Cannabis for Spinal Disc Problems

Spinal discs are cartilage structures between our vertebrae that act as shock absorbers.


Spinal discs are cartilage structures between our vertebrae that act as shock absorbers. They help our spine move and ensure the bones stay properly stacked on one another while allowing the spinal cord to run through them without being strained.

When we encounter problems with our spinal discs it can be extremely painful and often limits our flexibility and movement. The pain can disable us to the point of becoming dependent on others to perform simple tasks such as picking something up off the floor or restricting the activities we can engage in.

There are three major problems associated with spinal disc disease that cause inflammation, pain, and ultimately degeneration. The first is a bulged disc when there’s a lack of fluid pressure inside of a disc, this causes the disc to bulge out between the vertebrae. Think of it like a tire that’s lost its air. It can no longer hold the car up properly, this is similar to how a bulged disc loses its ability to properly hold the vertebrae up, often causing them to rub against a nerve which causes pain.

The second problem is a slipped disc. This can potentially be a bulged disc as well but specifically refers to a disc that has already begun to degenerate. It receives its name from the slipping it does between vertebrae that often pinches a nerve or has bones of the vertebrae rubbing against one another causing pain and inflammation.

Finally, there’s a herniated disc. A good analogy for this is thinking of the disc as a jelly donut that’s been squashed with jelly seeping out of the side. With a herniated disc, its inner nucleus pushes through a crack in the outer portion called the annulus and then painfully compresses a nerve.

Oftentimes, spinal disc problems can be treated without surgery with involving physical therapy, temperature therapy, gentle stretching, chiropractic techniques, corticosteroid injection, and of course medication. In extreme cases, surgery may be recommended.

When we consider using cannabis as an alternative treatment for spinal disc problems, most of us think that it will be used in the form of an analgesic. This is something a patient can try since surveys, self-reports, and a few studies have suggested that cannabis could be an alternative or supplement to pain

medications - especially those that are opiate-based. Cannabidiol, a major cannabinoid found in cannabis, is also believed to help with some types of inflammation which could benefit those suffering from disc problems since they often cause inflammation. But there has been one animal study that indicates cannabis could be used to help treat the actual degeneration of the disc itself.

In 2014, scientists discovered that high doses of CBD injected into the site of a degenerating disc reduced inflammation and helped slow down the degeneration process. Needles were stuck into spinal discs of rats’ tails to begin the degeneration process and three different groups received three differing amounts of CBD concentrate in the discs that were punctured. The rats that received the highest doses experienced the least amount of degeneration while the other two groups continued to see degeneration at a standard pace.

There have not been any more studies done involving cannabis used for spinal disc degeneration, so as far as applying this information towards healing human disc problems, data is extremely limited.