CBD Oil For Sciatica: An Osteopath’s Guide
Whilst CBD oil is a hot topic these days with a myriad of brands and countless types of products from bath bombs to gummies, not many people actually know what it is, what is a good product and how to use it to benefit themselves.
The vast majority of CBD products on the market are just that – CBD in a carrier oil. CBD is one cannabinoid of many in the cannabis plant. CBD has useful properties in its own right but is merely one player in a team of cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids.
Sadly, most people buy a CBD extract with precious little else in it and whilst it may help some people it is often ineffective or only partially successful on its own.
What you really want to look for is not CBD oil but a full spectrum plant extract that contains all the other clever parts of the plant in the right balance. Unfortunately, unscrupulous sellers of CBD often label their product as full spectrum when it clearly is not.
A true, high-quality CBD oil is dark in colour and has a complex earthy, spicy smell and taste. One customer described it to me as smelling like a walk down a country lane. I think that is a pretty good description.
The name CBD oil is actually a misnomer as what we are really looking at is a cannabis extract. Our Life edition oil is actually a raw CBD product and is as close to nature as one can get with all the right, legally acceptable, the balance of cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids.
This means that with all CBD One’s products you get the vital entourage effect – the synergy of all the compounds in cannabis that make it potent and effective. This is far from the case for many low-grade CBD oils sold in the UK right now.
Disclaimer: This article may contain occasional references of CBD “for” a specific topic, for example, “CBD Oil for Sciatica”.
It is important for us to clarify that CBD is a food supplement that, while very useful for many people, is not sold “for” any specific purpose other than general health and wellbeing.
Any references of CBD for a specific subject are simply so we can clarify this to anyone searching for these terms.
Can CBD Oil Help With Sciatica?
People regularly ask will “CBD help me with…” and then you can add just about any illness or pain known to humanity!
Unfortunately, the answer to this question is simple but disappointing: “We don’t know if it will help.”
One thing we do know is that CBD oil is remarkably safe to take so if you are taking CBD oil for sciatica the one thing we can say with confidence is that it will do no harm.
Now if you compare that to an over the counter anti-inflammatory we see a very different story.
For every thousand users of these drugs, three have heart attacks, one of which will be fatal. They are potent drugs but they come with a potentially serious price for your health.
Given the choice between something that is natural and causes no harm and may be of benefit compared to a drug that comes with risks and merely suppresses the healing response of your body, I know what I would try first.
What Is Sciatica?
Osteopaths see a lot of sciatic type problems. We also have a lot of patients who attend our clinics telling us they have sciatica when it is quite obvious they do not.
Sciatica is a dumping ground diagnosis that often comes from a lack of knowledge of anatomy and/or a failure to examine a patient effectively. If you go to the doctor and tell them you have pain down the back of your leg there is a good chance you will be told you have sciatica regardless of any other symptoms.
There are also a thousand doctors in the pub and I can assure you they will tell you that your problem is sciatica if you mention pain anywhere near your hip or leg.
So what is sciatica?
The word simply refers to pain from the sciatic nerve. This nerve is the longest nerve in your body so simply referring to sciatic nerve pain doesn’t help us establish what or where the problem is.
Let us take a look at the anatomy of this nerve.
More often than not the nerve is formed from the union of five branches of nerves that come from the lumbar spine. Each of these branches exits your spine through a foramina. This is a gap in your spine to allow nerves out to supply your body and allow it to function and move. The gap is formed of two vertebrae, one on top and one below and between them, they effectively form a bony tunnel for the nerve to exit your spinal cord.
The sciatic nerve has the vital role of supplying the skin, muscles and joints of your thigh, leg and foot.
Where Does The Sciatic Nerve Get Injured?
The sciatic nerve can be injured by a variety of problems that irritate it, inflame it or compress it.
Common injuries can be caused by a facet joint injury in the spine. This causes swelling and inflammation around the joint and since this is close to the sciatic nerve the swelling can impinge upon the sciatic nerve OR the inflamed joint releases chemicals that heal you but can also, during the healing process, irritate the nerve causing you to get the pain down your leg.
Damage to the foramina that causes it to become narrowed can compress one of the branches of the sciatic nerve. This is often from arthritic changes but can also be because of a trauma.
Disc problems can also cause sciatic pain because whether it is a slight tear of the disc or a full-blown prolapse there are chemicals released as part of the injury that irritates the nerve and the disc can also bulge and compress the nerve.
