cbd oil for degenerative disc disease

CBD oil and back pain

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  1. Research overview
  2. The studies

Recognized as the leading cause of disability worldwide, back pain is a common condition that can cause extreme discomfort – not to mention a few missed days of work or physical activity. Evidence suggests that 50% to 80% of adults will experience at least one episode of back pain at some point in their lives.

Back pain can occur for any number of reasons and range in severity, whether it be a simple muscle strain, bad posture, a ruptured disc, arthritis, or even a sign of more serious medical conditions, such as a kidney infection or blood clot.

As research into the benefits of cannabis continues, cannabidiol (CBD) has emerged as a potentially viable treatment for pain relief. CBD is a non-intoxicating cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant, second in abundance only to THC, and is widely perceived to help reduce pain.

Therefore, it stands to reason that someone experiencing back pain might be wondering whether they can effectively use CBD oil for back pain.

CBD is a non-intoxicating cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant and is widely perceived to help reduce pain. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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Research overview

More peer-reviewed research is needed, focused specifically on CBD treatment for back pain relief, but numerous studies have already demonstrated the anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties of this cannabinoid.

When CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is an internal system that regulates our bodies, it enhances the signaling of anandamide, a pain-regulating compound found in the brain that is linked to feelings of well-being and happiness. By preventing the absorption of this molecule, CBD pushes excess quantities into the bloodstream, reducing pain throughout the body.

CBD pushes excess quantities into the bloodstream, reducing pain throughout the body. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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CBD has also demonstrated the ability to reduce pain through the body’s TRPV1 receptors, responsible for control functions such as inflammation and the awareness of pain.

The studies

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 is associated with increased sensations of pain and transmission. Past research also suggests that CBD could be an effective treatment for some of the most detrimental conditions that cause chronic pain, such as neuropathic pain in multiple sclerosis (MS) and intractable cancer pain.

In a 2012 study, also conducted on lab mice, researchers found that CBD targets alpha-3 glycine receptors to suppress chronic inflammatory and neuropathic pain associated with dysfunctional glycine receptors, an important target for pain processing by the spine, without causing any noticeable analgesic tolerance.

There’s no definitive answer yet, but a 2016 animal study published in European Journal of Pain found that topical application may be more effective than the sublingual method. The research team discovered that while CBD had poor oral bioavailability in lab rats, topical CBD application provided more constant plasma levels, bypassing gastrointestinal administration and first-pass metabolism, which is a phenomenon where the concentration of a drug is reduced before it reaches circulation.


There is evidence that CBD could reduce pain associated with osteoarthritis, a multifunctional joint disease that causes joint degeneration and inflammation. A 2017 study in the journal Pain found that local application of CBD reduced joint inflammation and prevented pain, suggesting that CBD would be an effective treatment for pain associated with arthritis.

In a 2014 review in the European Journal of Neuroscience that summarized past research on CBD and osteoarthritis, researchers concluded that while clinical evidence is limited, existing studies on CBD use for arthritis treatment have shown promising results.

Spinal injury

CBD has also been examined as a treatment for other conditions that cause intense bouts with back pain. For instance, a 2014 study demonstrated that CBD reduced the severity of damage caused by disc degeneration in the vertebrae. After inflicting lab rates with a spinal injury, the research team injected them with various concentrations of CBD, and concluded that higher doses of CBD provided an anti-degenerative effect and “attenuated the effects of disc injury.”


For some, chronic back pain may make it difficult to get a proper night of sleep, but a growing faction of research points to CBD as an effective sleep aid as well. One study, published in the Permanente Journal in January 2019, found that CBD alleviated short-term sleep issues and reduced anxiety in a majority of patients.

Chronic back pain may make it difficult to get a proper night of sleep, but research points to CBD as an effective sleep aid as well. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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While the initial evidence supports that notion that CBD is a viable treatment for chronic pain, it’s important to note that more clinical research is needed to gain a better understanding of the anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties of this non-intoxicating cannabinoid.

CBD oil and back pain Copy article link to clipboard. Link copied to clipboard. Contents Research overview The studies Recognized as the leading cause of disability

Can CBD Treat Degenerative Disc Disease?

Published : May 31, 2019
Categories : Medical cannabis

Degenerative disc disease is a large contributor to back pain, a cause of chronic pain for many. CBD has been shown to attenuate this degeneration within animal models, and could be a possible treatment in the future.

