Does medical cannabis relieve arthritis pain? Better yet, how do you actually use the herb, anyway? We have the answers to these questions and more.
One of the most prominent concerns is the prevalence of chronic arthritis, an ailment that affects 52.5 million adults today, and that number is expected to increase to 67 million by 2030. There’s no cure for arthritis, and limited treatment options exist for the painful and limiting disease.
One alternative that’s gaining popularity among the aging population is the use of cannabis to get full-bodied pain relief and anti-inflammatory properties. Although arthritis is considered a qualifying condition in at least two states, there’s a remarkable lack of data and research behind the effectiveness of cannabis as a treatment alternative for arthritis, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis.
Arthritis is an uncomfortable and often unavoidable disease that often results in severe symptoms:
- Injuries that don’t heal properly
- Carpal tunnel syndrome and peripheral neuropathies (tingling or numbness in extremities)
- Plantar fasciitis (inflammation of the forefoot)
- Persistent joint pain
- Locked joints
- Morning stiffness
A study published in the journal Rheumatology from Dr. Sheng-Ming Dai of China’s Second Military Medical University found that CB2 receptors are found in unusually high levels in the joint tissue of arthritis patients. The use of cannabis is shown to fight inflammation in the joints by activating the pathways of CB2 receptors.
Canadian researcher Dr. Jason McDougall, a professor of pharmacology and anesthesia at Dalhousie University in Halifax, has undertaken a new study to find out if medical marijuana can help repair arthritic joints and relieve pain. The study is supported by the Arthritis Society and is awarding a grant for a comprehensive, three-year study to investigate if cannabis is not just dampening the pain in the brain, but also working to fight inflammation and repair the joint itself.
When asked to describe the nerves of an arthritis sufferer, McDougall told CBC Radio’s Information Morning the following information:
“[The nerves are like] wires that have been stripped of their coating. They’re all bare, they’re all raw and responsible for feeling a lot of pain. What we hypothesize is that by locally administering these cannabis-like molecules to those nerves, we’d actually be able to repair them and reduce the pain of arthritis.”
Cannabis and rheumatoid arthritis pain
Recent research suggests that cannabis not only eases arthritis pain, but the herb can calm the immune system and ease related symptoms. Here’s everything you want to know about cannabis and rheumatoid arthritis.
What is rheumatoid arthritis?
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disorder. The body attacks itself as if it were fending off bacterial and viral invaders. An overactive immune system breaks down the soft tissues in your joints and surrounding your bones. This immune response causes excess inflammation, which then leads to tissue deterioration, scarring, and significant pain over time.
Symptoms of RA go well beyond aching joints and arthritis pain. As with most autoimmune diseases, chronic inflammation, and an aggravated immune system can have wide sweeping effects on the body. Autoimmune diseases are comparable to having permanent flu, only a whole lot worse. Other than stiff, aching joints, here are a few additional RA symptoms:
- Injuries that never seem to heal
- Numbing and tingling in hands and feet
- Eye issues
- Morning stiffness
- Locked joints
- Gastrointestinal issues
- Lung disease
Unchecked inflammation can create havoc in the body. When you have an injury or the common cold, inflammation is part of a healthy bodily response. Yet, rampant swelling from autoimmune disease is a different story. When the body is in an inflamed state for a prolonged period of time, it ages more rapidly and basically begins to fall apart.
Patients with rheumatoid arthritis are overwhelmed with inflammation. This is where cannabis can help. The herb is full of inflammation-fighting compounds. In 2014, researchers from the University of South Carolina found that psychoactive THCdampens the immune system and deactivates inflammatory proteins.
Older research from 2003 tested non-psychoactive CBD on rats induced with an arthritis-mimicking condition. After injecting the rodents with specific pro-inflammatory compounds, they treated the creatures with an oral dose of CBD. Cannabidiol decreased inflammation in a time and dose-dependant fashion. CBD continued to reduce inflammatory markers after three consecutive days of treatment.