One area that is often neglected is where the nerve passes through your hip muscles to get to your leg. In about 50% of the population, the sciatic nerve passes through the piriformis muscle and if this becomes injured or contracted from postural strain and muscle imbalances, often from things like prolonged sitting, then you will get sciatic pain. This is called piriformis syndrome.
So you can see from this list, which is far from the full list, that to just dump sciatica upon somebody without investigating WHY they have the problem can lead to a pain that does not get fixed.
A common problem I see with most treatments of sciatica is that everybody stares at the site of the injury. Let’s say for the sake of argument that the injury is being caused by a disc problem in the lumbar spine.
The one question rarely asked is ‘why?’ Why has this injury happened at this place? In my experience, it is often because this area is being overloaded because another area is not working properly so the key is to hunt out the areas that are not working correctly.
I often find the area of the spine above the lower back is very stiff, especially between the shoulder blades and the hip muscles are also closed up and tight. Between the two lies the very mobile and relatively vulnerable lower back which then gets overworked because it is making up for the imbalances everywhere else. Lo and behold you get a disc injury that causes the sciatic pain but the cause is most definitely other areas not working.
If people investigated this before they embarked on major surgery they may find they can begin to change their problem without the need for a surgeon’s knife which, no matter how well-intentioned or skilfully applied, is not addressing the underlying reasons for the lower back injury.
How Does CBD Work?
Your body has a widespread system called the endocannabinoid system (ECS) which is a series of receptors in your central and peripheral nervous system. It is also in many of your organs and tissues, including your skin.
When you take CBD the cannabinoids in it effectively talk to the ECS and help it function well. The ECS is involved in homeostasis, or the ability of your body to maintain its balance regardless of the circumstances you are in. The ECS is a great balancer of your body.
CBD is also well known for having interesting anti-inflammatory effects. Because inflammation may be involved in sciatic pain CBD may have a role to play in helping. Most importantly do not forget that inflammation is a healing response and we do not want to suppress this healing or there is a possibility of ending up with a long term problem.
However, CBD is generally considered very safe and gentle acting and certainly does not come with the many serious side effects of taking too many opiate-based painkillers or Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) like Ibuprofen or Naproxen so it is highly unlikely to stop your body healing.
So if there is an inflamed injury there may be some sense in taking CBD. However, if there is a serious structural problem CBD will not fix this so make sure you speak with your doctor or health professional.
Warning signs that there may be a more serious problem are when your bowel or bladder does not seem to be working normally or you have a change of sensation in the area we call the saddle area ie. the area you would use to sit on a bicycle seat.
How To Use CBD Oil For Sciatica
You have three main choices when using CBD: oral products, a topical CBD cream or even our new CBD patches.
The oral option then subdivides into a CBD oil or a water-soluble CBD.
I would suggest that a great starting point is to look at an oral product. The oils are taken up to three times a day and up to three drops at a time. Drop them under your tongue and let them stay there for a few minutes before swallowing.
Our water-soluble products can be added to any hot or cold drink and most people, most of the time, take just one dose a day. Of course, this is a very personal choice and you may safely take more if you wish.
When it comes to CBD dosage the key on how to get the right dose for you is to listen to your body. When you see changes you can maintain the dose or increase or lower it depending on your progress. Some people find they can take CBD every other day but others find they have to take it much more regularly. This is a very personal choice and relies on you observing what is happening.
The best place to start is with a middle strength CBD product such as Signature Blend No2 or Absorb Pure or Ultra. This allows you to increase or lower your dose. If you start with a lower strength product and nothing changes the temptation is to think CBD did not work for you when it may simply have required something with a little more strength to begin with.
Some people use a topical cream to apply to the area of pain. I suspect with a sciatic problem this will do little good because the injury is often quite deep inside and there is little chance the CBD will get anywhere near the site of the injury.
How Soon After Taking CBD Should The Pain Subside?
Do not despair if you do not see instant relief from your problem. Whilst many see rapid improvements it can take from a few days to a few weeks to really get the optimum from CBD whatever you may be taking it for.
I have seen people get almost instant relief and others report that they felt nothing then after 8 weeks, everything improved all of a sudden.
I have also seen some people get no relief at all. There is no substance on planet earth that fixes everyone all the time but the key with CBD is that it comes with little risk, therefore, is a safe option for possibly great gains. It certainly does not come with the risk of heart disease or internal gut bleeding that the NSAID group of drugs comes with.
