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Spinal Cord Injuries & CBD Oil: Addressing Chronic Pain & Depression

Spinal cord injuries (SCIs) impact nearly five million Americans each year. Some call the spinal cord an “information superhighway” because it’s what connects the brain to the nerves that provide feedback from all the different parts of the body. Because it plays such a crucial role in pain perception and bodily function, those who have a spinal cord injury can often have reduced quality of life.

It appears that CBD oil may offer some welcome relief to those suffering with a spinal cord injury. CBD oil can be an effective pain reliever and provide plenty of other potential benefits that could improve physical and mental health.

Benefits of Using CBD Oil for Spinal Cord Injuries

While there are plenty of treatment options available to those dealing with a spinal cord injury, they aren’t always effective. Treatments such as acupuncture, cognitive restructuring, physical therapy, psychotherapy, and therapeutic massage are all viable options, but they can have mixed results and they’re not for everyone.

For those dealing with a spinal cord injury, pain medications are often prescribed, but due to their many side effects and risk for addiction, many patients are looking elsewhere for relief. One such alternative option which has been getting a lot of attention lately is cannabidiol (CBD).

If you’re someone with a spinal cord injury and are considering adding CBD oil to your current treatment plan, first speak with your doctor and take a look at this chart to better understand the potential risks and benefits of using CBD alone or in tandem with your current medication.

Common Medications Used for Spinal Cord Injuries (SCIs) Potential Side Effects of SCI Medication Potential Benefit of CBD Oil for SCIs Potential Side Effects of Combining CBD Oil w/ SCI Medication
Acetaminophen Nausea; vomiting; loss of appetite; severe stomach pain; weakness; yellowing of the eyes; stomach ulcers; liver damage. CBD oil can relieve pain without causing any of these side effects. Using CBD oil and Acetaminophen can increase the risk of liver damage.  Always consult a doctor before using CBD oil.
Opioids Sedation; constipation; nausea; vomiting; respiratory depression; dizziness; depression; increased risk of addiction. CBD oil can relieve pain without causing any of these side effects. Using CBD oil with opioids can increase the risk of experiencing dizziness; drowsiness; confusion.  Always consult a doctor before using CBD oil.
Ibuprofen Nausea; vomiting; upset stomach; heartburn; dizziness; headache; ringing in ears; stomach ulcer; liver damage. CBD oil can relieve pain without causing any of these side effects. Using CBD oil and Acetaminophen can increase the risk of liver damage.  Always consult a doctor before using CBD oil.

While CBD oil may not be a miracle cure for treating spinal cord injuries, it is non-habit-forming and is generally well-tolerated. The World Health Organization (WHO) has even stated, “ In humans, CBD exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential,” and, “no public health problems… have been associated with the use of pure CBD.”

CBD oil is looking like it could have significant potential for those looking to improve their quality of life following a spinal cord injury.

Effectiveness of Using CBD Oil for Spinal Cord Injuries

One of the most common symptoms of spinal cord injuries is paralysis, or loss of movement in the arms and legs. There is not enough conclusive research to suggest CBD oil could help restore motor function to paralyzed limbs in humans. However, CBD oil could help with other symptoms associated with spinal cord injuries including chronic pain, muscle spasms, and depression.

CBD Oil for Chronic Pain

In one study done on CBD oil’s pain-relieving effects, CBD was found to reduce chronic pain through its effect on glycine receptors in the central nervous system. These are inhibitory receptors that play a role in the perception of nerve pain. The study reads, “We report that systemic and intrathecal [spinal injection] administration of cannabidiol (CBD), a major non psychoactive component of marijuana, and its modified derivatives significantly suppress chronic inflammatory and neuropathic pain.”

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In a different survey-type study that looked at past and current pain management in SCI patients, researchers evaluated test subjects who used alternative methods for pain relief, including opioids, marijuana, and massages. In the end, the most effective and preferred treatment of the 7 alternative options for chronic pain was marijuana.

Lastly as part of the 2014 Spinal Cord Injury Wellness Summit at the University of Washington, Dr. Gregory T. Carter spoke on the advantages of using medical marijuana, and CBD specifically, to treat the painful symptoms of spinal cord conditions like ALS. He suggested using high-CBD and low-THC cannabis strains to find pain relief without the intoxication often associated with recreational marijuana use. Furthermore, when speaking on a review of 18 human studies examining cannabis’ analgesic properties performed as part of the summit, Carter states, “we now know on the basis of science and clinical trials that cannabis and cannabinoids work very well for neuropathic [nerve] pain and spasticity.”

CBD Oil for Muscle Spasms

Aside from offering SCI patients relief from pain, CBD oil may also be an effective muscle relaxant. Full- or broad-spectrum CBD oils will contain all of the terpenes found in the hemp plant, including myrcene and limonene, which have both been found to exhibit motor relaxant effects.

For many patients with spinal cord injuries, muscle spasms are common, and it can be difficult to find relief. In one study, the sublingual spray Sativex, a combination of CBD and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), was found to be an effective anti-spasm treatment. Sativex is currently legal in the United Kingdom for mitigating the symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS).

In 2012, the University of California conducted a study on cannabinoids and spasticity in patients with multiple sclerosis. The randomized, placebo-controlled crossover study found that of the 30 people who completed the trial, those that smoked cannabis reported an average 2.74-point reduction in the Modified Ashworth scale compared to the placebo. (The Modified Ashworth Scale is used to measure spasticity in MS patients.) It’s important to note here that cannabis, and not CBD specifically, was responsible for the improvement in MS symptoms.

