Cannabis Science

Is Sativa or Indica Better For Back Pain?

woman holding her lower back

Back pain is a widespread problem faced by Americans and the wider global population. As a matter of fact, up to 80% of adults will have some back pain throughout their life.  To relieve back pain people usually opt for over-the-counter medication, medicated creams, ice, heat, and other remedies. In addition to those treatment options, many people opt for weed. If that’s the route you want to take, you’re probably wondering if Sativa or Indica is better for back pain. Here’s what we know. 

Photo: Unsplash

Which is Better for Back Pain Sativa or Indica?

Indica is better for back pain!

That is, according to a 2014 survey done by medical cannabis users. The results say, “A preference for C. indica was statistically significant for pain management, helping with sedation, and sleep.” This is in line with what we know about indica being a downer. 

While the study did not specifically state back pain, the participants named the following ailments that Indica worked better for:

  • Nonmigraine headaches 
  • Glaucoma 
  • Neuropathy
  • Spasticity 
  • Seizures 
  • Insomnia 
  • Joint pain

If you’re wondering about Sativa, the participants revered that strain for euphoria and energy. 

Of course, this is only one study and due to how it is done, the results have to be taken with a grain of salt. For example, the results were self-reported, and the weed consumption was not monitored at all. In other words, these results were not produced from a controlled lab study. 

You may be wondering why exactly Indica is better suited for pain even though both strains have THC which can relieve pain. Well, we’re not sure exactly, but it may have to do with other compounds in weed such as terpenes. 

For example, one terpene, bisabolol can help people suffering from pain. According to Healthline, this terpene can help to fight inflammation and may have pain-relieving properties. Interestingly, Rise Cannabis says this terpene is in greater concentration in Indica dominant strains over Sativa dominant strains. 

Another terpene that is dominant in Indica is limonene. Limonene may help to reduce inflammation. Inflammation is a common cause of pain.

Besides terpenes, Indica is known to have a lot of CBD. As Healthline puts it CBD, “may produce many physical benefits, such as reducing pain and nausea, preventing seizures, and easing migraine.” Therefore part of the reason why Indica may be perfect for your back pain.  

What if Indica Doesn’t Help My Back Pain?

It’s not strange if Indica doesn’t help your back pain. The concept of strains producing certain effects is not an exact science.

As a matter of fact, some cannabis experts don’t even like to use the term Indica and Sativa. They prefer to focus on the terpene and cannabinoid content. According to Healthline, “Relying on names does not provide the user with the necessary information to pick the correct profile.” 

Therefore, it’s entirely possible that the Indica strain you received does not have the right mixture of terpenes and cannabinoids. 

Some stoners also prefer to opt for Sativa for their pain management. According to a Reddit user, “Personally smoking cannabis has enabled me to take a break from constant focus on pain & to help with my appetite. It does depend on the strain. I take enough medication that whacks me out so I prefer a sativa strain which is more head high than indica strain which is more body stone.”

Another Reddit user ranked Indica or pain at 9/10 but gave Sativa a decent 6/10.

At the same time, it is entirely possible that weed doesn’t work for you when it comes to pain management. Everybody is different. 

If your back pain is debilitating or won’t go away we recommend visiting a doctor.

However, if you’re looking for home remedies there are a number of things you can try. In addition to weed, WebMD says you can relieve back pain by:

  • Exercising
  • Stretch
  • Use OTC creams and medication
  • Keep a healthy weight
  • Maintain a good posture
  • Quit smoking cigarettes
  • Using ice and heat

John Hopkins Medicine also offered solutions to back pain including physical therapist, injection-based treatment, and alternative treatment such as acupuncture. 

Best Strains For Back Pain

If you’re looking for Indica strains for back pain, Healthline and Pure Oasis suggest opting for:

  • Do-Si-Dos
  • L.A. Confidential
  • GMO Cookies
  • White Widow
  • OG Kush
  • Northern Lights

If you’re going to a dispensary, you can ask them for their recommendation for pain. One particular strain may work for one person and not the other so you may have to experiment with various strains. 


Is Sativa or Indica better for back pain? The general consensus is that Indica is better for pain management. There is a wide range of Indica strains you can opt for. However, that’s not to say people haven’t gotten pain relief from Sativa strains. Many cannabis experts recommend looking at the cannabinoid and terpene profile and focusing less on the traditional categories of Indica and Sativa.


About Trevann

Trevann is Stoner Rotation’s Jamaica-based lead writer for the Science section of our cannabis blog. She graduated with honors receiving her Bachelor of Science degree in Molecular Biology from the University of West Indies, Mona. For the last three years, she has covered some of the biggest questions around cannabis and health underpinned with research from supporting studies, medical journals and scholarly articles. Got something on your mind? You can reach her at [email protected].