Back pain impacts roughly eight out of 10 Americans during their lifetime.
For chronic sufferers, the discomfort can last weeks, but there isn’t much data on what cannabis products might help. HERB decided to conduct our own experiment, with chronic back pain sufferer, Syd.
Before we approached her, Syd, who suffers from sharp back pains as a result of a car accident, had used CBD lotion with some success. It didn’t relieve the pain, she said, but it made it bearable. She’d also tried CBD vape pens which, she said, were generally unrewarding.
So I went to my favorite dispensary where the budtender helped me pick out different grams for Syd to try. Then, over the course of three days, Syd and I sat in a low-lit living room as she took a few hits of each strain. It felt almost Freudian: her stretched out on a couch and me sitting in a rocking chair listening to her stream of consciousness until I, eventually, had to ask her to refocus on the sensations in her back. Admittedly, she’s just one person, but she did provide some valuable insights into whether these popular pain relievers actually work for muscle tension and nerve pain. Here’s what we found.
Kushes are known for their pain relieving qualities, typically containing high levels of THC. Violator Kush also has a fair amount of CBD—two percent—relative to some other strains in the kush family. It’s a spicy indica-dominant hybrid with a full-bodied smell and what Syd described as a “salad taste.”
Syd noticed a marked euphoria with this strain alongside a lessening of physical fatigue and the loosening of her back. “This,” she said, “is the most relaxed I’ve felt in a long time.” While there was no change in the level of her back pain, she explained that she felt the release of physical tension and enjoyed the strain’s silly, talkative high.
Like many pain-relieving strains, King Kong is an indica-dominant hybrid. It had slightly skunky undertones and smelled of bitter citrus, like a grapefruit rind. The taste was rather sour and our ganja Guinea pig wasn’t particularly fond of it. “This tastes like an acorn if I ate acorns,” Syd said. “It could be the husk of a walnut. One or the other. Definitely the husk. Shit is gross.” Her back, at least, was “pretty good,” and she was surprised that after smoking it she could twist 90 degrees and feel little pain.
Cali Care OG
This one is a proprietary strain made by the California Caregivers Alliance in Los Angeles. It’s worth the trip, said Syd, noting its herbaceous taste and light body high. She said she felt looser and, like her back, a little better. It wasn’t a cerebral type of stoned, just a relaxing one, and Syd marked it down as a favorite for creative endeavors.
Master OG, developed by Cabin Fever Seed Breeders, is a piney, kush-based, indica-dominant hybrid. Syd said the strain made her feel a lot like Violator Kush (understandably because of their shared heritage), but it gave her more clarity and helped her focus on her body. She felt physically looser, with a radiating feeling emanating from her limbs and joints. “It’s pretty good on the pain relief,” she said, before sinking into some paranoia which was likely the result of the flower’s high THC level. Later in the night, however, Syd was able to adjust her back and feel better.
Hope Springs Harley OG
This sun-grown strain by Flow Karma is the holy grail of CBD, with a 17:1 CBD to THC ratio. THC levels clock in at less than two percent, meaning that the flower is focused on pain relief rather than psychoactivity. Syd only felt “a little stoned,” with a positive, yet subtle, enhancement of her focus and an increased enjoyment of small things. She also got the munchies from Hope Springs, happily reporting that “food is delicious right now” and that “every bite is perfect.”
Her back pain, however, was the same and she sensed an awareness of the dull aching of her joints. Syd was most excited that she was relaxed, but still able to work and “stay functional” on the strain. It’s all of the good parts of being stoned, she noted, without the psychoactivity.
This strain, a hybrid of Girl Scout Cookies and Cherry Pie, is recommended as a high-THC aphrodisiac (hence, you would think, the name). The flower has a distinctly sweet, fruity taste, not unlike a blueberry pie. Syd said that Wedding Cake was her favorite strain. It was a welcome shift from some of the earlier, heavy Indicas to an upbeat experience that offered back relief while keeping her active. “I feel totally balanced and not falling apart on the couch,” she said. “You know when you have a long week and you drink a couple of beers [to wind down]? This is the couple of beers of weed.”