CBD and Degenerative Disc Disease: What You Need to Know - RQS Blog (2023)


  1. Addressing a world plagued by back pain — where does cbd fit in?
  2. What is degenerative disc disease?
  3. Why degenerative disc disease occurs
  4. How does cbd help degenerative disc disease?
  5. How to use cbd for degenerative disc disease?
  6. The future for cbd and degenerative disc disease

Back pain plagues the world as one of the leading causes of disability and chronic pain. Back pain stems from a multitude of different musculoskeletal and nervous system conditions, including degenerative disc disease (DDD). According to the World Health Organisation, all of these conditions impact a person’s well-being, quality of life, and even their ability to work.

Addressing a World Plagued by Back Pain — Where Does CBD Fit In?

Many different modalities are available to treat back pain, yet very few are scientifically validated or provide consistent results. With the search still very much ongoing for a panacea for back pain, how does cannabis fare as a viable option?

Humans have used cannabis for thousands of years in an attempt to remedy a whole host of mental and physical ailments. The resinous flowers of this fascinating herb are loaded with a rich cocktail of phytochemicals, not limited to over 100 cannabinoids and 200 terpenes. Among these, CBD—or cannabidiol—stands out as one of the most prominent.

CBD already shows promise in various clinical settings, yet the research remains early. As cannabis science continues to advance, what do we know so far about CBD's impact on DDD?

What Is Degenerative Disc Disease?

As opposed to being a specific diagnosis, DDD encompasses a group of spinal conditions that involve the degradation of intervertebral discs. These vital structures are situated in all major areas of the human spine: cervical (upper), thoracic (middle), and lumbar (lower). Overall, a total of 23 discs sit between movable vertebrae in the spine. Before we delve into the details of this spinal pathology, we need to know exactly what spinal discs are.

CBD and Degenerative Disc Disease: What You Need to Know - RQS Blog (1)

CBD and Degenerative Disc Disease: What You Need to Know - RQS Blog (2)

Spinal Discs: An Anatomical Overview

Intervertebral discs fulfil several critical functions within the human spine. They allow for flexible movement between each vertebra, without sacrificing strength and stability, and help to absorb shock from the ground when walking, running, jumping, and doing other activities.

When looking at spinal discs from an anatomical perspective, they’re actually quite simple. They’re made up of three distinct parts:

  • Nucleus pulposus: This structure sits in the middle of the disc. Made primarily of water, the gel-like material also contains several types of collagen and allows for movement in different directions. The nucleus pulposus forms the compression-resisting unit of the spinal disc.
  • Annulus fibrosus: This tough outer layer comprises several layers of collagen fibres. It's a ring of connective tissue that houses the nucleus pulposus and helps to resist excessive movement in particular directions. As opposed to resisting compression, the annulus fibrosus primarily resists tension.
  • Vertebral endplate: Spinal discs sit between single vertebrae, which are stacked vertically one after the other up the spinal column. Vertebral endplates are specialised tissues positioned between each disc, connecting the two structures. They also diffuse nutrients into the discs, keeping them healthy and strong.

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Conditions Associated With Degenerative Disc Disease

Numerous conditions fall under the umbrella term of DDD. Although they all feature distinct pathological traits, they share at least one thing in common: gradual damage to and breakdown of the spinal discs. These conditions include:

  • Lumbar radiculopathy
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Spondylosis
  • Myelopathy
  • Lumbar stenosis
  • Facet joint degeneration

Symptoms of Degenerative Disc Disease

DDD produces varying symptoms in patients experiencing the condition. These symptoms largely depend on the underpinning condition causing DDD, but some of them also overlap. Common symptoms include:

  • Pain when bending or twisting the spine
  • A “giving out” sensation that indicates spinal instability
  • Muscular tension and spasms
  • Shooting or stabbing pain that radiates down the arms or legs
  • Loss of sensation, numbness, and tingling

Why Degenerative Disc Disease Occurs

DDD occurs through several mechanisms, ranging from genetic factors to environmental and lifestyle influences. Learn about the causative factors involved in the conditions below.

