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“Thou cold sciatica, cripple our senators, that their limbs may halt as lamely as their manners.”
-William Shakespeare, Timon of Athens (1607)
As is plainly seen here in Shakespeare’s quote, sciatica is a painful condition that has been bedeviling mankind for hundreds – if not thousands – of years. For those who suffer from it chronically, they will be well aware of the misery it can bring to their lives and the physical impact it can have on their day-to-day well-being.
There’s a lot of misconception about what sciatica actually is, however. First and foremost, it is not actually a medical condition in itself; it’s only a symptom of some other underlying problem. For example, a lumbar herniated disc or spinal stenosis could be the root of the problem.
Generally speaking, sciatica describes symptoms of pain that travel through the large sciatic nerve; because this pain can be caused by so many different medical conditions, sciatica is prevalent among millions of Americans. Recent estimations, in fact, have suggested that up to 40% of U.S. adults will at some point or another experience sciatic nerve pain.
| “Recent estimations have suggested that up to 40% of U.S. adults will experience sciatic nerve pain at some point in their lives.”
Although not classed as a medical condition by itself, we certainly cannot undermine or devalue the severity of the condition – anyone who’s suffered from sciatic nerve pain will tell you how agonizing it can be. In fact, millions of people each year end up resorting to heavy prescription medications in order to treat the often-times debilitating pain.
And needless to say, everyone is well aware of the abuse and addiction risks (and not to mention the dangerous side-effects) that come along with prescription pharmaceutical drug use.
This is where cannabis – and specifically CBD – comes in. CBD oil for sciatica has proven in the past couple of years to be an alternative option for both acute and chronic pain management, and more and more people (as well as physicians) are starting to turn to it as a viable option in place of prescription drugs.
In this article, we’ll discuss how exactly the sciatic nerve is irritated, and how CBD might be able to mollify not only the pain itself, but also the underlying conditions. And last but not least, we’ll also dish out a few of our top picks for the best CBD oils for sciatica that you’ll currently find on the market.
What is Sciatica… and Can CBD Really Help?
The sciatic nerve is the longest and widest nerve in the human body: it starts in the lower back and extends downwards through the buttocks and into each leg, innervating everything from the toes to the lower back muscles.
Pain associated with the nerve can range anywhere from a mild tingling sensation in the feet or toes, to completely debilitating and immobilizing lower back and leg pain.
| “Sciatic nerve pain can result in anything from a mild tingling sensation, to complete debilitation of the lower back and legs.”
While there are loads of things that can ultimately irritate the nerve and cause acute or temporary discomfort, by far the most common cause of chronic sciatica is a herniated (slipped) disc, wherein the jelly-like disc protrudes from the spinal column and presses up against the nerve itself.
The tough thing about treating slipped discs, though, is that once they become “dislodged” from underneath the vertebrae, they don’t typically heal all that well or go back into place on their own merit. Naturally, this can result in incredibly frustrating and long-term conditions wherein intense pain can be a day-to-day occurrence.
Other causes of sciatica can include pinched/compressed nerves in the lower vertebrae, acute injuries, and severe conditions like lumbar spinal stenosis, just to name a few.
And as far as those people most at risk, individuals with overly-strenuous physical labor jobs are much more likely to develop sciatic nerve pain, as are individuals who sit for extremely long periods of time (i.e. 8+ hours a day for years on end) without walking/stretching breaks.
Conventional Treatment Methods (other than CBD) for Sciatica
Treatment options for sciatic nerve pain are about as far-reaching as the vast assortment of medical conditions that cause it: while many individuals are able to find relief through lower-back stretches and body strengthening workouts like yoga and pilates, many others are left with not much alternative other than to rely on heavy-duty prescription painkillers.
In relatively mild instances wherein the pain stems from inflamed tissue coming into contact with the nerve, alternating hot and cold packs have proven to be effective, as have general over the counter drugs like ibuprofen.
Physical therapy is also an efficient and very commonly recommended treatment, as is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) in which patients are ‘trained’ to react differently to pain sensations. While a rather interesting approach, results can be pretty hit or miss with CBT, though.
