are taking other medications for your low back pain.