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How Cannabis Can Help with Sciatica Pain

  • Sciatica is a nerve injury that can cause significant pain. It’s often a result of an underlying medical issue.
  • Since people have been using medical marijuana for chronic pain for generations, today’s sciatica patients can rest assured that cannabis offers a plant-based route to relief.
  • In addition to using cannabis for pain relief and improved quality of life, people living with sciatica should work to uncover the root cause of their pain and consider treatments that complement medical cannabis (like physical therapy).

There are countless reasons why patients might try medical marijuana for chronic pain relief. While some individuals may face lifelong, intractable pain, others need to find a solution to a potentially temporary condition like sciatica.

Since it’s a proven pain reliever, cannabis can help people with sciatica pain improve their quality of life. That’s the subject of this guide: how patients can leverage the healing power of medical marijuana for sciatica pain treatment.

Below, we’ll break down some sciatica basics, unpack the potential role of cannabis in sciatica treatment, explore complementary treatments for back pain, and offer a simple step-by-step process for accessing medical marijuana in Louisiana and beyond.

Sciatica: The Daily Realities

Let’s outline a few facts about sciatica before diving into cannabis treatment potential:

  • Sciatica is painful – People living with sciatica typically experience numbness, pain, or a tingling sensation in one of their legs.
  • Sciatica is a nervous system malady – Sciatica occurs in patients with injuries to or pressure on their sciatic nerve—a nerve that begins in the spine and extends down each leg.
  • Sciatica is technically a symptom – Healthcare providers typically don’t define sciatica as a condition. Since it occurs as a result of a different underlying health issue, sciatica is usually described as a symptom rather than a specific illness.

Sciatica often occurs in patients with other injuries or health issues like:

Cannabis and Sciatica Pain: Considerations for Patients

Since sciatica is often painful, patients have two major undertakings: finding a solution to their pain and unearthing the root cause of their sciatic discomfort.

Treating Chronic Pain with Medical Marijuana

It might take time for you and your healthcare providers to determine the cause of your sciatica—but you’ll still have to contend with pain.

Today’s patients have two options for pain relief:

  • Prescription medications – Prescription NSAIDs, anticonvulsants (like gabapentin), steroids, and opioid pain relievers are all common prescription options for people living with sciatica. Unfortunately, these typically come with baggage: high addiction potential (in the case of opioids and gabapentin) and immune suppression (from steroid use) are just two.
  • Natural remedies – For patients looking to avoid the dependence potential or other side effects of prescription drugs, natural remedies (including medical cannabis) can offer significant pain relief with limited risks.

Let’s zoom in on cannabis—how does it relieve pain? Here’s what researchers know:

  • Your body’s built-in endocannabinoid system (ECS) contains two types of receptors: CB1 and CB2. Everyone has an ECS, and everyone produces endogenous cannabinoids—compounds created within your body.
  • Endogenous cannabinoids bind to and interact with CB1 and CB2 to modulate many body processes including pain, mood, and immune response.
  • However, we can also introduce cannabinoids found in nature (in the Cannabis sativa plant, for instance) to our systems. These also interact with the ECS to produce various effects, including pain relief.

That’s all scientists really know so far, but anecdotal evidence has been compounding for generations. Even if science can’t completely explain why, cannabis works for pain relief.

Finding the Root of Your Sciatica

While you’re trying to manage your pain, you and your healthcare team can investigate the root cause of your sciatica. To do this, healthcare providers may order:

  • Physical exams
  • Blood tests
  • X-rays and other imaging

The more information providers have, the more effectively they can diagnose your primary health concern. Once they’ve discovered the root cause of your pain, they can help you create a treatment plan.

Treating Sciatica Naturally: Complement Treatments for Medical Marijuana Patients

Before and during your search for a diagnosis, your provider may recommend pain relief methods that can complement prescription interventions (like opioids) or natural remedies (like medical marijuana). Let’s touch on what these can look like in combination with medical cannabis treatment.

Physical Therapy

Depending on your underlying condition and the severity of your symptoms, providers may recommend physical therapy for:

  • Building functional strength ahead of a procedure
  • Surgery recovery support
  • Primary treatment of your pain

How might medical cannabis serve as a complement to physical therapy?

  • As a pre-therapy mood booster – While it’s highly intentional and supervised by a provider, physical therapy is exercise. A recent study determined that using cannabis (either THC- or CBD-forward products) can make exercise more enjoyable overall, so patients might dose before treatment for moral support.
  • As a post-therapy recovery tool – Since physical therapy is exercise, it can make patients sore (depending on your specific therapy regimen). To treat this soreness—which can keep us from giving our all in future workouts—some patients may use cannabis to relieve their discomfort during recovery.