  • Genetics

Researchers have identified certain genes that predispose individuals to DDD. The 5A allele polymorphism increases the risk of accelerated degradation of spinal discs, particularly those located in the lower back.

  • Ageing

As we age, our body’s ability to heal and regenerate tissue declines. Although cell senescence and the accumulation of degraded collagen are thought to contribute to disc degeneration through ageing, a specific cause has yet to take the blame. However, we do know that the concentration of cells declines throughout the annulus fibrosus as we get older. Additionally, the cells that remain begin to lose their ability to divide and proliferate.

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  • Mechanical Loading

Although exercise helps maintain the integrity of our muscles, bones, and other tissues, too much repetitive strain can contribute towards degradation. Occupations, sports, and other daily activities that expose the spinal discs to excessive force may increase the risk of developing DDD.

  • DDD: A Complex Condition With Biopsychosocial Factors

The complexity of the human body means that DDD isn’t a simple condition. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) investigations show that some individuals with high levels of disc degeneration experience almost no pain. Conversely, those with minimal degradation may experience severe pain.

Pain science adopts a biopsychosocial approach to treating back pain. Psychological factors such as catastrophising and fear of certain movements may enhance the perception of pain and decrease the outcomes of some interventions.

How Does CBD Help Degenerative Disc Disease?

Although exposing the body to progressive loads and fostering a healthy approach to movement are staples when it comes to rehabilitating back pain, novel interventions such as CBD also appear to have a place in future solutions.

  • Potential to Reduce Damage to Intervertebral Discs

Prior to 2014, there was very little research regarding CBD and DDD. This changed when a team of researchers from the University of São Paulo, Brazil, set out to investigate the effects of CBD on disc degeneration[1]. After creating a model of DDD in mice, they administered varying doses of CBD to an experimental group shortly after.

The researchers used MRI to observe the effects of CBD both two and fifteen days after administration. After obtaining images, they also looked at the injury sites on a cellular level using histological analysis. They found that CBD managed to significantly reduce the damage caused to the intervertebral discs. The cannabinoid displayed particularly impressive effects within the annulus fibrosus. However, the changes in the nucleus pulposus were less significant.

  • CBD Interfaces With the ECS and Raises Anandamide Levels

But, how exactly does CBD exert these positive changes? Well, the molecule works on numerous systems throughout the body to create physiological shifts. For example, CBD interfaces with the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS features two types of receptors—CB1 and CB2—found all throughout the body, with particularly high concentrations in the nervous system and immune system, respectively.

CBD may help to reduce disc damage by interacting with these receptors, although research has yet to find them located within the intervertebral discs. CBD also prevents the degradation of the endocannabinoid anandamide, which allows it to linger in the body for longer. This endocannabinoid—also known as the “bliss molecule”—displays pain-killing and anti-inflammatory effects that might play a role in disc healing.

CBD and Degenerative Disc Disease: What You Need to Know - RQS Blog (5)

CBD and Degenerative Disc Disease: What You Need to Know - RQS Blog (6)

  • Potential to Reduce Inflammation

Because degenerative disc disease involves the release of a flurry of inflammatory molecules, cannabis scientists are looking to see if CBD offers any anti-inflammatory action. A 2014 study in PLOS One set out to see if the cannabinoid offered any protective effects[2] against intervertebral disc degeneration in rats.

Despite their rigorous efforts, the research team called for further investigations into the mechanism by which CBD interacts with cell signals. Clinical trials are also required to see how the cannabinoid works in people living with the condition.

  • CBD for Psychological Symptoms of Degenerative Disc Disease

The treatment of back pain requires a multi-pronged approach. Although manual therapy, strength training, and specialised exercises play a key role, the psychological state of patients heavily influences their perception of pain and their ability to deal with the condition.

