If you’re among the 13 million or so Americans who go to the doctor each year for chronic low back pain, medication is likely to be among the initial treatment recommendations. Opiate drugs, while powerful, can be effective for short-term use, according to spine surgeons in Beverly Hills. For some patients, medical marijuana becomes a consideration as a safer alternative, in part due to growing concern over opiate addiction.
Assessing How Pain Treatment Is Working
When determining if medical marijuana is appropriate in states where it’s legal, a doctor will likely assess how effective pain management is for a patient. This is done through an evaluation of pain through the four A’s: analgesia (pain relief), activities of daily life (psychological functioning), adverse effects (side effects), and aberrant behaviors (addiction risk). A typical evaluation factors in:
- How well you’re doing on current medications
- Whether or not non-medication treatments such as physical therapy are helping
- How long you have been experiencing low back pain
- Your overall quality of life
Studying the Effects of Marijuana on Pain
Involving 21 men and women with an average age of 45, a Canadian study evaluated patients after they had inhaled for five seconds and held the smoke for 10 seconds before exhaling. Patients were permitted to remain on pain meds. Those who puffed medical marijuana with the highest available concentration of 9.4 percent THC* (tetrahydrocannabinol), the main active ingredient in cannabis, reported the greatest reduction in pain.
*This amount of THC is lower than what’s found in street marijuana, which has an average concentration ranging from 10-15 percent.
Pros and Cons
Marijuana can help ease nausea and there is less risk of experiencing an overdose. It can also be addictive and it can diminish awareness and motivation. It has risks similar to those associated with tobacco, stressing the need to have a detailed, honest conversation with your doctor when considering it for relief.
Additional research is needed to determine the long-term effects of the use of marijuana for medical purposes. Some researchers and medical professionals also note the need for uniform standards to determine appropriate dosage recommendations for patients.
Find the treatment option right for you by reaching out to The Spine Institute Center at (310) 828-7757. Our experienced board-certified spinal specialists can assess your current medications and condition and advise you on how best to move forward with pain management. Call today to schedule an in-person consultation.