Lower back pain is a leading cause of disability worldwide, with an estimated 7.5% of the global population experiencing some level of it. According to the Global Burden of Disease Study 2017, lower back pain is defined as “pain in the area on the posterior aspect of the body from the lower margin of the twelfth ribs to the lower gluteal folds with or without pain referred into one or both lower limbs that lasts for at least one day.”
It can be caused by various factors, including work-related injuries, and may be intermittent or chronic. Chronic lower back pain, which lasts for weeks or months or may never go away, can be particularly debilitating. Increasingly, people with chronic lower back pain are seeking relief through the use of cannabis, including through inhaled methods of consumption
A new study from Israel has found that inhaled cannabis, particularly strains high in THC, is a safe and effective treatment for chronic lower back pain. The study, published in the Israeli journal Rambam Maimonides, compared the safety and effectiveness of THC-dominant cannabis flowers to CBD-dominant sublingual extracts in a group of patients with lower back pain.
The results showed that THC-rich cannabis was more effective at reducing pain and improving disability compared to the CBD-rich extracts. The study’s authors concluded that inhaled THC-rich cannabis is a safe and effective treatment for chronic lower back pain. Previous research has also indicated that cannabis use is associated with reduced opioid use in people with chronic back pain.
In the study, the patients used CBD-dominant sublingual extracts daily for one year and then switched to THC-dominant cannabis flowers for the second year.
The researchers found that THC-rich cannabis was more effective at relieving lower back pain and improving disability, as measured on a visual analogue scale and by a disability index. Additionally, the patients’ use of pain medications decreased significantly during the second year of the trial.
No serious adverse events were reported. The authors concluded that inhaled THC-rich cannabis is a safe and effective treatment for chronic lower back pain, and noted that cannabis therapy is a common choice for treating chronic pain among the approximately 111,000 Israelis licensed to use medical cannabis products.
Several previous studies have also shown that cannabis use is linked to a decrease in opioid use in patients with chronic back pain. The full text of the study, “Comparing sublingual and inhaled cannabis therapies for low back pain: An observational open-label study,” can be found in the Rambam Maimonides Medical Journal. More information about the use of cannabis for chronic pain can be found from NORML.