The psychological impact of DDD and chronic pain may lead to negative mental states such as depression, anxiety, and catastrophisation. As well as potentially helping to address the physical aspects of DDD, cannabidiol might help to reduce psychological symptoms.

Early research shows promise when it comes to CBD and our mental state. The cannabinoid interacts with the serotonin system, which may change the way our brain reacts to this key neurotransmitter. This, in turn, could have a profound impact on our mental state. And, as alluded to earlier, CBD keeps anandamide—a molecule associated with increased mood—in the synaptic space for a longer period[3].

Research also suggests that CBD may help to reduce symptoms of stress[4]. Interestingly, excess stress may change the way we perceive and deal with pain[5]. The psychological state appears to fuel and stem from chronic pain conditions, possibly giving rise to a cycle of suffering. CBD may help to alleviate some symptoms of stress and thereby shift the perception of pain and its impact.

How to Use CBD for Degenerative Disc Disease?

To put it simply, no clear-cut answer exists to this question. The research surrounding the impact of CBD on DDD remains extremely early and underdeveloped. With no clinical trials to use as a foundation, nobody knows the optimal dose or method surrounding the use of CBD for the condition.

Using CBD to tackle symptoms of DDD remains an experimental approach. However, some users find that cannabidiol helps them in one way or another. Of course, always consult your doctor before doing so.

  • Which CBD Products to Choose?

If you choose to use CBD, we highly suggest sourcing the best products possible. With a saturated market, the quality of CBD oil fluctuates wildly. Although many good products exist, there are many others that are untested and unreliable.

When it comes to buying CBD oil, we recommend looking for three distinct characteristics. First of all, seek full-spectrum oils. These products incorporate all of the beneficial phytochemicals within cannabis—not just CBD. They utilise other cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids to create a synergistic blend of chemicals[6] that produce more pronounced effects.

Second, look for products that use supercritical CO₂ extraction. This state-of-the-art method captures all of the desired phytochemicals while leaving everything else behind. CO₂ extraction also removes the risk of harmful solvent residue.

Third, we recommend only buying third-party lab-tested products. This way, you’ll know exactly what your bottle contains. This type of testing guarantees a clean product free of contaminants, and one that stays within the regulated limits of THC quantity.

The Future for CBD and Degenerative Disc Disease

Degenerative disc disease remains a controversial and complex condition. We know that pain doesn’t equate to tissue damage. A person with no physical disc damage may feel pain, while a person with no pain may have significantly degenerated discs. Plus, those that feel pain are likely to experience negative mental states such as fear of certain movements and catastrophisation.

Although the research remains far too early to make solid conclusions, the cannabinoid shows great promise as part of a holistic approach involving exercise and psychological intervention. Hopefully, further studies will start to unveil CBD’s physiological effects on the condition, as well as the dose and administration method required.

External Resources:

  1. Protective Effects of Cannabidiol on Lesion-Induced Intervertebral Disc Degenerationhttps://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
  2. Protective Effects of Cannabidiol on Lesion-Induced Intervertebral Disc Degenerationhttps://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
  3. Cannabidiol enhances anandamide signaling and alleviates psychotic symptoms of schizophreniahttps://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
  4. Translational Investigation of the Therapeutic Potential of Cannabidiol (CBD): Toward a New Agehttps://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
  5. Chronic Pain, Chronic Stress and Depression: Coincidence or Consequence?https://www.m-r-i.net
  6. Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effectshttps://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov


This content is for educational purposes only. The information provided is derived from research gathered from external sources.


Can CBD help with degenerative disc disease? ›

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.

What not to do when you have degenerative disc disease? ›

People with degenerative disk disease should avoid slouching and a sedentary lifestyle. They should also refrain from exercise or activities that are high impact or involve heavy lifting. Many people experience lower back pain due to degenerative disk disease.

Is CBD good for herniated discs? ›

CBD can be an effective natural remedy for herniated disc pain. CBD has anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce pain and swelling associated with herniated discs. It may also help reduce nerve pain associated with the condition.