Will Taking The Oil Versus The Absorb Range Impact How Fast It Works?
We find that the oils tend to have a more calming effect whilst our Absorb products tend to have a more energising effect. I suspect this is because the water-soluble Absorbs get into your system faster.
Because they both have these slightly different initial effects many people get one of each and take the Absorb first thing in the morning for an energising hit then take the oils later in the day for their more calming properties.
Do I Have To Keep Taking CBD Oil For Sciatica?
The answer one of my osteopathic tutors would give to this question is succinct and to the point, “You don’t have to do anything!” I take CBD oil regularly because it is good for me.
With chronic problems, more action is often required to make a permanent fix than just taking CBD. So with sciatica, I would suggest you add a few other important changes to make more permanent improvements.
Many back problems are caused by a chronic lack of movement and I refer to these as ‘too much sitting syndrome’ so please look at how you use your body. We are built to move and if there is one posture more unhealthy and guaranteed to cause more trouble than any other it is prolonged sitting.
Take up pilates and/or yoga with a trained tutor who can tailor the exercises to help you safely and make sure you practice a little every day. If you have an injury do not just turn up at a class at your local gym without getting guidance from a tutor first. With the greatest will in the world, a generic class at your local gym may be perfectly fine for most of us most of the time but if you have pain you need skilled support and advice on a one to one basis first.
People often worry about the cost of such one to one lessons but my answer back is what is the cost to you of your pain?
A skilled osteopath is also a useful option where they can look at the cause of your problem and find ways to fix it and also give you lifestyle advice to prevent further trouble.
Fasting can also help because this allows your body to direct its energy into healing and repair processes rather than digesting food. Do not underestimate the power of this simple act. We have evolved to be able to have periods of fasting and it is an incredibly healthful thing to do.
Which CBD Oil Is Best For Sciatica?
I would suggest going for a moderate to high am/pm bundle which gives you a potent combination of the best of our products. The Absorb will get to work fast and then later in the day and overnight you will benefit from the slower more calming effects of the oil.
If you have any questions about your problem and what may help, get in touch via our free health advice service.
CBD for Sciatica: Here’s what you need to know
The sciatic nerve runs throughout the lower back and the legs, and when it is pushed too hard or rubbed the wrong way, it can cause terrible pain over a vast area.
There are many causes of sciatic pain, from herniated discs to bone spurs in the spine. Any of them can be complicated by factors such as obesity, passive lifestyle, advanced age, and diabetes.
As a chronic pain issue that impacts everyday life, people with sciatica have limited options. Painkillers and over-the-counter meedications are only so effective, not to mention potentially harmful. Many patients seek out alternative treatments, including CBD products such as oils and topicals.
In this post, we explore whether CBD can help with the management of sciatic pain, and provide our opinion on the best CBD brand for sciatica in 2020. We’ll talk about what sciatica is, who gets it, how it feels, and how CBD can work to treat it. We’ll explain why we like Spruce CBD generally and why we like Spruce CBD oil and Spruce CBD salve as complementary therapy for sciatica.
What Is Sciatica?
Mayo Clinic describes sciatica as a painful sensation radiating from the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve originates in the lower back and branches through the hips, buttocks, and legs. Obviously, this means aggravation of the nerve and sciatica can cause hip pain, leg pain, or back pain—and all of these symptoms of sciatica typically occur on one side of the body.
These factors make sciatica confusing. For example, it can seem like a localized injury on one side. But what’s really going on in each case—whether it’s a herniated disk, bone spurs (hard bumps forming on the spine), or spinal stenosis (a narrowing of the spine)—is compression of the sciatic nerve causing pain, numbness, and tingling in affected areas.
Sciatica can also cause regular motion to feel much more difficult because the feet and legs feel weak. Even the sudden movements caused by normal motion from coughing or sneezing can exacerbate sciatic nerve pain as motion shakes the nerve.
Although sciatica can last a very long time, in most cases, sciatica is a temporary condition lasting between four to six weeks.
A slipped disc from an injury is the most common cause of sciatica. When the soft tissue between other bones and the spine is moved out of place, a slipped disc can occur. This can lead the spine to push against the sciatic nerve causing sciatica.
