Back pain is something most of us will have at one time or another. According to the Mayo Clinic, it’s so common that 80 percent of people have it eventually. In fact, it’s one of the most cited reasons for visiting the doctor or calling in sick to work.
The Causes of Back Pain
It can occur at any age but certain people are more likely to be afflicted. While it’s easy to assume that the older you get, the more likely you are to have it (after all, growing old is a bitch), this isn’t the case: people most often affected are between the ages of 35 and 55. This likely has to do with activity level as well as the presence in the workforce – even sedentary jobs are hard on the back.
Sitting for eight hours a day is one of the most frequent causes of back pain
The other causes of this pain are many and can occasionally be a sign of something more serious. According to Medical News Today, pain that occurs in the lower back is linked to the lumbar spine, discs between the vertebrae, ligaments, and nerves around the spinal cord, the muscles of the lower back, and abdominal and pelvic organs. Pain that occurs in the upper back is linked to the aorta (severe back pain where it feels as if you’re being stabbed can be a symptom of an aortic dissection), chest tumors, and inflammation of the spine.
By far the most common causes, however, involve wear and tear on the body. These include strained muscles or ligaments, muscle spasms, lifting something that is too heavy, lifting with your back instead of your legs, awkward movements (like stepping off a step when you don’t know that it’s there), ruptured or bulging discs, sciatica (this is a sharp and shooting pain that goes from the lower back down the leg – it’s caused by nerve pressure from a herniated disc), arthritis, and – in my husband’s case – playing a pickup basketball game when you’re almost 40. Even something as common as a urinary tract infection can cause back pain. So can a bad mattress – if yours doesn’t support the body and keep the spine straight, get a new one.
Poor posture is another frequent cause. As mentioned above, back pain is common in people who have jobs that require long periods of sitting. Poor posture is the reason why. As people work at their computers, they have a tendency to hunch over or bend awkwardly. They may also strain their neck towards the computer screen. An ergonomic desk and chair can help this. Retiring and moving to the beach can as well.
The Risk Factors of Back Pain
Now that we know what causes it, maybe you’re wondering if you’re at risk for back pain. Do you have a back? Then yes. But there are some things that increase your likelihood. Some of these include obesity (more weight equals more strain on your back), pregnancy, a sedentary lifestyle, anxiety, depression, and a mentally strenuous job. Gender comes into play too – back pain is more common in females, perhaps because of the pregnancy factor. And cigarettes matter too – per Everyday Health, they increase back pain in several ways: they restrict blood flow to the disks that cushion the vertebrae (resulting in degeneration and causing pain), they reduce calcium absorption (which can lead to osteoporosis), and, when an injury occurs, they slow down the healing process.
Cannabis and Back Pain
But, while cigarettes aren’t good for you back, what about cannabis? Is the bud a friend of the spine or does bending over to smoke a bowl just contribute to the problem? If you’re a toker, you’ll be happy to know that Mary Jane is your massage therapist. In other words, cannabis may help your back feel better.
Per WebMD, the Canadian Medical Association Journal published a study showcasing cannabis’s ability to reduce chronic pain in men and women alike. The research involved administering different potencies of THC to women and men with chronic pain (these potencies were 9.4% THC, 6% THC, and 2.5% THC – a placebo was thrown in too). The pain reduction was modest, but consistent – in those who took the highest amounts of THC, the pain reduction was the greatest. As for the modest reduction, most strains of cannabis have THC percentages much higher than what was used in this study – thus, the scientists concluded that more potent strains would help those in pain even more.
Canada is ahead of America when it comes to marijuana (i.e., they’ve legalized recreational weed federally where we only have a handful of states on the bud-wagon). And, even back in 2014, the College of Family Physicians of Canada published a recommendation of cannabis for those in chronic pain (when other more conventional treatments proved futile). In the states, more and more doctors are advocating for medical marijuana, but the official stance of the American Medical Association is to remain idle – they advocate for more knowledge and an investigation into the classification of cannabis as a Schedule 1 substance, but without endorsing cannabis as medicine. And they’re not for recreational legalization at all.
Oddly, the AMA was more progressive eighty years ago – in 1937, they strongly objected to the illegalization of cannabis.
The Strains for Back Pain
While the above study tied THC to the relief of back pain, CBD is the cannabinoid most often lauded for its achy-breaky heart. But the truth is they both help…and they work best when taken together.
So, what are some of the strains worth trying? Put these in your bowl and smoke them:
Fire OG Kush: If your grandma suffers from back pain and is looking to cannabis for relief, this is not the strain to start her out on. Simply, this strain is best for seasoned smokers. It’s a heavy indica and very powerful. Even those who have tolerance shouldn’t smoke it during the day. It’s great for severe pain as well as insomnia, anxiety, and depression.
ACDC: Start your grandma on this strain instead! ACDC has a very low level of THC, but it’s very high in CBD: the THC sits between 1-6% while the CBD hovers at 20%. It’s an even hybrid of indica and sativa and isn’t likely to get you high.
ACDC comes recommended for those with pain, epilepsy, and alcoholism
Northern Lights: Northern Lights is an indica and a popular one at that. It’s potent (two hit and quit), but it numbs the body (which is why it’s so great for pain). It’ll make you lazy and dull your intellect, so don’t take it before you have to go to work, school, or appear on Jeopardy. Like most indicas, it’s best to use it before bedtime.