Are medical cannabis and physical therapy a good combination?

Published Mar 27, 2023 01:00 p.m. ET
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Medical cannabis has recently become a popular choice to manage a variety of conditions such as chronic pain, spasticity, and more. Physical therapy on the other hand is a long-accepted non-invasive treatment option that helps these patients to recover from injuries, surgeries, and other physical conditions and it’s come highly recommended by healthcare providers for far longer than cannabis.

Patients are now considering the benefits of combining both therapies be it due to their own personal beliefs and experiences, suggestions from trusted friends and family, or a recommendation from their doctor. Many view this layering of treatments as a way to deliver a more holistic approach that may better align with the values of certain patients.

Today, we will discuss whether or not medical cannabis and physical therapy are a good combination and to do that we will also present some of the available scientific evidence that supports the reasons why.

What is physical therapy?

Physical therapy is an effective treatment option designed to improve or restore the function, mobility, and quality of life of patients who are experiencing pain or disability due to an injury, surgery, or a variety of medical conditions. It involves a wide range of exercises, stretches, manual therapy, and other interventions that can help to reduce pain, improve mobility, increase strength, and enhance balance and coordination.

Physical therapists work closely with patients to develop personalized treatment plans that are tailored to suit their individual needs, goals, and conditions.

What is medical cannabis?

Medical cannabis is a title that’s given to cannabis or any of its derivatives like CBD or THC when they are used for medical purposes. It may be beneficial in many ways due to its ability to reduce the symptoms of numerous medical conditions and symptoms such as chronic pain, spasticity, nausea, and vomiting. Medical cannabis products are typically available only to those with a prescription provided by a healthcare provider.

Scientific evidence for the use of medical cannabis and physical therapy


Several scientific studies have investigated the use of both medical cannabis and physical therapy to manage the symptoms of medical conditions and injuries. One study published in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science confirmed the effects of combining both types of therapy to alleviate spasticity in patients with multiple sclerosis. The results showed a significant reduction in spasticity and improved balance and gait in patients with multiple sclerosis.

Another study published in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management delved into the effectiveness of combining cannabis and physical therapy to manage chronic pain in participating with multiple sclerosis. Those results were also quite promising revealing a reduction in pain and an improved quality of life in patients with the condition.

However, not all studies have reported such positive results.

One published in the Journal of Back and Musculoskeletal Rehabilitation investigated the effects of medical cannabis on pain and disability in patients with chronic low back pain who were undergoing physical therapy. The study found that medical cannabis did not significantly improve pain and disability compared to a placebo.

Another published in the Journal of Neurology looked at the effects of medical cannabis on patients undergoing physical therapy, and those researchers found that the addition of cannabis did not make a significant difference for patients when compared to a placebo.

In conclusion

Combining medical cannabis and physical therapy may be a great option for patients who are hoping to achieve a more natural approach to their treatment plan. However, so far the research we have does report conflicting results regarding the use of medical cannabis and physical therapy. So it’s not guaranteed to provide equal relief to everyone. Some people may also be taking certain prescription medications that could adversely interact with cannabis, so it is essential to always consult with a qualified healthcare provider before making any decisions.

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