Medical Cannabis For Stenosis: How Cannabis Can Help Ease Chronic Symptoms14 March 2023
- Spinal stenosis is a chronic condition that can cause pain in the back or legs. Interventions include physical therapy and anti-inflammatory medication. However, these methods do not prove to be consistently reliable.
- Medical cannabis may help improve symptoms of spinal stenosis. It can help reduce pain and inflammation associated with the condition. However, more research is needed before a definitive conclusion can be made.
- Aside from the analgesic (pain-relieving) properties of cannabis, the medication can also improve the quality of life among spinal stenosis patients. Some have found that cannabis reduces the need for opioid medications, which can have serious side effects.
- Medical cannabis for spinal stenosis is a non-invasive, non-surgical intervention that could apply to many patients. It also causes lesser side effects than most standard treatments.
- Those seeking medical cannabis for spinal stenosis should seek a licensed physician who can recommend the right treatment plan. The right dosage, strain, and method of consumption will vary from person to person.
Spinal stenosis is a condition that occurs when the narrowing of one or more of the spinal canal causes pressure on the nerve roots. The compression of nerves can cause numbness, weakness, and pain in the arms and legs. There are a variety of treatments for spinal stenosis, including physical therapy and surgery.
However, many people find that these treatments don’t work or cause problems in the long run. For example, spinal stenosis is often treated with medications like opioids which can be habit-forming. Other treatments (even surgery) may not even provide relief in the long run.
More and more people are seeking alternative options to reduce the distress caused by spinal stenosis. One of the newer treatments is medical cannabis for spinal stenosis. Medical cannabis has been used for thousands of years to treat pain, inflammation, and other conditions related to the nervous system. The active constituents in cannabis interact with receptors in the body to create analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects.
In this article, we’ll discuss how medical cannabis can help alleviate the symptoms of spinal stenosis. We’ll also look at some side effects and risks associated with medical cannabis for spinal stenosis treatment.
What is spinal stenosis?
Spinal stenosis is a condition that occurs when the spinal canal narrows, causing pressure on the spinal cord and nerves. The spinal canal is the space that surrounds your spinal cord and protects it from damage. When this area becomes compressed or narrowed due to bone spurs (also called osteophytes), you may experience pain, numbness, weakness, and loss of sensation in your arms or legs.
Some people have spinal stenosis but do not manifest any symptoms. Others develop chronic symptoms which can drastically worsen one’s quality of life.
Spinal stenosis can make it difficult for patients to perform regular tasks such as driving or climbing stairs. Some people experience chronic pain, numbness, weakness, and loss of sensation in their arms or legs.
There are two main types of spinal stenosis, depending on where they occur:
- Foraminal (Lateral) – This type of stenosis occurs in the foramina, which are small openings that connect each vertebra to the next. It is most common in the lumbar region (lower back), where it can cause pain in the legs, hips, and buttocks. It can be treated with spinal injections, epidural steroid injections (ESIs), or surgery.
- Central Canal – This type of stenosis occurs within the spinal canal, which is the space surrounding your spinal cord. If the stenosis occurs along the cervical spine, it could cause pain in the neck and shoulder regions. Central canal stenosis in the thoracic and lumbar spine can cause pain or numbness in the lower body.
Spinal stenosis: symptoms, causes, and diagnosis
Spinal stenosis is the narrowing of the space around the spinal cord. This can lead to compression of the nerve roots, which can cause pain and other symptoms.
The symptoms of spinal stenosis include:
- Numbness or pain in your legs, feet, and buttocks
- Changes in sensation on one side of your body (sensory loss)
- Trouble moving and controlling your legs
- In more extreme cases, bowel and sexual function problems
About 80% of all stenosis cases occur in patients above 60 years of age. Men are more likely to develop the condition than women. The primary causes of spinal stenosis include ageing, trauma and injury, or a degenerative disease. An anatomical abnormality can also cause the condition during fetal development.
Although the cause of spinal stenosis is not always clear, some factors may advance the condition. These include:
- The presence of spinal osteophytes or bone spurs in your spine (these are bony projections that can form due to wear and tear on joints)
- An abnormality or injury in your spine that causes compression or narrowing of the spinal canal
- Being overweight or having other metabolic conditions
- Wear-and-tear of the spine caused by other conditions like rheumatoid arthritis
Treatment options for spinal stenosis
Although there is no cure for spinal stenosis, several treatment options are available to manage symptoms and slow disease progression. These include:
- Surgery: This can relieve or prevent further damage to the nerve roots in your lumbar spine. Your doctor will discuss whether surgery is right for you by considering factors such as age, pain levels, activity level and more.
