If you’re dealing with sciatica and you’ve come across CBD as a potential solution, you’ve probably heard that it has benefits for physical discomfort. But how well does CBD work at addressing the pain? Is it actually beneficial for sciatica?
Most scientific and anecdotal evidence suggests that CBD is beneficial for sciatica. However, CBD seems to work better for some people than for others.
In this article, we’ll discuss the current scientific research on CBD for sciatica and pain in more depth. We’ll also discuss how CBD works and how to use it for the best results.
You won’t find weak, ineffective, or dangerous products here. Only high-strength, American-made CBD products that have been 3rd-party lab tested. You deserve better.
What Causes Sciatica?
Sciatica (also sometimes called “sciatic nerve pain”) is nerve pain caused by injury or irritation to your sciatic nerve(s). It’s typically characterized by pain, tingling, and numbness in the back and abdomen. Discomfort may be felt down through the leg.
There are two sciatic nerves in your body – one on each side. Each nerve runs through your hip and buttock, down to just below your knee on each side of your body. These nerves are quite large. Many people compare their width to a U.S. penny.
Sciatica has a variety of causes, some of them specific conditions and others more general.
According to Cleveland Clinic, common causes of sciatica include:
- Herniated disks
- Degenerative disk disease
- Spinal stenosis
- Foraminal stenosis
- Tumors, cysts, and other growths
- Conus medullas syndrome
- Cauda equina syndrome
What is CBD?
CBD is one of 100+ cannabinoids that naturally occur in the hemp plant. Hemp is a type of cannabis plant that contains less than 0.3% THC by dry weight.
Preliminary research has found CBD to be beneficial for pain, inflammation, anxiety, stress, sleep problems, and other conditions. Because of its versatility, it’s become a popular natural health supplement.
Is CBD Legal in All 50 States?
CBD is federally legal as of the 2018 Farm Bill, which legalized the production and sale of all hemp-derived cannabinoids.
However, some states have imposed limitations on the types and forms of CBD that can be produced, bought, and sold. For example, some states only allow CBD isolates, which don’t contain any THC.
To be safe, check your state’s laws before purchasing CBD, online or otherwise.
Will CBD get you high?
CBD is not psychoactive and will not get you high, unlike cannabinoids such as THC or THC-O. Even full-spectrum CBD blends, which can contain up to 0.3% THC, do not contain enough THC to produce a high feeling (however, they will show up on a drug test).
Can CBD Help With Sciatica? What Research Says
There is a bit of research showing that CBD has the potential to help with pain from sciatica, and there are studies that more generally demonstrate its ability to reduce discomfort.
One study examined the effects of CBD on pain from sciatic nerve injury. Researchers concluded that cannabinoids may provide “long-term relief of chronic pain states” for people with this condition.
A research review in which scientists examined a number of studies found that CBD had beneficial effects on both chronic and acute pain.
In the realm of real-world evidence, scientists surveyed 253 CBD users to understand how effective this cannabinoid was for pain. Results were mostly positive, with 59% of participants reporting CBD helped their pain and 67.6% reporting that CBD allowed them to reduce the amount of pain medications they were taking.
This trend of CBD as a supplement to pain medications can be seen in other studies.
One study, which specifically investigated CBD for nerve pain (of which sciatica is a variety), found that CBD helped to reduce the amount of gabapentin that patients needed to take.
The researchers also found that neuropathic pain patients using any kind of cannabis-based medicine (CBD, THC, etc.), were hospitalized for fewer total days than those not using these natural supplements.
Overall, it seems that CBD may render benefits for a majority of people with sciatica. However, as the survey above shows, it may not work equally as well for everyone.
How CBD Works for Pain
CBD exerts pain-killing and anti-inflammatory effects by interacting with your endocannabinoid system (ECS).
The ECS is a receptor system in your body that’s designed to keep your mind and body in homeostasis, or balance. Homeostasis is associated with normal mental and physical health states.
Although CBD doesn’t bind to the CB1 or CB2 receptors as many cannabinoids do, research suggests that it supports the function of your ECS by preventing the breakdown of its processes.
