Spanning the length of the lower back to the legs, the sciatic nerve covers a large and sensitive area that can radiate intense pain when aggravated. Causes of sciatic pain include herniated discs or bone spurs in the spine, which may occur in tandem with risk factors such as obesity, prolonged sitting, advanced age, and diabetes. The resulting pain typically occurs on one side of the body, according to the Mayo Clinic, but there are exceptions.
Individuals coping with sciatica may find little relief in over-the-counter pain medications and seek out alternative treatments with few side effects. Research has emerged on CBD topicals and tinctures as complementary therapies for back pain and headaches.
Could CBD also help manage sciatic pain? We'll delve into current research and hear what the experts say about CBD for sciatica.
There is a scarcity of studies regarding the effects of CBD for sciatica in either animals or humans. However, studies are emerging and recent research has indicated that CBD could offer modest relief for individuals with nerve-related pain, including sciatica.
A 2019 study in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology examined sciatic nerve injuries in mice. Mice were treated with oral THC or CBD, and CBD was mildly effective in reducing pain. The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Washington, used a unique method to administer CBD the same way that humans consume it; by voluntarily eating CBD-containing gummies. However, the rodent sciatic nerve injury model is not a basis of comparison to the human condition of sciatica, and researchers need to understand more about how CBD affects sciatic pain in people before drawing a concrete conclusion.
Despite limited research, many people have found pain relief with CBD. One Canadian woman who suffers from sciatica wrote an article for the Huffington Post titled, "Does CBD Really Help with Pain?" In the article, writer Fiona Tapp describes her life as a working mother who sits behind a desk all day and has been seeking relief for a long time. To address her sciatic pain, Tapp booked a massage in which the therapist used CBD oil to soothe her muscles.
After the CBD massage, Tapp described, "That night, I happily realized that the usual pain I feel when trying to get comfy in bed was missing and I fell into a deep sleep by 9 p.m."
Was Tapp's pain relief linked to the massage, the CBD oil, or a combination of the two? The answer is debatable, but medical experts advise against expecting CBD to heal sciatic pain.
What the experts say
According to Dr. Adie Rae, an assistant scientist at Legacy Research Institute in Portland, Oregon, and scientific advisor to Weedmaps, there is a lack of evidence that CBD oil is effective in treating sciatic pain.
Rae shared, "In general, CBD is an anti-inflammatory, and CBD can theoretically reduce swelling and inflammation, thereby reducing pain. This is purely hypothetical; however, there have not been any studies. There is lots of evidence that full-spectrum cannabis and THC are good for several kinds of neuropathic pain, but the evidence for hemp-CBD is sparse and weak."
However, CBD may have the ability to exert a short-term effect on pain as Rae added, “CBD might help (mildly) with the pain, but likely will not improve the condition itself.”
Therefore, some people may opt to try full-spectrum CBD oil to assess whether it has any effect on sciatic pain, even if the benefits are short-term.
If you are considering CBD for sciatica, you may have some questions:
How much CBD should I take for sciatica?
CBD is generally safe even in very large doses, but that doesn't mean you should overdo the application of CBD oils or ingestion of tinctures. It is best to start with small, once-daily doses, such as taking a few drops of CBD oil under the tongue. It is important to talk to your doctor about your daily CBD regimen, especially if you are taking other medications. CBD can interact with some medicine, and your doctor can best help you monitor your health if they are aware of your CBD therapy.
What is the best treatment for sciatica?
As with many other conditions, positive lifestyle changes may be the best treatment for sciatica. Rae's advice for people dealing with sciatica is clear: "Spend money on a good standing desk and a physical therapist..."
Stretching with the assistance of a physical therapist or at home may be the best natural alternative to painkillers for sciatica. Surgery is a last resort for most sciatica patients, especially those whose chronic pain is manageable.
CBD may be useful in providing minor, temporary pain relief for individuals with sciatica, but lifestyle changes are probably the most effective long-term treatment.