how to use cbd oil for degenerative disc disease

How to use cbd oil for degenerative disc disease

Cannabidiol, also known as CBD, is a substance derived from the Cannabis plant that has recently exploded in popularity as a natural remedy for a variety of ailments. Patients frequently ask me about the safety and purported benefits of CBD for spine-related issues. Read on for a synopsis of what you should know prior to using CBD-containing products.

What is CBD?

Cannabis, a group of flower plants, has been grown and used by humans for thousands of years. It contains numerous naturally-occurring chemicals, called cannabinoids, each with unique properties. Delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the main psychoactive component of Cannabis and produces the “high” associated with marijuana. CBD, on the other hand, does not cause these mind-altering effects but may have desirable properties. Strains of Cannabis with low THC content (less than 0.3%) are considered hemp, while varietals with higher amounts of THC are classified as marijuana.

How does it work?

The human body has a receptors for cannabinoids located in numerous tissues including the central and peripheral nervous systems, immune tissues, and bone. Scientists have not yet fully characterized the mechanism of action for CBD, but it seems to indirectly affect the cannabinoid system. It also binds to dopamine, opioid, and serotonin receptors and may therefore modulate pleasure, pain and mood.

Dr Peter Derman Talks about CBD Oil and the frequently asked question about the substance.

Is there good evidence that CBD is effective for treating spine-related issues?

Not presently. The majority of research to date has focused on THC, and the scientific community has not yet produced sufficient data on CBD. Currently available information on CBD for spine problems must be gleaned from the results of mouse and rat studies because rigorous scientific testing in people has not been performed. Given the recent surge in interest among the general public, the US government recently announced $3 million in research grants to focus on CBD studies.

Those animal studies demonstrate some promising results, however. CBD use has been shown to be protective against disc degeneration, spinal cord injury, arthritic pain, and post-surgical pain. It may promote bone healing after fractures and increase bone density. While these findings are intriguing, caution must be exercised when extrapolating these results to humans, and dedicated studies in people are necessary to truly establish the effectiveness of CBD.

Is it safe?

CBD use appears to be fairly safe in most instances. Studies show that it does not produce a “high,” alter physiologic parameters (e.g., blood pressure, body temperature, heart rate), or produce withdrawal symptoms. It is not believed to be addictive. However, it has been associated with sleepiness, diminished appetite, and diarrhea. Because CBD is processed through the liver, it may produce abnormal liver function tests and can affect the metabolism of medications. One such drug is the blood thinner warfarin, which can produce dangerous bleeding if levels are not kept within a safe range. It is therefore advisable to consult with your internist prior to trying CBD to ensure that there are no medication interactions or other medical reasons to avoid it.

Is it legal?

The short answer is: maybe. CBD falls into a regulatory gray zone. Hemp-derived CBD was removed from the list of federally controlled substances in 2018. While the use of CBD is not forbidden by the federal government, it cannot be marketed as a medication or dietary supplement except in the case of Epiodiolex, an anti-seizure medication that is the only CBD-based treatment currently approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA has sent numerous warning letters to CBD retailors making unsubstantiated medical claims.

Some states have their own laws regarding CBD, and it is currently completely prohibited in South Dakota, Idaho, and Nebraska. To complicate things further, buying and selling CBD-containing products across state lines is forbidden, which may affect online purchasing.

Will it cause me to fail a drug test?

Use of CBD could result in a positive drug test because even hemp-derived CBD products may contain small amounts of THC (or even relatively high quantities if there has been contamination with THC from marijuana-derived products). The best way to minimize this risk is to purchase from reputable vendors and to only use products with a Certificate of Analysis confirming that the product contains no THC. For any current or aspiring professional athletes out there… CBD was recently removed from the World Anti-Doping Agency’s list of banned substances for international competition.

The bottom line

While encouraging early results have been observed in animal studies of CBD for spine-related problems, there is not currently enough data to advocate for human use in this setting. The chance of serious side effects from CBD seems relatively low. People who want to try it are therefore likely not putting themselves at significant risk but should discuss with their internists prior to starting CBD to ensure that it is safe to do so.