- Physical therapy: Physical therapy can help improve strength and flexibility around your spine, reducing pain caused by movement (e.g., walking, lifting, climbing the stairs).
- Medication: Medications can be used along with other treatments, such as surgery or physical therapy. The most common medications include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), antidepressants, anti-seizure drugs, and opioids.
Medical cannabis and spinal stenosis: how cannabis can help
Medical cannabis can be used to treat a variety of symptoms and conditions, including chronic pain. It can also be used to help manage the side effects associated with certain medications. Cannabis has been shown to help treat some forms of spasms, muscle stiffness, inflammation and more.
Why choose medical cannabis for spinal stenosis?
Common treatment methods for spinal stenosis come with risks, such as:
- Surgical risks (e.g., blood clot, tear in membrane, infection)
- Weakening of nearby bones, tendons and ligaments after repeated steroid use
- Habit formation/addiction with opioid use
- Side effects such as nausea, vomiting and dizziness with oral steroids
Though spinal stenosis can be managed through nonsurgical and surgical methods, standard treatments have yet to prove reliable. Those with stenosis also develop comorbid conditions such as depression, anxiety, and reduced quality of life.
Patients with spinal stenosis may want to consider medical cannabis a safer alternative to standard treatment. Clinical data show cannabidiol (CBD) has anti-inflammatory and analgesic (pain-relieving) effects. As such, it may have a role in treating spinal stenosis.
Medical cannabis, pain perception, and the endocannabinoid system
In humans, the endocannabinoid system is involved in pain perception and modulation. The receptors for cannabinoids (CB1 and CB2) are found throughout the body, including on cell membranes, nerve cells, and other tissues.
When activated by cannabinoids (chemical compounds that are similar to those produced naturally by our bodies), these receptors trigger a response from cell activity inside them. This process can affect various areas of your body, including:
- The brain – CB1 receptors are located in areas of the brain that are involved with memory and movement control
- The immune system – when activated, CB2 receptors can help to regulate inflammation. This is particularly important for reducing pain and swelling.
- The gastrointestinal tract – CB1 receptors are found on cells throughout the gut, which has implications for treating digestive disorders like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
Medical cannabis may help manage post-operative pain
Many patients experience significant post-operative pain after surgery. In some cases, this pain can be severe and debilitating. Medical cannabis may help manage post-operative pain by reducing inflammation and stimulating the release of endorphins.
A 2018 study published in the Journal of Pain Research found that THC-CBD oil reduced pain in patients who underwent surgery for neuropathic pain. Failed back surgery syndrome (FBSS) is a condition that affects patients who have undergone surgery for lumbar spinal stenosis (LSS).
In the study, all 11 patients preferred the cannabinoid-based solution over other treatment methods. They also reported improvement in pain perception after the surgical procedures.
One 2020 study in Current Pharmaceutical Biotechnology found that topical CBD oil reduced feelings of pain and itchiness caused by peripheral neuropathy. The researchers also noted that participants did not report any negative effects as opposed to standard treatment.
Medical cannabis reduces or eliminates the need for opioids
As with any medication, medical cannabis has risks and side effects. That said, it’s important to recognise that cannabis is a safer alternative to opioid painkillers and other synthetic drugs that can have similarly devastating consequences.
Opioids are habit-forming medications that can cause serious or fatal overdoses. Increased usage of painkillers may reduce their efficiency. Once someone becomes addicted to opioids, breaking the cycle can be extremely difficult.
Numerous studies have shown that medical cannabis can help manage chronic pain, which may reduce or eliminate the need for opioids. The use of medical cannabis could aid in the management of this type of pain and improve a patient’s quality of life overall.
In a large survey study published in J Psychoactive Drug, researchers found that 75% of opioid-dependent medical cannabis users experienced “complete overall relief” from opioid dependency. The study also found that medical cannabis users were more likely to reduce their dose of opioid medications than those who did not use cannabis.
Support for medical cannabis as a pain-relief option is on the rise. Here at the Medical Cannabis Clinics, we’re proud to provide patients with a non-opioid option for managing chronic pain. If you are suffering from pain caused by spinal stenosis, we invite you to schedule an appointment with one of our licensed medical cannabis doctors today.