CBD continues to gain recognition as a natural medicine as ever more scientific research and anecdotal accounts come rolling in. Otherwise known as cannabidiol, CBD is a non-psychotropic cannabinoid synthesised within the flowers of the cannabis plant. As one of the most researched cannabinoids, CBD has so far displayed anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antioxidant, neuroprotective, anti-tumour, and anticonvulsant properties.


CBD also shows potential in the treatment of various musculoskeletal pathologies. The compound interacts with the endocannabinoid system, a regulatory system within the human body comprised of various receptor types, including CB1 and CB2 receptors. CBD also interacts with GPR55, a cannabinoid receptor associated with increased bone mass in animal studies.


When it comes to preserving the discs of the spine, here too CBD displays promise. Research is ongoing regarding CBD’s potential as a future treatment for degenerative disc disease. Although current research has been performed using animal models, further human research could mark a breakthrough in this arena. Intervertebral disc degeneration is reported to be the main contributor to low back pain, a condition that affects large portions of the world’s population.

Recent research suggests that CBD has a protective effect over intervertebral discs in vivo. However, before we dig into the data, let’s take a look at exactly what discs are and how they begin to degenerate.


An intervertebral disc sits between two spinal vertebrae within the vertebral column and contributes to the formation of a fibrocartilaginous joint. These discs have multiple functions, including shock absorption for the spine, movement, and stability of the spine.

Each disc features an outer ring, or annulus fibrosus, composed of several layers of fibrocartilage made up of different types of collagen. Within this ring exists a gel-like centre containing loose fibres called the nucleus pulposus. It’s this gel-like substance that allows discs to absorb physical shock during movement and activity.

Many people will have heard of the so-called phenomenon of a “slipped disc”. What this actually means is that the gel-like fluid of the nucleus pulposus been forced against the annulus fibrosus to the point of protrusion or prolapse. This can be caused by physical trauma during activity or by chronic deterioration in the form of poor posture. The nucleus pulposus can herniate in lateral and posterior directions and cause symptoms such as numbness, pain, and loss of sensation due to pressing on nerves.


Intervertebral disc disease is characterised by the gradual breakdown of one or more discs within the spine. Disc degeneration is a natural part of ageing, with around 25% of individuals displaying evidence of degeneration before the age of 40. During this process, the nucleus pulposus begins to lose some of its water content and the annulus fibrosus becomes more prone to tearing, resulting in possible herniation.

Degeneration and subsequent herniation can lead to spinal nerve compression, which can result in pain, weakness, and numbness in the extremities. As degeneration continues, bone spurs can form at the edge of individual vertebra, causing further compression of nerves, and possibly causing issues with walking and bladder/bowel control.


CBD has already shown early efficacy as a potential musculoskeletal medicine, and more evidence is mounting. A 2014 study published within the journal PLoS One investigated the protective effect of CBD on lesion-induced intervertebral disc degeneration within rats.

Researchers first induced damage to intervertebral discs via needle puncture to create a lesion. The rats were then divided into three sub-groups, with 6–7 animals in each group. Each group was then administered a different dose of CBD via injection: 30, 60, and 120 nmol.

After administration, the researches used MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and microscope analysis to examine the induced injuries. The results of the analysis revealed no improvements within the 30 and 60 nmol groups. However, improvement in lesion damage was seen in the 120 nmol group in both MRI and microscope imaging up to 15 days afterwards.

These results led the authors to state that the study revealed the anti-degenerative effects of CBD injection at 120 nmol. Although more research is required in this domain, such results indicate the future use of CBD for disc degeneration treatment.


Inflammation plays a large role within the process of degenerative disc disease. Although specific studies need to be performed to find a correlation, CBD has been shown to exert anti-inflammatory effects by interfacing with cannabinoid and adenosine receptors.

Pain also plays a large role in degenerative disc disease, particularly neuropathic pain that stems from compression of nerves due to herniation. CBD may help to relieve this side effect as there is some evidence to suggest cannabinoids are effective in reducing neuropathic pain.

Finally, CBD may help to tackle some of the psychological symptoms associated with degenerative disc disease. The compound displays anxiolytic and antidepressant-like effects that can help boost the quality of life of sufferers.

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Degenerative disc disease is characterised by the breakdown of spinal discs, leading to herniation pain. CBD has been shown to possibly mitigate this breakdown. ]]>