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.

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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.

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.

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 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.

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.

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 take away nerve pain? ›

Can CBD help with nerve tingling? Nerve tingling may be a symptom of neuropathic pain. Research suggests that CBD may help with symptoms of this condition in the short term. However, there is no research to suggest that CBD helps alleviate nerve tingling specifically.

Is CBD good for your back? ›

Cannabidiol, commonly referred to as CBD, is a new and relatively understudied treatment for pain, including back pain. Studies suggest it may help relieve inflammation, which is often a factor in chronic back pain.

How can you prevent degenerative disc disease from worsening? ›

Pay attention to posture and form

That extra pressure accelerates degenerative disc disease. Your spinal vertebrae have a natural curvature and alignment that offload pressure, ensure proper movement, and support spine strength. Good posture supports your spine's alignment, while bad posture throws it out of balance.

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.

What foods heal degenerative disc disease? ›

Vegetables are a key component to fighting inflammation and back pain from degenerative disc disease. Sweet potatoes, carrots, and beets are all great vegetables to eat for spinal health. Leafy greens and broccoli are also excellent choices to add into your meals. However, fruits can help as well.

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.

What is the best method of CBD for pain? ›

CBD is best taken in pill or capsule form for slow extended release or as an oral tincture (infused oil that contains CBD) for faster effect onset. Start low, go slow. Take a small amount and slowly increase your dosage until you start to get symptom relief over a matter of weeks.

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 type of CBD is most effective? ›

A quick look at the 8 strongest CBD oils
  • Best overall: Zatural Full Spectrum CBD Oil Drops | Skip to Review.
  • Strongest per serving: CBDMD CBD Oil Tincture Drops | Skip to Review.
  • Best for quality: Spruce Lab Grade CBD Oil | Skip to Review.
  • Best for travel: NuLeaf Naturals Full Spectrum Hemp CBD Oil | Skip to Review.

How do you know if degenerative disc disease is getting worse? ›

he main reason to perform more tests is if the symptoms are getting worse despite treatment, if the pain is severe or if you have signs of nerve damage — particularly nerve damage that is getting worse. The signs of worsening nerve damage would be increasing tingling or numbness, weakness and sometimes increasing pain.

How do you stop disc degeneration pain? ›

Treating the inflammation with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may alleviate pain and swelling. The most common NSAIDs are ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin. All are available without a prescription, and your doctor can recommend how best to use them.

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.

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.

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 massage good for degenerative disc disease? ›

Massage therapy is a great way to reduce muscle tension and alleviate pain and other symptoms caused by DDD. Using therapeutic massage, practitioners can apply carefully targeted pain and tension relief where patients need it the most.

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.

Is CBD better than pain meds? ›

Cannabis may be an effective alternative to opioid treatment for chronic pain. It seems to have less risk and is much less likely to cause a fatal overdose. Cannabis may also help people reduce or stop taking opioids for pain. But consult a medical professional before you try this approach.

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.

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.

Is CBD better than ibuprofen? ›

CBD oil can help relieve pain and inflammation and with fewer side effects than taking ibuprofen, both in the short and long term. CBD oils are among the most common compounds used by people today. This is because it allows for better and more effective dosing, as well as a long shelf life.

How do you use CBD oil for spinal stenosis? ›

Different Treatment Recommendations for Spinal Stenosis
  1. Begin with 5mg of CBD twice a day and only add THC if there is no pain improvement with up to 40 mg of CBD.
  2. 2.5mg of THC should be introduced with CBD and gradually increased to 40mg of THC a day.
Feb 24, 2023

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 ...

Does CBD work for back or hip pain? ›

CBD will not treat the underlying cause of a person's pain. However, it may help numb or alleviate pain. A person should not rely on CBD to treat their pain. They should consider seeing a medical professional who can assess the cause of their joint pain.

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.

Is coffee 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.

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.

What activities are best for degenerative disc disease? ›

Try walking, water aerobics, yoga, Pilates, and stretching. Lifting heavy weights or running marathons might not be a good idea if you have significant disc degeneration or many DDD symptoms. Instead, your goal should be regular, moderate exercise, which will help strengthen your muscles, bones, and joints.

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).

What is good for degenerative disc disease? ›

Pain medication and physical therapy can manage symptoms and help the body adjust to the damaged disc. Together, these treatments can relieve pain and improve function, often long term.

What makes degenerative disc disease better? ›

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.

What makes degenerative disc disease worse? ›

Risk Factors for Degenerative Disc Disease

Excessive strain on the low back caused by sports, frequent heavy lifting, or labor-intensive jobs. Strain on the lumbar spinal discs due to prolonged sitting and/or poor posture. Lack of support for the discs due to weak core muscles. Obesity.

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.

What vitamin deficiency causes degenerative disc disease? ›

Vitamin D deficiency has been found to be highly associated with patients suffering from degenerative spine disease. 1 Degenerative spine disease is a condition that is characterized by gradual loss of proper functioning and organization of the spine.

Does drinking 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.

Can a chiropractor help with degenerative disc disease? ›

Chiropractic treatment for degenerative disc disease can reduce inflammation in the spinal tissues, improve the range of motion of the spine, and relieve muscle tension. Chiropractic treatments can also reduce pressure on the spine, specifically the spinal discs, to promote healing.

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.


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