And of course, surgery can also be an option as well in the most severe of cases, with procedures like lumbar laminectomies (widening of the vertebrae to minimize pressure on the nerve) and discectomies (complete removal of slipped discs) having proven to be especially effective. In any instance, though, surgery should always be a last resort option.
| “In terms of conventional sciatica treatment, surgery should always be a last resort option…”
All in all, those individuals who end up seeking alternative treatment methods like CBD oil for their sciatica are chronic sufferers who are faced with not many other options than heavy-duty dosages of prescription medications to alleviate the pain.
CBD Oil for Sciatica: A Superior Alternative to Prescription Meds?
As we mentioned in the intro, thousands of people in recent years that have successfully replaced their pharmaceutical meds in favor of CBD oil for sciatica. Not only is CBD a cheaper option, but it also poses virtually no side-effects, which is a major consideration taking into account the stone-showering of serious complications associated with most conventional painkillers.
The real question, though, is how exactly does medical marijuana for sciatica work to appease the intense pain that comes along with chronic conditions like pinched nerves or herniated discs?
| “The real question is, how exactly does CBD for sciatica work to relieve the intense pain leg and lower back pain?”
To understand its specific physiological role in the body, we need to first understand the basic role of the endocannabinoid system as it relates to pain sensation and pain management pathways in the central nervous system.
Four years ago, doctors Perry Fine and Mark Rosenfeld published a peer-reviewed study showcasing the physiological functions of endocannabinoids as therapeutic pain modulators. Essentially, their work portrayed the fact that everyone – whether they’ve smoked marijuana a day in their life or not – has an innate network of endocannabinoids and cannabinoid receptors that work together to modulate the pathways of nociception, which is the body’s response to ‘harmful stimuli’.
In the event of abnormal circumstances (i.e. a herniated disc pressing up against your sciatic nerve), the endocannabinoid system becomes overwhelmed and is unable to perform at its normal rate of efficiency. This is when – and why – we experience bouts of unbearable pain, and is also when the therapeutic effects of CBD become absolutely critical.
Functionally, CBD acts as a ‘reinforcement’ to the body’s natural pain management system – that is, to its network of endocannabinoids and cannabinoid receptors. Being a cannabinoid itself, it increases the number of “pain modulators” that are available to initiate the response to harmful stimuli (again, something like a bulging disc or an inflamed tissue pressing up against the sciatic nerve). In other words, it increases the body’s overall ability to minimize the pain sensation under “abnormal conditions”.
| “Functionally, CBD acts as a ‘reinforcement’ to the body’s natural pain management system.”
Consider it this way: when we have a bacterial infection we take antibiotics to “reinforce” the body’s immune system and help it overcome the ‘unexpected presence’ of harmful bacteria. CBD appears to do the same thing, albeit with pain and the natural physiological processes of pain management.
CBD vs. THC: Are all Cannabinoids Created the Same?
As it turns out, both THC and CBD (the two primary cannabinoids in marijuana), have similar effects on the Endocannabinoid System in terms of their ability to influence pain modulation.
However, due to the obvious psychoactive effects of THC, a lot of people are hesitant about using it as a medication, as they understandably don’t care to get have to get stoned in order to deal with their day-to-day pain.
This is why CBD – and CBD oil in particular – may prove to be such an incredible drug; it appears to maintain its therapeutic effect as a cannabinoid, while completely bypassing any unwanted psychoactive effects. In other words, it does everything that THC does except get you high.
Just take it from Cain Velasquez, a popular MMA fighter who openly uses CBD oil for sciatic nerve pain. The fighter claims there were times in the past where his pain was so severe he could barely stand for more than ten minutes at a time, and in fact, had to pull out of a few high-profile fights due to sciatica-related issues.
Since discovering CBD oil, though, he says he’s been able to recover properly and train harder after fights, and also vows that it’s superior to conventional pain meds due to its non-addictive nature and complete lack of side effects.
| “[Sciatica is] an achy pain that goes down your leg … it gets to a point where if you’re standing for 10 minutes, you have to sit down. [CBD] is the only thing that allows me to still train – and I’m not taking a harmful painkiller into my body that I’ll later become addicted to.”