Mindful Exercise

Speaking of exercise, healthcare providers might recommend that some sciatica patients partake in intentional, non-strenuous exercise to build strength and improve overall wellness. Depending on the severity of your condition, that might look like:

  • Walking at a slow to moderate pace
  • Riding a bike (or a stationary bike at the gym)
  • Tai chi, yoga, or stretching
  • Low-intensity fitness or dance classes

While it might sound counterintuitive, cannabis is an exceptional complement to an exercise routine. But you’ll need to choose your products carefully—while every patient responds to each marijuana formula differently, people generally report that some strains and cannabinoids produce specific effects.

  • Strains – While you can check out our complete strain guide to dive into the specifics, most people say that indica strains are more relaxing while sativa strains are more stimulating. Hybrid strains offer the best of both.
  • Cannabinoids – The two major cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant are delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). While THC is an intoxicant and CBD doesn’t produce any psychoactive effects, both can be useful in pain relief and exercise support.

To determine which strain or cannabinoid profile will work best for you, you’ll need to experiment with different products. Don’t worry—your budtender (the person working behind the counter at the dispensary or pharmacy) and your medical marijuana healthcare provider can help guide your trials.

Can You Get a Medical Card for Sciatica in Louisiana?

What do cannabis laws in Louisiana say about sciatica? If you’re looking to get a medical cannabis card for chronic pain in TeleLeaf’s home state, you’re in luck.

  • Any licensed provider can recommend medical cannabis – In Louisiana, any licensed physician, nurse practitioner, or medical psychologist can provide a recommendation for medical marijuana. You can even use telehealth resources like TeleLeaf for fast, simple, and affordable recommendations from cannabis-informed providers.
  • You can seek a cannabis recommendation for any condition – Louisiana providers can recommend medical cannabis treatment for any condition, as long as they believe it’s the right fit for you.
  • You don’t need a card—just a recommendation – In Louisiana, your provider will send their recommendation straight to a cannabis pharmacy near you. There are no applications to submit and you won’t receive a physical or digital card; just show up, pick up your prescription, and start your treatment journey.

Accessing Medical Marijuana Outside of Louisiana

In other states with medical cannabis programs, the process is also relatively simple:

  1. Make an appointment with a healthcare provider authorized to recommend cannabis in your state. Your state may allow any licensed provider to recommend, or they may maintain a list of authorized providers.
  2. Discuss your condition with your provider. If you meet your state’s criteria (some states maintain a list of qualifying conditions), they may recommend medical cannabis treatment.
  3. Your provider will help you complete and submit your application for a medical marijuana card. Some states issue physical cards while others are virtual only. Some states offer both.
  4. Take your medical cannabis card to your nearest dispensary and start the path to natural relief.

TeleLeaf: Connecting Patients with All-Natural Relief

For people living with sciatica, medical cannabis could offer the pain relief breakthrough they’ve been looking for. But every medical marijuana journey starts with a visit to a healthcare provider.

Not sure where to start? Unsure if your primary care provider is open-minded enough to recommend cannabis? Reach out to TeleLeaf: the best online medical marijuana card service out there. Our network of providers can help you navigate every twist and turn of your cannabis care journey.

Get started by making an appointment with TeleLeaf now.


Sources:

Medical News Today. What Are the Best Cannabis Strains for Chronic Pain?.
https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322051

Penn Medicine. Sciatica.
https://www.pennmedicine.org/for-patients-and-visitors/patient-information/conditions-treated-a-to-z/sciatica

Mayo Clinic. Spinal Stenosis.
https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/spinal-stenosis/symptoms-causes/syc-20352961

Cleveland Clinic. Piriformis Syndrome.
https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/23495-piriformis-syndrome

Cleveland Clinic. Spondylolisthesis.
https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/10302-spondylolisthesis

GoodRx. Sciatic Nerve Pain: 6 Prescription Medications that May Help.
https://www.goodrx.com/conditions/pain/lyrica-vs-gabapentin-which-is-better-for-sciatica-pain

Johns Hopkins Medicine. Opioid Use Disorder.
https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/opioid-use-disorder

British Journal of General Practice. Substance Misuse of Gabapentin.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3404313/

Mayo Clinic. Prednisone and Other Corticosteroids.
https://www.mayoclinic.org/steroids/art-20045692

GoodRx. Using Cannabis for Pain Relief.
https://www.goodrx.com/health-topic/cannabis/treatment-marijuana-for-pain

Healthline. A Simple Guide to the Endocannabinoid System.
https://www.healthline.com/health/endocannabinoid-system

University of Colorado Boulder. Study: Cannabis Can Make Workouts More Fun, But It’s No Performance-Enhancer.
https://www.colorado.edu/today/2024/01/03/study-cannabis-can-make-workouts-more-fun-its-no-performance-enhancer

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