There is also research suggesting that CBD can help with pain by increasing the levels of the neurotransmitter anandamide in your body. Higher levels of anadamide are associated with a reduction in pain sensations.
More clinical research is needed before we truly know how reliable CBD is and to what extent it may benefit people with sciatica. But the research we have so far is promising, and so are the first-hand accounts of people who say that CBD has changed their condition.
Side Effects & Drawbacks of Using CBD for Sciatica
Although CBD may help with sciatica, it may also cause side effects when you use it:
- Dry mouth
- Reduced appetite
Additionally, there are a few general drawbacks to using CBD to be aware of. These can be somewhat avoided, but they are important to be aware of when weighing your options:
- The CBD and hemp market isn’t well regulated – Because the FDA doesn’t heavily regulate the CBD industry, some companies can produce and sell low-quality products. To ensure what you’re buying is of high quality, then, you have to employ careful shopping techniques and choose reputable companies that show you what their products contain.
- CBD can be costly compared to some options – The benefits you’ll get from using high-quality CBD products justify the cost. Nevertheless, CBD products may cost more than some prescription medicines, so if you’re looking for a more cost-effective alternative, CBD may not be the way to go.
- CBD may negatively interact with some medicines – CBD may cause some prescription medications to build up in the liver, potentially creating very harmful adverse effects. Medications CBD interacts with include blood pressure medications, immunosuppressants, and pain medications. To avoid these negative interactions, check with your doctor before using CBD if you’re on any prescriptions.
CBD vs. Pain Medications for Sciatica
In this section, we’ll compare CBD with sciatica medications on four dimensions: cost, strength, side effects, and the level of research behind them.
Of course, the information in this section is dependent on the CBD product you choose and the medication you’re comparing it to; we’ve done our best to generalize the differences between the two.
There are several types of medications used for sciatica; we’ll look at Diclofenac, a commonly prescribed medication for sciatica. A 30-day supply of Diclofenac will typically run you about $50. Ibuprofen, another common OTC (over-the-counter) drug used for sciatica, costs about $10-20 per month for a 30-day supply.
A 30-day supply of CBD oil costs $40-100, which may be more or less than the alternative. In many cases, the cost of CBD is either comparable to or slightly more than the cost of medications.
Strength and Efficacy
The relative strength of CBD to medications will depend on how much you take; for the sake of discussion, we’ll assume that you’re taking equal doses of each.
Research suggests that CBD is effective at addressing pain and inflammation. However, most people note that it works subtly by rendering discomfort less noticeable or “easier to ignore,” rather than creating strongly relaxing sensations.
Many pain prescriptions, on the other hand, render very powerful effects – albeit, with many adverse side effects. They may be stronger than CBD, but they have more downsides, too.
Ultimately, the efficacy of CBD versus medications comes down to the individual. Some people have completely replaced their medications with CBD, while others find that they still need their prescription (albeit in a smaller dose) to get comfortable.
Researchers consider CBD to be generally well-tolerated. While it can cause side effects such as dry mouth, drowsiness, diarrhea, reduced appetite, and fatigue, such effects usually aren’t severe.
The same can’t be said for many prescriptions. For example, side effects of Diclofenac, the pain medication we looked at in the “cost” section, include upset stomach, nausea, heartburn, diarrhea, constipation, gas, headache, drowsiness, dizziness, and blurred vision.
And these effects occur at normal doses; taking too much of this medication can can cause ringing in the ears, easy bleeding or bruising, difficult or painful swallowing, and more.
Most prescription medications are not very dangerous if they’re dosed correctly, however, they generally have more potential to cause serious harm than CBD does.
While there is quite a bit of preliminary research on CBD for pain and other conditions, there isn’t enough clinical research to prove it’s a reliable treatment for most health problems and conditions, including sciatica.
In order to be approved for use, prescription medications must be clinically tested and shown to work. As a result, they are a more proven solution than CBD for sciatica.
However, cannabinoid research is being done every day, and scientists are constantly learning more about the therapeutic benefits CBD has to offer.
How to Use CBD for Sciatica
There are a variety of ways you can take CBD, and some methods may have advantages over others when addressing sciatica.