It is difficult to treat slipped discs because they don’t typically go back in place or heal well on their own once they become dislodged from their original position beneath the vertebrae. As a result, a slipped disc often leads to chronic, frustrating conditions that can include intense, day-to-day pain.
Spinal stenosis, the narrowing of the spinal canal and resulting compression of spinal cord nerves, is another very common cause of sciatic nerve pain. Spinal stenosis is frequently mistaken for general leg or back pain and typically occurs in older people.
Spondylolisthesis, a problem that causes the vertebrae to slip out of place, causing friction between the bones and the sciatic nerve, can also trigger sciatica. Spondylolisthesis is one of the leading causes of lower back pain, and many people do not realize they have it.
When protective discs that offer padding between the spinal cord and bones start to break down, it can cause discomfort and pain from pressure on the sciatic nerve. This is called degenerative disc disease, and it is another cause of sciatica.
Who is Likely to Suffer from Sciatic Pain?
Sciatica is, at a minimum, irritating. Just coughing or sneezing can be enough to trigger pain. Severe sciatica can cause intense pain that compromises ability to function, let alone perform.
Risk factors for sciatica include:
- Aging. Over time, the body’s discs become damaged and stressed. The sciatic nerve becomes irritated as bone spurs develop.
- Sedentary lifestyle. People such as office workers who sit for long periods of time are more prone to sciatica. This is because without the relief it gets from intermittent movement, the spine is under pressure for too long just from being held still. Mitigate this issue by using a high quality chair and getting up to take breaks frequently.
- Certain jobs. Some jobs are more likely to place extra stress on the spine or create injury by requiring the worker to carry heavy loads, twist their back, or otherwise perform risky tasks.
- Overweight. Carrying too much weight pressures the spinal cord and may trigger sciatica.
Of course, many people are susceptible to multiple risk factors. For example, someone who is overweight, doesn’t get much exercise, is older, and suffers from diabetes is at high risk for sciatica.
This is even more true if they work in a job involving heavy physical labor—particularly if they lead an otherwise passive lifestyle. Whether you’re sitting at a desk for eight hours at a time or engaging in repetitive motions, sciatic nerve pain is more likely to develop in people who work these types of jobs.
My Sciatica Issues: From One of Our Testers
As a kid I remember watching my grandmother struggle to stand up, grabbing her hip in pain. Later, as a young adult, it was my aunt who was suffering from sciatica. Now it’s me.
I’ve been coping with sciatic pain for about ten years now—since my late 30s. At first that shooting pain down my leg and back was just startling. Now it’s a serious problem, and some days I’m hunched over like an oldster.
I don’t have health insurance, but even if I did, I’m familiar with the traditional routine because my aunt went through it for years (and she still is). Cortisone shots last for a few weeks—and they don’t feel great going in, trust me. They’re still the best thing going, but they are less and less effective.
Muscle relaxers are a non-starter. They don’t work and make you gorked out. Stretching and yoga are excellent, but they can’t put a stop to sciatica pain that is already there. (Do them anyway!)
That’s why CBD is a really useful tool in the sciatic pain relief toolbox.
How Can CBD Help Relieve Symptoms of Sciatica?
Neuropathic pain is the kind that irritation, inflammation, or neural tissue compression causes. Nociceptive pain is triggered as the body reacts to painful stimuli, such as when the inflammatory response is triggered, and it does not itself cause nerve damage.
Sciatica generally causes both neuropathic and nociceptive pain, and research indicates that CBD can alleviate both types.
Cannabidiol or CBD is a critical part of the endocannabinoid system (ECS), binding with the CB1 and CB2 receptors to send signals about conditions and restore homeostasis or balance in your body. In this role, CBD and other cannabinoids fight pain and inflammation, and therefore can help treat sciatica and other health issues.
Research has already proven that CBD is a potent analgesic and anti-inflammatory. Specific research also seems to support the idea that CBD can treat neuropathic pain—and this is certainly an element of sciatica. The remaining inflammatory response is also something that CBD can treat, as research indicates.
So, although no study has directly investigated the effectiveness of CBD in treating sciatic pain in humans, there is ample anecdotal evidence and plenty of suggestive science out there to make trying it a sound idea.
CBD oil will not cure sciatica; it doesn’t address the underlying issues such as compression of the sciatic nerve. However, its pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties can alleviate some of the worst symptoms.