What is the new procedure for degenerative disc disease? ›

New Surgical Option for Degenerative Disc Disease

The surgeon will remove your disc (a discectomy), and then insert an artificial disc in its place. The idea is that the artificial disc will keep your spine flexible and help you move more easily and with less pain.

What is the best way to take CBD for back pain? ›

How to use CBD oil for back pain
  1. Shake it. Give the bottle a good shake before using it. ...
  2. Place it. Using the dropper (most oils come with one), place the proper dose under your tongue. ...
  3. Hold it. For the strongest absorption, keep the oil under your tongue for anywhere from 30 seconds to a few minutes before ingesting it.
Apr 12, 2021

What is the best comfort for degenerative disc disease? ›

Degenerative disc disease

Sleeping on the stomach is typically preferred, as this position can relieve pressure on the disc space. People with degenerative disc disease may feel most comfortable using a relatively firm mattress while placing a flat pillow under the stomach and hips.

What aggravates degenerative disc disease? ›

Long-term repetitive activities that place pressure on certain discs can increase your risk, too. Other risk factors include: car accidents. overweight or obesity.

What irritates degenerative disc? ›

Degenerative disc disease isn't actually a disease, but rather a condition in which a damaged disc causes pain. This pain can range from nagging to disabling. The condition can be caused by the drying out of the disc over time, daily activities, sports and injuries.

How can I strengthen my back with degenerative disc disease? ›

Regular aerobic exercise, such as walking, swimming, or taking a low-impact aerobics class, has been shown to help relieve pain, promote a healthy body weight, and improve overall strength and mobility—all important factors in managing DDD.

Does CBD reduce inflammation or just pain? ›

CBD may help to reduce pain by acting on a variety of biological processes in the body. CBD has been shown to work as an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and analgesic. CBD may also reduce the anxiety that people living with chronic pain often experience.

Does CBD help with nerve regeneration? ›

CBD has been shown to have neuroprotective benefits which may help to repair nerve damage. Studies have found that CBD may help to reduce inflammation and protect the nerves from further damage. It is also thought to help improve the function of nerve cells by reducing oxidative stress.

What is the drug of choice for degenerative disc disease? ›

NSAIDs are the drugs of choice (DOCs) in initial pharmacologic treatment of acute episodes of diskogenic pain or with acute exacerbation of chronic diskogenic pain. NSAIDs have mild-to-moderate analgesic, antipyretic, and anti-inflammatory properties.

What supplements are good for degenerative disc disease? ›

Supplements Recommended for Spine Health

For example, supplements for degenerative disc disease, like a herniated disc, include glucosamine sulfate, chondroitin sulfate, manganese ascorbate and methylsulfonylmethane (MSM).

Can you live with degenerative disc disease without surgery? ›

Degenerative disc disease is relatively common in aging adults, and, as a reassurance, it seldom requires surgery. When medical attention is needed, the majority of patients respond well to non-surgical forms of treatment, and recovery occurs in about six weeks.

How much CBD per day for back pain? ›

You can take 40 mg on days when you're in a lot of pain. After a week, you increase it to 45 mg, and after a second week, you use 50 mg. At this point, you might feel that your pain is bearable. It might be wise to keep track of how much CBD you're taking and whether your symptoms are getting better.

What is best time of day to take CBD for pain? ›

The short answer? There's no wrong or right time to take CBD. You can take it in the AM without worrying it might make you feel drowsy, or in the PM without any fear of a sleepless night. Because the reasons for trying CBD are unique to each individual, it's not going to throw your routine off course.

How long does it take for CBD to work for back pain? ›

Effects may be felt within 15 to 45 minutes. If sprays or tinctures are swallowed, their effects tend to be similar to capsules or edibles. On the skin. Topical products, like lotions and balms, are applied to the skin over a painful joint.

