Back pain is the kind of condition that can affect your whole day. From the moment you open your eyes and feel the sharp sting when trying to get out of bed all the way until your day is done and you have finally gotten back to bed. Chronic back pain affects all members of the adult population, causing a significant decrease in life enjoyment and quality. Up to 50% of Americans experience back pain each year. Some experts estimate that 80% of the population will experience back pain sometime in their lives. Even though most cases of back pain are self- limiting and don’t last over a couple of weeks, some do become chronic.
Chronic back pain (in seniors)
- decreases function
- increases the incidence of depression,
- creates kinesiophobia (fear of movement),
- and may worsen other chronic diseases that require ongoing management for maximal control, such as diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease.
Back pain and especially chronic back pain is one of the major disabling health conditions among older adults aged 60 years or older. While most causes of back pain among older adults are non-specific and self-limiting, seniors are prone to develop certain back pain pathologies and/or chronic back pain given their age-related physical and psychosocial changes. It is also proven that chronicity increases with age in the seniors’ population.
Reasons for a higher occurrence of chronic back pain in seniors are various and while some of them are quite logical and known, like age-related degeneration of the spine, rheumatoid arthritis (more common in seniors), some are not that known but are equally important in the genesis of chronic back pain.
- higher sensitivity to physical pain due to decreased pain inhibition in the elderly.
- age-related changes in neuroplasticity may decrease pain tolerance in older adults.
- social factors (poor housing, crime, and poor living environment)
- psychological factors ( seniors with poor self-perceived health status are more likely to experience severe back pain)
Managing and Medications
Today there are various options in treating back pain, including chronic back pain. We can divide them into three major groups:
- physical therapy
- medications therapy
- surgical therapy
Physical therapy can be topical, by using hot and cold packs to improve blood flow in the back and thus help alleviate symptoms. Another type of physical therapy is exercise and stretching, which can strengthen and at the same time relax back muscles and in that way help with the symptoms.
The most commonly used medications for chronic back pain relief in seniors are NSAIDs ( non – steroid anti-inflammatory drugs) and opioid painkillers. Both have proven to be effective, but both come with some serious side effects, especially when used continually. NSAIDs can lead to the development of ulcers, heartburn, and fluid retention. The use of opioids for pain relief carries its own risk of addiction development.
Surgery is the last resort people and doctors turn to when nothing else works. The reason is that it is rarely effective, while at the same time it can lead to many serious complications.
CBD for chronic back pain
Because of the concerns related to the long-term use of opioids and NSAIDs and the low effectiveness of surgery, people are becoming more and more interested in alternative ways to treat chronic back pain.
CBD has been shown to be very effective in relieving people from many modalities of pain, including back pain. Before we continue on how CBD does that, let us first review what CBD is.
In the last couple of years it has become one of the most talked-about, most researched, and most used medications in the US. CBD is an active ingredient of a type of cannabis plant called the hemp, from which it is extracted (mostly in the form of oil). It can also be found in marijuana, but in a much lesser concentration than in the hemp plant. Unlike THC, CBD does not produce a “high” effect, since it is not psychotropic. On the other hand, it does have many beneficial effects on our health. This is not due to some unknown effect that cannot be proven, but because it interacts with a system of transmitters and receptors in our body called endocannabinoid system which, as the latest research show, plays a major role in regulating our immune system and health in general.
Some of the most important effects that CBD produces are:
- Anti-inflammation – it reduces the inflammation in all of the tissues in our body, including our backs
- Muscle relaxation – it relaxes the muscles, which can reduce tension in the back and relieve the pain experienced.
- Neural tissue modulation – it optimizes the way in which our neural cells connect and communicate with each other. This is very important in the transfer of pain impulses.
- Neuroprotective effect – it protects the neurons in both the central and peripheral nervous system thus slowing down dying of the nerve cells and stopping the further worsening of back pain.
CBD, through all of these effects, lowers the inflammation in the muscles of the back and the spine. It relaxes the muscles, stops the degeneration of the bone and neural tissue, optimizes the way in which the pain impulses are received. Also, it affects the psyche in a positive way by reducing anxiety and depression symptoms.
How to use CBD for chronic back pain?
You have done your research, read through Quora and Reddit posts, spoken to your doctor and decided to try CBD for your chronic back pain. How should you use it? When buying your CBD product it is important to always get only 100% natural CBD products for your chronic back pain relief. The most direct and natural way of using is by spraying a couple of drops under your tongue and keeping them there for 60-90 seconds (sublingual application).
This absorbs the oil directly through the blood and to skip the digestive system. When it comes to dose, there is not enough research about standard CBD dosing. So always start with a smaller dose (a couple of drops in the morning and a couple of drops before bed) and then build up slowly until you find your perfect dose. Another way of using is topically, by rubbing the oil or a CBD creme on your back. Some people report the effect lasting longer in this way.
The last thing I would like to note is that you should talk to your doctor about the concurrent use of other medications you might have been using to determine how to adjust the use of those medications with CBD for chronic back pain.
- Robeck I. (December 12. 2014.) Chronic Pain in the Elderly: Special Challenges. Retrieved from: https://www.practicalpainmanagement.com/pain/chronic-pain-elderly-special-challenges
- Russo E. B. (2008). Cannabinoids in the management of difficult to treat pain. Therapeutics and clinical risk management, 4(1), 245–259. doi:10.2147/tcrm.s1928
- Wong, A. Y., Karppinen, J., & Samartzis, D. (2017). Low back pain in older adults: risk factors, management options and future directions. Scoliosis and spinal disorders, 12, 14. doi:10.1186/s13013-017-0121-3