Conventional therapies for sciatica include anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen, aspirin, naproxen, and other over-the-counter painkillers. Doctors also recommend ice or hot packs and physical therapy.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are a popular choice, but they only relieve nociceptive pain and inflammation, not neuropathic pain. In contrast, CBD oil has proven to have anticonvulsant and antidepressant benefits in addition to its anti-inflammatory properties.
Pros and Cons of Using CBD to Treat Sciatica
- Safe. CBD has a very high safety profile and is well-tolerated by humans, even at high doses of as much as 1500mg daily.
- Legal. Thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill, it is legal to produce and sell hemp-derived CBD oil, despite the fact that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) still has yet to meaningfully regulate the area or acknowledge that hemp-based products have therapeutic qualities.
- Easy. It is simple to find CBD products over the counter without a prescription, in contrast to medical marijuana products, which require some kind of authorization except in recreational states.
- Variety. CBD is available in a huge range of products, from gummies to tinctures, topicals, and vapes.
- Side effects. CBD oil has a few minor side effects despite its high safety profile, including dry mouth, fatigue, and appetite changes.
- Interactions. If you take prescription medications, you should always talk to a medical practitioner before supplementing with CBD because it may interact with some medications.
- Uncertainty. The research in support of CBD as sciatica treatment remains inconclusive.
What Types of CBD Work Best for Sciatica: CBD Oil or CBD Topicals?
This is a good question, although to a very real extent this will vary somewhat from person to person. Pain management is very personal. Still, there are a few ways to consider how to identify the best CBD for sciatica in your case:
Full-spectrum CBD and the entourage effect
CBD products may offer full-spectrum CBD, broad-spectrum CBD, or CBD isolate. Full-spectrum CBD retains all of the naturally-occurring phytonutrients from the hemp plant. This enables full-spectrum CBD products to produce the entourage effect, the result of multiple terpenes and cannabinoids working together in synergy to create greater benefits and/or function more efficiently.
The entourage effect is still produced by broad-spectrum CBD to some extent, but broad-spectrum products lack the trace amounts of THC that full-spectrum extracts retain. CBD isolates remove all other terpenes and cannabinoids, somewhat reducing the effectiveness of the CBD—so these products are best for people who regularly get tested for drugs.
Lame as it is, there are still some states that place limits on even hemp-derived CBD products, including where they can be bought and how they are labeled. Since marijuana-derived products are regulated far more strictly, stick to hemp-based CBD products.
Buy CBD products from reputable brands. If you are shopping around, look for organically-grown hemp from the US and CBD products made with the heatless and solventless supercritical CO2 extraction method.
Look for CBD products that are independently tested for content analysis by a third-party laboratory. Reputable companies post lab reports online or make them available so you can see the potency of CBD and verify that the product is free of any contaminants and dangerous substances.
Read real customer reviews. Focus on third-party websites and blogs on the use of CBD, not just product websites. Explore flavor options or CBD capsules if you dislike the naturally bitter taste of hemp. Are you hoping for a topical or tincture treatment option? Something different like a vape or CBD gummies?
For sciatica, CBD topicals, such as CBD salves, creams, lotions, and gels, can treat localized pain and discomfort in the lower back, buttocks, hips, and legs. Another excellent option is CBD tincture or oil sublingually twice a day.
Our Favorite CBD for Sciatica
Our favorite brand for treating sciatica? Spruce—and we like to hit it with a one-two punch of CBD oil in the form of 2,400mg Max Potency Full Spectrum CBD Oil Tincture and CBD topical in the form of Spruce 2,000mg Full Spectrum CBD Salve. Here’s why Spruce generally:
Quality. Spruce sources all of their hemp from family-owned Kentucky and Colorado farms known for sustainable, safe farming processes. These growers offer some of the highest potency and quality hemp and cannabis strains available for use for CBD consistently.
Process. Spruce extracts CBD using a unique technique with moonshine as a solvent to create a high-quality blend of high-CBD, low-level THC hemp seed oil. To ensure that there is zero aftertaste or effects from the moonshine, it is completely filtered out before bottling.
Purity. All Spruce CBD products are guaranteed to be free of harmful pesticides, chemicals, and heavy metals, and are tested by an independent third party laboratory to prove it. Lab testing information is available on the site.
Service. Spruce ships free within the US and delivers within 2 to 4 days, typically. You qualify for a full refund after your first purchase according to their return policy if you return your purchase unopened according to directions.