How should I sit with degenerative disc disease? ›

Degenerated discs are frequently more painful when an individual is sitting, especially if he or she is slumped forward putting more pressure on the lower back. Sitting upright in an ergonomic chair that provides low back support for the natural curve in the lumbar region can prevent irritating discs.

How can I prevent degenerative disc disease from getting worse? ›

Many things can be done to lower the risk or progression of DDD.
  1. Stop smoking, or better yet, don't start — smoking increases the rate of desiccation.
  2. Be active – regular exercise to increase the strength and flexibility of muscles that surround and support the spine.

How do people live with severe degenerative disc disease? ›

Consider over-the-counter medications to fight inflammation or prescription medications for pain. Consider physical therapy to strengthen your neck and back muscles (which help to support your spine) Practice back-friendly postures including lifting safely and using good posture when sitting, standing, and walking.

What is Stage 4 degenerative disc disease? ›

Collapsing Stage (Stage 4)

In the final stage of DDD, the spinal discs become dangerously thin and may become herniated, collapsed, and/or disintegrated. The severe pain felt during this stage often results from bone rubbing against bone or from herniated discs pushing into nerves.

Can anything reverse degenerative disc disease? ›

While disc degeneration can't be reversed, there is evidence that exercise, lifestyle changes, and pain management can give you a better quality of life. Nonsurgical treatment is the first step. If conservative therapies fail to help you manage and control the painful symptoms, your doctor may recommend surgery.

Can a degenerative disc ever heal? ›

No, degenerative disc disease cannot heal on its own. Many treatments for degenerative disc disease focus on reducing symptoms. Some people experience more severe or longer-lasting symptoms than others.

What is the best treatment for degenerative disc disease in the lower back? ›

Physical therapy: Participating in strengthening and stretching exercises with a trained healthcare provider. Medications: Taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), muscle relaxers or steroids. Steroid injections: Injecting medicine near your spinal nerves, disk or joints to reduce inflammation and pain.

Does drinking more water help degenerative disc disease? ›

Does Drinking Water Help with Degenerative Disc Disease? It does. Drinking water and keeping properly hydrated in general supports disc health, and the best way to help with degenerative disc disease is through prevention, including drinking water.

What drugs should not be taken with CBD? ›

CBD has been reported to interact with several anticonvulsants, including diazepam, lamotrigine, and phenytoin28,29; sedative drugs including barbiturates such as phenobarbital and hexobarbital30; and narcotics such as codeine and morphine.

What are the cons of CBD for pain? ›

Side effects of CBD include nausea, fatigue and irritability, according to Harvard Health Publishing. CBD can also negatively interact with coumadin/warfarin and grapefruit juice.

Does CBD actually stop pain? ›

However, CBD oil might help decrease neck pain, soreness, nausea and vomiting — all common symptoms associated with migraines, cites the foundation14. Multiple sclerosis: Healthline15 suggests that MS patients might benefit from CBD as it could help reduce fatigue, pain, spasticity and improve mobility.

Does CBD work for severe back pain? ›

CBD is generally considered a full-body treatment, which means that it does not target back pain specifically—except in the case of topical products—but contributes to an overall feeling of relaxation and pain relief.

Do CBD gummies work for pain? ›

CBD gummies are a great option for pain relief because they're easy to take and come in various strengths. Most people find that taking 10-20 mg of CBD per day is effective for pain relief. You can take the gummies as needed or regularly for chronic pain.

What is the strongest cream for nerve pain? ›

Salonpas Lidocaine Plus Pain Relieving Cream contains the maximum strength of over-the-counter (OTC) lidocaine (4%), as well as benzyl alcohol, which, according to the company, numbs nerves quickly.

What ointment is good for nerve pain? ›

Capsaicin is used to help relieve a certain type of pain known as neuralgia (shooting or burning pain in the nerves). Capsaicin is also used to help relieve minor pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis or muscle sprains and strains.