CBD Oil for Depression

Because spinal cord injuries can leave people paralyzed, the sudden change in physical capability, and ultimately lifestyle, can bring on depression. While it’s no replacement for talk therapy, CBD oil may be an effective, supplementary option for dealing with the symptoms of depression.

CBD activates a serotonin receptor called 5-HT1A, which elevates serotonin levels in the brain. Low serotonin has been linked to both depression and anxiety, and usually selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are prescribed to increase the amount of serotonin available in the brain. CBD oil works similarly to SSRIs but does not carry the same side effects as traditional antidepressant medications.

CBD oil can also increase the amount of adenosine and anandamide in the brain. These neurotransmitters play a role in the regulation of mood. Anandamide is responsible for feelings of joy and motivation, and adenosine for clarity and mood elevation.

How to Take CBD Oil for Spinal Cord Injuries

Before taking CBD oil it is essential that you first speak to a doctor. CBD oil is fairly safe but it can interact with some medications so it is important to get the all-clear before starting.

Once you have your doctor’s blessing, you’ll need to choose which types of CBD products you’d like to use. CBD oil is available in a variety of forms. Depending on the severity of your spinal cord injury, some options may be better than others.

For SCI patients with limited or no mobility, a CBD oil capsule may be the best option. Capsules can be administered easily by a third party and will provide a consistent dose of CBD. CBD oil capsules may take up to an hour to show effects but these effects can last for 4-6 hours, providing a nice window of relief.

CBD oil topicals and transdermal patches may also be effective in these instances. Topicals, like CBD creams, gels, and salves, can be applied directly to the site of pain, offering targeted relief. This can be especially effective for muscle spasms and cramping. And, if massages are part of your SCI treatment plan, you’re in luck! There are some companies that make CBD massage oils. These formats are slow to show effects but can last for a very long time. CBD topicals can show effects for up to 8 hours, and transdermal patches can last up to 48 hours.

For SCI patients that maintain full mobility, edibles, CBD tinctures and drops, vaporizers or flower may be especially enticing options.

CBD oil tinctures and drops are applied directly under the tongue and show effects within 30 minutes and can last 2 to 4 hours. This delivery format provides superior dosage control making it easy to shift up or down as needed.

CBD vape oils and flower are the fastest-acting option. Because the CBD is absorbed through the lungs, it enters the bloodstream right away, providing near-instant relief. Unfortunately, these effects do not last long and are typically spent within an hour.

CBD Oil Dosage for Spinal Cord Injuries

In terms of dosing, it is a good idea to start with the lowest recommended dose listed on your CBD product. Starting slow will help you determine how your body will react to CBD and minimize the risk of experiencing any side effects or interactions.

If you can’t find a starting dosage, at CBD Oil Review, we have analyzed hundreds of products and come up with the following:

The CBD Oil Review Serving Standard is 25mg of CBD, taken twice daily

If this amount is not enough, slowly increase the dose by 25mg every 3 to 4 weeks until the desired effects are achieved.

For more information on dosing, check out our dosage guide, or consider having a consultation with a naturopathic doctor who can give you the most personalized action plan.

While CBD oil will not be able to cure a spinal cord injury, it can help relieve some of the more complicated symptoms associated with the condition. By reducing pain and muscle spasms while improving mood, CBD oil may provide a pathway towards better quality of life.

+ 13 sources


  1. In Heo et al. (2013) Acupuncture for Spinal Cord Injury and Its Complications: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials - National Center for Biotechnology Information https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3586459/
  2. Swati Mehta et al. An evidence-based review of the effectiveness of cognitive behavioral therapy for psychosocial issues post-spinal cord injury - National Library of Medicine https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21401282/
  3. Miguel A Diego et al. Spinal cord patients benefit from massage therapy - National Library of Medicine https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12325402/
  4. CANNABIDIOL (CBD) - World Health Organization https://www.who.int/medicines/access/controlled-substances/CannabidiolCriticalReview.pdf
  5. Wei Xiong et al. Cannabinoids suppress inflammatory and neuropathic pain by targeting α3 glycine receptors - National Center for Biotechnology Information https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3371734/
  6. Diana D Cardenas et al. Treatments for Chronic Pain in Persons With Spinal Cord Injury: A Survey Study - National Center for Biotechnology Information https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1864800/
  7. Gregory T. Carter The Use of Medical Marijuana to Manage Symptom Burden in Spinal Cord Injury - University of Washington https://sci.washington.edu/summit2014/medical_marijuana.asp
  8. T Gurgel do Vale et al. Central effects of citral, myrcene and limonene, constituents of essential oil chemotypes from Lippia alba (Mill.) n.e. Brown - National Library of Medicine https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12587690/
  9. C Collin et al. (2010) A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, parallel-group study of Sativex, in subjects with symptoms of spasticity due to multiple sclerosis - National Library of Medicine https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20307378/
  10. Jody Corey-Bloom et al. (2012) Smoked cannabis for spasticity in multiple sclerosis: a randomized, placebo-controlled trial - National Library of Medicine https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22586334/
  11. Raquel Linge et ak. (2015) Cannabidiol induces rapid-acting antidepressant-like effects and enhances cortical 5-HT/glutamate neurotransmission: role of 5-HT1A receptors - National Library of Medicine https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26711860/
  12. Koji Yamada et al. Involvement of adenosine A2A receptors in depression and anxiety - National Library of Medicine https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25175973/
  13. Dale G Deutsch A Personal Retrospective: Elevating Anandamide (AEA) by Targeting Fatty Acid Amide Hydrolase (FAAH) and the Fatty Acid Binding Proteins (FABPs) - National Library of Medicine https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27790143/

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