For reference, “bioavailability” is the percentage of cannabinoids you take via a given method that your body can actually use. Your body naturally discards some percentage of what you consume.
Average Bioavailability: 20-30%
Starts Working In: 10-15 minutes
CBD oil consists of cannabinoids and carrier oil. CBD oil is taken under the tongue and absorbed through the blood vessels in your mouth, allowing it to reach your bloodstream quicker than edible CBD.
Oils are a good option if you’re taking very precise doses of CBD for sciatica because you can dose them down to the drop. Most CBD oil products include a metered dropper that allows for this.
The only drawback of oils is the taste: except for CBD isolate, most types of CBD oil have an earthy, slightly bitter flavor which you may not be crazy about.
Average Bioavailability: 10-20%
Starts Working In: 45 minutes to 1 hour
CBD edibles are popular because they taste great and they’re easy to take. Gummies are fixed-dose, meaning each piece contains the same amount of CBD. This makes them ideal if you’ll be taking the same dose regularly.
Edibles can also be split into pieces if you want to take a smaller dose of CBD or want to split your daily dose into multiple parts.
Average Bioavailability: 10-20%
Starts Working In: 45 minutes to 1 hour
Swallowable CBD capsules provide a tasteless alternative to edibles. However, capsules can’t be split into multiple smaller pieces (at least, we don’t recommend it) if you need a smaller dose.
Average Bioavailability: N/A
Starts Working In: 10-15 minutes
CBD topicals are applied directly to the skin, as opposed to consumed. Topicals allow you to target specific areas of the body for relaxation, instead of letting CBD flow through your bloodstream and reach all areas of your body and brain.
Anecdotally, topicals are a very effective way to use CBD for sciatica, as they allow you to concentrate the benefits of CBD just in the areas you need them. Similar to CBD oils, topicals are fairly fast-acting.
The downside of topicals is that, since they don’t deliver CBD throughout your body, you won’t experience the mental relaxation from CBD.
CBD Flower & Vapes
Average Bioavailability: 40-50%
Starts Working In: 5-10 minutes
In addition to be ingested or applied to the body, CBD can be inhaled in the form of vapes and hemp flower.
One benefit of inhalable CBD products is that they are very fast-acting, which is made possible by the direct delivery of cannabinoids to your lungs through smoke or vapor.
In addition to the health risks posed by vaping or smoking anything, a downside of this method is that you can’t accurately measure how much CBD you’re taking.
CBD Dosage for Sciatica
If you’re taking CBD for sciatica, we recommend starting with a medium-strength dosage of CBD, which you can calculate using the following formula:
(0.3) x (your body weight in lbs.) = your daily CBD dosage in mg. for sciatica
Once you’ve taken your dose a few times, adjust it up or down based on how it’s working for you. Ensure that you take CBD consistently for at least 1-2 weeks before evaluating results; unlike some cannabinoids, CBD won’t work unless your body is given a significant period to adapt to it.
Conclusion: A Natural Supplement for Sciatica?
CBD works differently for everyone, and it’s definitely not a one-size-fits all solution to sciatica. However, many people have found it beneficial for this soul-crushing form of nerve pain, and some people with chronic sciatica have found that it helps them take less of whatever pain medication they’re on.
Given its variable efficacy, CBD may completely replace your medications, or it may merely supplement what you’re taking. Either way, most people find that it helps them in some way, and we’d encourage you to give it a try – just be sure to speak to your doctor beforehand so they can advise you on how best to use it.
CBD for Sciatica: Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some questions our customers frequently ask us about CBD for sciatica.
Will sciatica go away on its own?
In many cases, yes, sciatica will go away within 4-6 weeks without requiring any medical treatment. However, more severe cases may need months to improve, and you may need to seek medical treatment.
Can CBD help with nerve pain?
Research and anecdotal evidence suggests CBD has benefits for nerve pain, and a number of studies have shown it to have anti-inflammatory and analgesic (pain-relieving) effects for many other forms of discomfort. However, more clinical research is needed.
What else can I do to reduce sciatic pain?
In addition to using natural supplements, such as hemp-derived cannabinoids, methods you can use to address sciatic pain include yoga, acupuncture, exercise, massages, and stress management techniques.