Can CBD reverse neuropathy? ›

Plus, there's anecdotal evidence, with people who have neuropathy claiming that CBD helps their symptoms. Still, it's important to understand that CBD isn't a cure-all for neuropathy symptoms, and more studies are needed to definitively declare that it's an effective treatment.

Does vitamin D help with degenerative disc disease? ›

Vitamin D works on a signaling pathway to reduce inflammation levels and oxidative stress in the intervertebral discs. Additionally, it delays cell aging and reduces cell death within the spine. 2 Thus vitamin D can significantly improve degenerative spine disease.

Can turmeric help degenerative disc disease? ›

Turmeric is also a powerful antioxidant capable of improving our immune system response. It's important to note; that curcumin will not repair herniated discs, sciatica, or physical problems with the spine. But, it may reduce inflammation, improve oxygen and nutrient flow, and promote the healing process.

How bad does degenerative disc disease have to be to get disability? ›

To qualify automatically for SSDI because of degenerative disc disease, you must have to have severe symptoms such as requiring assistance to walk, needing to adjust your position more than every two hours and suffer from nerve-specific problems.

Is a heating pad good for degenerative disc disease? ›

Using heat from a heating pad, adhesive wrap, warm bath or other heat source can relax the surrounding muscles and reduce tension and spasms, a significant contributor to degenerative disc pain.

Is caffeine bad for degenerative disc disease? ›

But among its side effects, caffeine can leech the calcium deposits in your bone and actively undermine your spinal health. If your diet is not very calcium- and vitamin D-rich to begin with, or if you have a family history of osteoporosis, consider reducing your caffeine intake and see if it helps.

Do any supplements help with degenerative disc disease? ›

Supplements Recommended for Spine Health

For example, supplements for degenerative disc disease, like a herniated disc, include glucosamine sulfate, chondroitin sulfate, manganese ascorbate and methylsulfonylmethane (MSM).

Does CBD help with severe back pain? ›

CBD is generally considered a full-body treatment, which means that it does not target back pain specifically—except in the case of topical products—but contributes to an overall feeling of relaxation and pain relief.

Does CBD help with chronic lower back pain? ›

While generally used in tandem, THC and CBD have been shown to have the ability to reduce pain through several pathways such as modulation of rostral ventromedial medulla neuronal activity, antinociceptive effects in descending pain pathways, and anti-inflammatory properties by acting through prostaglandin synthesis ...

What slows degenerative disc disease? ›

You can prevent or slow the progression of spinal degeneration through lifestyle changes. Some of these include: Achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight. Avoiding or quitting smoking.

What is the best CBD ratio for back pain? ›

If you're dealing with chronic pain from inflammation, a high CBD ratio may give you the relief you need. Even so, a little THC seems to boost the effectiveness. Ratios as high as 20:1 or even 10:1 may help, with little chance of giving you an unwanted buzz.

What is the best cannabinoid for lower back pain? ›

Some of the best strains for back pain relief are indica-dominant hybrids, such as Granddaddy Purple, Northern Lights, and God's Gift. These strains have a high level of THC, which can help to relax the muscles and reduce inflammation.

How often to take CBD for chronic pain? ›

The routine stream is designed for the majority of patients with chronic pain. The recommendations included: Initiate on CBD-predominant variety at a dose of 5 mg CBD twice daily. Titrate the CBD-predominant dose by 10 mg every 2 to 3 days until the patient reaches their goals, or up to 40 mg/day.

What type of pain is CBD best for? ›

Ongoing research suggests CBD oil for pain can aid medical conditions, including arthritis and fibromyalgia, at varying doses. Some pain may not be treatable by CBD alone, but it can help when paired with THC or Western medication applications.

Do doctors recommend CBD for pain? ›

While many studies have suggested CBD oil is helpful for pain, more research is necessary, especially long-term studies with human subjects. However, CBD oil does show promise as a treatment for pain. Some scientific and anecdotal evidence suggests that it can help people manage chronic pain in various contexts.


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