*Please note, communication or information on this site does not create a physician/patient relationship. Any tips or suggestions given on this page should be discussed with your physician before attempting.

Can CBD Treat Degenerative Disc Disease?

Degenerative disc disease is a large contributor to back pain, a cause of chronic pain for many. CBD has been shown to attenuate this degeneration within animal models, and could be a possible treatment in the future.

CBD continues to gain recognition as a natural medicine as ever more scientific research and anecdotal accounts come rolling in. Otherwise known as cannabidiol, CBD is a non-psychotropic cannabinoid synthesised within the flowers of the cannabis plant. As one of the most researched cannabinoids, CBD has so far displayed anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antioxidant, neuroprotective, anti-tumour, and anticonvulsant properties.


CBD also shows potential in the treatment of various musculoskeletal pathologies. The compound interacts with the endocannabinoid system, a regulatory system within the human body comprised of various receptor types, including CB1 and CB2 receptors. CBD also interacts with GPR55, a cannabinoid receptor associated with increased bone mass in animal studies.


When it comes to preserving the discs of the spine, here too CBD displays promise. Research is ongoing regarding CBD’s potential as a future treatment for degenerative disc disease. Although current research has been performed using animal models, further human research could mark a breakthrough in this arena. Intervertebral disc degeneration is reported to be the main contributor to low back pain, a condition that affects large portions of the world’s population.

Recent research suggests that CBD has a protective effect over intervertebral discs in vivo. However, before we dig into the data, let’s take a look at exactly what discs are and how they begin to degenerate.


An intervertebral disc sits between two spinal vertebrae within the vertebral column and contributes to the formation of a fibrocartilaginous joint. These discs have multiple functions, including shock absorption for the spine, movement, and stability of the spine.

Each disc features an outer ring, or annulus fibrosus, composed of several layers of fibrocartilage made up of different types of collagen. Within this ring exists a gel-like centre containing loose fibres called the nucleus pulposus. It’s this gel-like substance that allows discs to absorb physical shock during movement and activity.

Many people will have heard of the so-called phenomenon of a “slipped disc”. What this actually means is that the gel-like fluid of the nucleus pulposus been forced against the annulus fibrosus to the point of protrusion or prolapse. This can be caused by physical trauma during activity or by chronic deterioration in the form of poor posture. The nucleus pulposus can herniate in lateral and posterior directions and cause symptoms such as numbness, pain, and loss of sensation due to pressing on nerves.


Intervertebral disc disease is characterised by the gradual breakdown of one or more discs within the spine. Disc degeneration is a natural part of ageing, with around 25% of individuals displaying evidence of degeneration before the age of 40. During this process, the nucleus pulposus begins to lose some of its water content and the annulus fibrosus becomes more prone to tearing, resulting in possible herniation.

Degeneration and subsequent herniation can lead to spinal nerve compression, which can result in pain, weakness, and numbness in the extremities. As degeneration continues, bone spurs can form at the edge of individual vertebra, causing further compression of nerves, and possibly causing issues with walking and bladder/bowel control.


CBD has already shown early efficacy as a potential musculoskeletal medicine, and more evidence is mounting. A 2014 study published within the journal PLoS One investigated the protective effect of CBD on lesion-induced intervertebral disc degeneration within rats.

Researchers first induced damage to intervertebral discs via needle puncture to create a lesion. The rats were then divided into three sub-groups, with 6–7 animals in each group. Each group was then administered a different dose of CBD via injection: 30, 60, and 120 nmol.

After administration, the researches used MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and microscope analysis to examine the induced injuries. The results of the analysis revealed no improvements within the 30 and 60 nmol groups. However, improvement in lesion damage was seen in the 120 nmol group in both MRI and microscope imaging up to 15 days afterwards.