-MMA fighter Cain Velasquez
Current Research on CBD, Sciatica, and Potential Therapeutic Effects
Back in 2005, Italian researchers conducted a study that looked at the effects of CB-1 receptors on pain response. In particular, they observed the effects of nerve demyelination (one of the underlying causes of sciatica) in rodents, as well as the potential influence of cannabinoid receptors on “chronic constriction injury of the sciatic nerve.”
In other words, they looked to see whether or not cannabinoids like CBD may be a viable alternative treatment option for the difficult-to-manage pain that is so often associated with sciatica.
Prior to the administration of the cannabinoid treatment, sciatica nerve tissue analysis in the animal subjects showed “marked degeneration” of the myelinated fibers – in other words, their sciatica nerve was extremely damaged.
After “repeated administration” of the cannabinoid treatment, however, it was observed that damage to the nerve tissue was substantially reduced, suggesting that active cannabinoids like CBD may be able to function in myelin tissue repair and “promote long-lasting functional recovery.”
From the July 2005 article (published in the academic journal Pain):
| “In conclusion, present findings suggest that [cannabinoid treatment] is effective not only in alleviating neuropathic pain, but also in favoring nerve myelin repair.”
Even with this incredibly promising information in mind, it’s important to remember that CBD for sciatic nerve pain is not an FDA-approved form of treatment, nor are doctors able to prescribe it as such. We will need to rely on more rigorous clinical trials if we’re to reach the point where doctors can issue a CBD-based sciatica drug, but for the time being, there are dozens of different high-quality products available in all 50 U.S. states — with or without a medical cannabis license.
Best CBD Oil for Sciatica: Our Top Picks
In light of this seemingly promising information on the potential for CBD oil to be able to treat sciatica, you may be thinking ‘ok, how can I get some?’
Well, you’ve basically got two options. If you live in a state where cannabis is legal (either recreationally or medically – and you have a valid MMJ card), you can buy high-quality products from licensed marijuana dispensaries. These CBD oils are typically extracted from high-THC cannabis strains, and are generally very potent.
If you don’t live in a state where buying from a dispensary is an option, however, you can actually buy online from a few manufacturers that extract from industrial hemp strains rather than marijuana strains. Since hemp contains levels of THC that are below the federal legal limit of 0.3%, these sellers are able to ship legally to all 50 U.S. states.
As we don’t like to play favorites though or pitch any one brand in particular, we’ll leave it up to you to do your own research to find a good, high-quality CBD manufacturer (if you decide to go the online route).
But be advised – there are plenty of sellers out there that might claim to have the ‘best CBD oil for sciatica,’ but given the unregulated nature of the market, many of the products available online are not much more than olive oil. What you need to look for is an oil that has been extracted using low-temperature CO2 methods, and that also has laboratory-verified CBD content.
Basically, before you rush out to buy any random CBD oil for sciatica, it’s important to take into consideration the following things:
- Not all CBD oils are created alike. While one CBD oil might work for one person, it may not work for another. This due to many reasons; we each have our own Endocannabinoid System, genetics, general health and tolerance.
- Don’t expect immediate results. Choosing a CBD oil is a process, and it can a while before the CBD starts to affect your system. Always do your research, and make sure to consult with a medical professional before taking any CBD oil or adding any products to your treatment routine.
Looking to buy CBD oil for sciatica? Listed below you’ll find several products that, in our experience, have consistently ranked the best over the past few years in terms of quality, purity, and effectiveness.
- Full-spectrum Hemp extract
- No pesticides, solvents or chemical fertilizers
- 3rd party laboratory tested
- Price Range ($48.00 – $139.00)
- Maximum potency and purity
- Compounded by a licensed pharmacist
- Highly concentrated extraction process
- Price Range ($26-$169)
- Full-Spectrum Extract (Made in USA)
- 100% Natural and Organic
- Contain no artificial flavors or preservatives
- Prices range ($48-$125)
- CBDPure uses a chemical-free CO2 extraction process
- 3rd party laboratory tested
- Certified hemp grown in Colorado
- Price Range ($29.99 – $79.99)
- Over 5 Years Experience
- 3rd party laboratory tested
- Organic hemp CO2 extract tincture
- Price Range ($62.00 – $204.00)