Proponents of CBD suggest that it is anti-inflammatory. As a result, it could provide an alternative method of managing symptoms of spinal injury. The spinal stenosis condition, in particular, is a spine issue associated with high inflammation levels.
Patients with spinal stenosis often rely on powerful pharmaceutical medication. However, a growing number of people want to try something else. Is CBD a viable option for people with spinal stenosis? Read this article to find out.
What Is Spinal Stenosis?
It is a narrowing of the spaces within the spine, also known as the foramina. This process reduces the space for the nerves to travel. It can happen within the intervertebral foramina or the spinal canal.
A spinal nerve or spinal cord may become compressed and cause numbness, tingling, weakness, or pain. The symptoms depend on the level of narrowing over time and the location of the issue.
What Are the Types of Spinal Stenosis?
There are two spinal stenosis types. The classification depends on the location of the condition on the spine. It is also possible to have more than a single form of spinal stenosis.
This happens when the narrowing occurs in the part of the spine in the neck. If a person has spinal stenosis, their spinal cord has less space to travel and may become compressed. This condition could result in dysfunction and pain anywhere in the body beneath the compression.
- Neck pain
- Problems with balance and walking
- Weakness and/or tingling in a foot, leg, arm, or hand
- Bladder or bowel dysfunction in severe cases
A patient has lumbar stenosis when the narrowing happens in the lower back part of the spine. Also called foraminal stenosis, this is the most common type of spinal stenosis.
- Back pain
- Weakness, tingling, numbness in a foot or leg
- Pain or cramping in one or both legs when walking or after a long period of standing up
What Causes Spinal Stenosis?
The spine runs from the neck to the lower back. Its bones form a spinal canal, which keeps the spinal cord protected. In some cases, an individual is born with a small spinal canal, which may increase the risk of spinal stenosis. However, in general, most cases happen when an issue narrows the open space in the spine. Here are a few possible causes of spinal stenosis:
- Spinal Injuries: Trauma from a car accident or another incident could result in a fracture or dislocation of vertebrae. In people with a spinal fracture, the displaced bone could damage the spinal canal’s contents.
- Bone Overgrowth: Patients with osteoarthritis or Paget’s disease could develop an overgrowth of bone. This process could cause bone spurs to develop and grow into the spinal canal.
- Tumors: An abnormal growth can form inside the spinal cord. These could cover the space between the vertebrae and spinal cord.
- Herniated Disks: Cracks in the disks between your vertebrae could result in soft inner material escaping. It could press on the spinal cord or the nerves.
- Age: The majority of people with the condition are aged 50+.
Traditional Spinal Stenosis Treatments
A doctor may confirm a spinal stenosis diagnosis via tests such as an X-ray, MRI scan, or CT myelogram.
Treatment for the condition depends on the severity of symptoms and the location of the stenosis. A physician may offer painkilling medication, including:
- Opioids such as oxycodone or hydrocodone.
- Anti-seizure drugs like pregabalin or gabapentin.
- Pain relievers such as ibuprofen or naproxen.
- Tricyclic antidepressants such as amitriptyline.
It is common for patients with spinal stenosis to become less physically active due to the pain felt when moving. However, this practice will only increase the rate of muscle weakness. Therefore, individuals with the condition often embark on physical therapy. The goals of such sessions include an improvement in balance and better strength and endurance.
Here are other possible spinal stenosis treatments:
- Steroid Injections: A corticosteroid could reduce inflammation at the site of the stenosis and dull pain. Patients can only receive a handful of injections annually as frequent use might weaken bones and connective tissues.
- Decompression: Patients with lumbar spinal stenosis can opt for this procedure. It involves removing thickened ligaments from the back of the spinal column. The process is called image-guided lumbar decompression and takes place without general anesthesia.
- Surgery: This aims to relieve pressure on the spinal cord or nerve roots. It achieves this through the creation of more space in the spinal canal. Surgical options include a laminectomy, laminotomy, or a laminoplasty.
There are also ongoing clinical trials. They involve using stem cells to treat degenerative spinal disease. Researchers are also performing genomic medicine trials.
However, these advances are possibly years away while CBD oil is available right now. Is CBD oil useful for spinal stenosis?
CBD for Spinal Stenosis – Can It Help?
There is a suggestion that CBD oil could help ease many spinal stenosis symptoms. A study published in the Journal of Pain Research in 2018 made an interesting discovery. It looked at cannabinoids and spinal cord stimulation for treating pain from failed back surgery.
The Italian study focused on 11 patients diagnosed with neuropathic pain after their surgery. All participants discontinued other treatments at least two months before the beginning of the study. They received a fixed dose of THC/CBD, which they could increase depending on their response. Ultimately, the patients reported effective pain management when compared to the baseline.
A study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology in 2011 looked at CBD’s effect on social anxiety disorder. It found that patients with a social anxiety disorder (SAD) who used a large CBD dose reported significant improvements. This is important because anxiety is often associated with chronic back pain.
A study published in The Permanente Journal in 2019 analyzed the effect of CBD on anxiety and sleep. The final sample involved 72 adults, 47 of whom had anxiety as their primary concern. The other 25 volunteers said that lack of sleep was their main issue.
Almost 80% of patients reported reduced levels of anxiety in the first month. Sleep scores improved in over 66% of cases. Individuals living with spinal stenosis often have problems with insomnia. They also find it hard to relax due to the pain. CBD’s ability to help people relax may reduce anxiety and improve the quantity and quality of sleep.
CBD & Spinal Stenosis – Further Research
One of the main facets of spinal stenosis is inflammation, which causes pain. CBD interacts with a network of receptors called the endocannabinoid system (ECS) in the body. These receptors, mainly CB1 and CB2, play a significant part in regulating the nervous system and brain function.
When CBD interacts with these receptors, it could block the transmission of chemical messages that cause inflammation and pain. One crucial way that CBD works against inflammation is by binding with TRPV1 cells. These cells help regulate temperature and control inflammation in specific parts of the human body.
A study published in Pharmaceuticals in 2012 looked at the role of TRPV1 cells on autoimmune diseases and inflammation. It found a strong link between the two. This gives credence to the belief that CBD’s impact on TRPV1 cells helps reduce inflammation.
Neuropathic pain is yet another symptom associated with spinal stenosis. A study published in Current Pharmaceutical Biotechnology in 2020 looked at the effectiveness of topical CBD on symptomatic relief of peripheral neuropathy. The patients in the study had pain in their lower extremities.
According to the results, those who used the CBD product reported statistically significant reductions in sharp and intense pain. They also experienced a reduction in cold and itchy sensations.
The research to date, which has focused on CBD for inflammation and pain, found that topical application is arguably the most effective. Patients looking to use CBD for spinal stenosis should consider buying creams, salves, ointments, or lotions.
Final Thoughts on CBD for Spinal Stenosis
The level of research into CBD’s effects on spinal injuries is growing rapidly. Evidence to date suggests that the cannabinoid could help relieve several symptoms of spinal stenosis. These include inflammation, neuropathic pain, anxiety, and loss of sleep.
CBD is potentially useful for patients with either type of spinal stenosis. Research so far also suggests that patients are best served using a CBD topical product. Apply it directly to the site of the stenosis and rub it into the skin.