These results led the authors to state that the study revealed the anti-degenerative effects of CBD injection at 120 nmol. Although more research is required in this domain, such results indicate the future use of CBD for disc degeneration treatment.


Inflammation plays a large role within the process of degenerative disc disease. Although specific studies need to be performed to find a correlation, CBD has been shown to exert anti-inflammatory effects by interfacing with cannabinoid and adenosine receptors.

Pain also plays a large role in degenerative disc disease, particularly neuropathic pain that stems from compression of nerves due to herniation. CBD may help to relieve this side effect as there is some evidence to suggest cannabinoids are effective in reducing neuropathic pain.

Finally, CBD may help to tackle some of the psychological symptoms associated with degenerative disc disease. The compound displays anxiolytic and antidepressant-like effects that can help boost the quality of life of sufferers.

Can CBD Oil Provide Relief from Back Pain?

Living with spine pain for more than a few days or weeks can take a serious toll on your daily life. It’s not always easy to find a pain management solution that’s effective. There’s also concern about the long-term use of traditional painkillers, especially opioids. Even NSAIDs that manage pain by reducing inflammation can have serious side effects if used for a long time. One solution more people with chronic spine pain are considering is CBD (cannabidiol) oil, but does it relieve spine pain?

What About the “High?”

Before going any further, let’s answer this question, since it’s what often comes to mind when anything cannabis related is discussed. While CBD oil does come from marijuana plant compounds, it’s not psychoactive. In other words, you don’t get the psychological effects people often associate with marijuana. There are even strains of the plant being cultivated with very little THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the active ingredient in marijuana.

How Does CBD Oil Work?

CBD stimulates the cannabinoid system, a part of the brain linked to the central nervous system. The result is a reduction in the sensation of pain coupled with a decrease in inflammation. There’s evidence suggesting such benefits extend to many types of pain, including spine-related discomfort.

What About Acute and Chronic Spine Pain?

Evidence also suggests a cannabinoid system stimulated by CBD oil may experience relief from both chronic and acute pain. Additionally, there are therapeutic approaches that could minimize or prevent potential undesirable nervous system effects. Researchers have also noted anti-inflammatory benefits.

How Might People with Spine Pain Benefit?

In one recent study, a team of researchers assessed the potential benefits of CBD and cannabis. While they admit more research is necessary, researchers did note there were clear pain management benefits associated with CBD oil and its related compounds. The main benefit for patients with spine pain is the possibility of becoming less dependent on opioids. Although some patients have a legitimate need for strong pain medication such as opioids, especially following a procedure such as ACDF surgery, Los Angeles patients should be aware that the long-term use of opioids is associated with:

• Addiction and/or opioid abuse
• Possible organ damage
• Certain sleep disorders
• Constipation and indigestion (dyspepsia)
• Nausea

What Sources of Spine Pain May Respond Well to CBD Oil?

A study was done with mice with degenerative disc disease (DDD), the general term for age-related spinal disc wear. The mice were given high doses of CBD oil, which resulted in less damage from disc-related wear, yet researchers were unable to identify exactly how CBD oil helped the lab animals tested. It’s also not known how patients with other sources of spine pain might respond to a pain management plan that includes CBD oil. Even so, there’s mounting evidence suggesting this product has pain management properties.

Be aware there are restrictions on CBD oil, since it’s not yet FDA approved. It’s also difficult to obtain in states where medical marijuana isn’t legal. Plus, a doctor or spine specialist isn’t likely to consider this substance as an option unless a patient specifically mentions it as something he or she would like to try, and even then, there may be some hesitation to officially recommend CBD oil for spine pain until there’s more research available.

Back pain can often be effectively managed or eliminated when you seek the help of an experienced Los Angeles spine surgeon . The pioneering spine specialists at The Spine Institute have years of experience successfully diagnosing and treating back pain. If you’re experiencing sudden, severe, or lingering pain in your back or neck, call one of our friendly representatives today at 310-828-7757 to schedule a consultation.