Medical cannabis for spinal stenosis may improve a patient’s quality of life
Aside from the physical conditions stenosis patients face, the condition can also take an emotional toll. Spinal stenosis can cause depression, anxiety and low self-esteem. These comorbidities can reduce the quality of life if left untreated.
Depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders
Mood disorders can affect the rehabilitation of patients even in the long run. A 10-year follow-up study published in the Spine Journal found that stenosis patients with depression and anxiety were more likely to experience a recurrence of their stenosis symptoms.
Patients suffering from spinal stenosis can benefit from medical cannabis because it can manage pain, reduce anxiety, and improve mood. Additionally, it has been shown that using medical cannabis as a treatment for depression affects the activity of serotonin receptors in the brain.
Patients with lumbar spinal stenosis (LSS) are more likely to experience poor sleep, a 2020 review published in the Spine Journal suggests. The same study found that out of the 230 LSS patients, women were more likely to experience sleep disturbance.
Cannabis has long been used as a sleep aid, even before clinical studies. The results of one study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that patients with insomnia who were given medical cannabis had an improved quality of sleep and an increased total sleep time.
In another 2022 study, researchers administered medical cannabis to 38 patients with chronic insomnia. 71% of the patients reported that they slept better after using cannabis, and some even reported a cessation of insomnia.
Medical cannabis for spinal stenosis is one of the safest treatment options
Medical cannabis for spinal stenosis is one of the safer treatment options available. It provides pain relief without the risk of addiction associated with pain medications like opioids, NSAIDs, and more. Furthermore, medical cannabis is a non-invasive and non-surgical option for those unwilling to undergo surgery.
How medical cannabis is used for spinal stenosis depends on the recommended treatment plan. Some studies recommend using it alone, while others report positive outcomes when used in conjunction with physical therapy or standard treatment.
Potential risks and side effects of medical cannabis use
As with any medication, there are potential risks and side effects of medical cannabis use. Cannabis may cause the following:
- heightened paranoia and anxiety
- hallucinations (in rare cases)
There’s also evidence that it may impair short-term memory and increase the risk of confusion (the feeling that things are not real). Those taking cannabis at uncontrolled doses may find themselves dependent on the medication.
As such, it’s important to take the medication under a doctor’s supervision. Patients concerned about any potential risks or side effects should consult their doctor before starting treatment.
THC or CBD for spinal stenosis?
Both THC and CBD are well-known for their painkilling effects. However, CBD is a non-psychoactive compound and doesn’t produce the same euphoric high as THC. This means that it may be a better option for those looking to use cannabis to manage chronic pain but don’t want to experience an altered state of mind.
Cannabis has been used for thousands of years as a natural treatment for various conditions. Today, it is still one of the safest medications available. Anecdotal evidence suggests an increase in preference for medical cannabis over synthetic drugs.
Many patients are turning to the natural alternative because of its lack of serious side effects and ability to treat a wide range of conditions. While there is still much research to be done on the use of cannabis as a treatment, it is clear that this medication shows promise in addressing spinal stenosis symptoms.
Here at the Medical Cannabis Clinics, we recommend that all patients research the benefits and risks of medical cannabis before beginning treatment. If you are interested in learning more about the use of medical cannabis as a treatment for spinal stenosis, please get in touch with us today.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Does CBD work for spinal stenosis?
CBD has been shown to help with inflammation and pain, two common symptoms of spinal stenosis. Multiple clinical trials show CBD to be an effective treatment for both rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis—two conditions that often lead to spinal stenosis.
Do muscle relaxers help with stenosis?
Muscle relaxers are another common treatment for spinal stenosis. However, they’re also known for their addictive qualities—so if you use them long-term, you may need more of them to get the same effect.
What causes spinal stenosis to flare up?
Flare-ups can be caused by actions such as heavy lifting or walking for long periods. If you experience pain when doing these activities, it’s best to take a break and give your body time to heal.
Does lumbar spinal stenosis qualify for medical cannabis?
Yes, lumbar spinal stenosis can qualify for medical cannabis treatment. If you’re suffering from chronic pain caused by spinal stenosis, talk to your doctor about cannabis as an option.
How long does it take for spinal stenosis to go away?
Unfortunately, spinal stenosis is a chronic condition that continues to progress. That said, the condition responds to treatment and interventions such as surgery, physical therapy, and medication.
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