Arthritis is a debilitating condition. It causes disruptions in everyday life and can lead to other mental health issues. There's one alternative treatment, however, that's got everyone talking: Weed.
We note that the subject contained in this article represents illegal activity in certain jurisdictions. Whilst we do not condone any acts which are contrary to any such laws, we understand that readers in those jurisdictions which have decriminalised cannabis may find this article of interest.
As of 2015, an estimated 54.5 million people in the United States suffered from arthritis, which can create severe problems in ones life. Arthritis can affect any joint in the body, causing stiffness and pain, and making physical activity near impossible. Despite still being considered a Schedule I drug under U.S. federal law, many are turning to cannabis in order to help alleviate their arthritis symptoms, with some even dropping the 'high' and hopping on the wellness wagon through Cannabidiol, or CBD.
CBD can reduce inflammation, anxiety, and depression. It has also been clinically proven to help ease symptoms of cancer-related pain and multiple sclerosis. In a vastly growing medicinal cannabis industry, cannabis and CBD products are becoming a front runner in pain-relief.
So what can cannabis do for arthritis?
What is Arthritis?
From growing pains to gout, there are up to 100 different types of arthritis and can occur from childhood into old age. Commonly occurring later in life (around age sixty and onwards), the most well-known forms of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
The most common type, osteoarthritis, causes inflammation in the whole joint: bone, cartilage, ligaments, and the muscles. It's known as a 'wear and tear' form of arthritis. This means that it's likely to happen when joints are being overused as well as developing over time with age. It can also occur from conditions like obesity, diabetes, and sports injuries.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease, in which our immune system attacks our healthy tissue. In this case, causing damage and inflammation to the joint areas.
In most cases, the symptoms of arthritis remain the same: muscle stiffness, joint pain, and sometimes losing the ability to move the joint at all. As a result, arthritis severely impairs one's day-to-day activities.
Standing up, walking upstairs, and even writing can become difficult and frustrating. This leads to other mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety.
Symptoms can worsen over time and most medications are commonly in the form of anti-inflammatory drugs and pain-killers. However, these are only recommended on a short-term basis and can come with a variety of side effects.
Exercise and diet are also included in treatment plans. Patients are often recommended to eat foods with anti-inflammatory properties and low sugar levels to help manage the pain. However, many arthritis patients report that they don't exercise enough to counteract symptoms.
The efficacy of medicinal cannabis as a treatment option is an ongoing debate. Research development is constricted by a lack of financial investment and legalization obstacles. In turn, clinical trials are producing mixed results because of a lack of knowledge of the plant. These factors create confusion in the general public and medical community, resulting in skepticism of its benefits.
Regardless of the limitations, using weed for arthritis is becoming more common. Based on both clinical and anecdotal evidence, there is one area in which weed works wonders on – pain-relief.
While cannabis works differently for everyone, it provides a natural, alternative treatment for those looking for another option.
How Does Weed Ease the Pain?
While there are up to eighty compounds in the cannabis plant, we are most familiar with THC and CBD. These compounds react with our endocannabinoid system (ECS) to help alleviate pain while increasing our appetite and mood.
Having only been discovered in that late 1980s, research into the ECS is still relatively new. However, we know that THC and CBD react with the body in different ways via the CB1 and CB2 receptors.
THC reacts more with the CB1 receptors and is responsible for day-to-day functioning like eating, sleeping, and emotional processing. When THC reacts with the CB1 receptors, it signals the ECS to release more of its goodness. It's the reason why we get high, results in the munchies, better mood, and a good night's sleep.
CBD, on the other hand, reacts more with the CB2 receptor which is tied to our immune system. This is why CBD is great for pain and inflammation. It will signal the ECS to produce more of its cannabinoids (yes, our body also has cannabinoids), making it easier to block pain and reduce inflammation. Cannabinoids can even attach themselves to the nerve receptors and stop the pain signal from the joint reaching the brain.
While both compounds can treat arthritis-related pain, physicians emphasize using CBD because it doesn't have the psychoactive properties that THC has. This means you can't get high when consuming it. This not only makes CBD safe to use but eliminates risk of addiction or overdose, making cannabidiol a great treatment option for people with arthritis.
Does Weed Actually Work?
While the CBD properties in weed can't cure arthritis or slow down its progression, it can certainly ease the inflammation and pain. In fact, research into the effect of weed on arthritis has been developing for years.
One study in 2006 investigated the efficacy of Sativex, a cannabis-derived medicine, on rheumatoid arthritis patients. Arthritis sufferers reported that their symptoms improved after using medicinal cannabis. Another study found that Sativex was linked to reduced pain and better sleep in arthritis patients.
More recently, a study in 2017 found that CBD oil not only decreases joint inflammation in arthritis patients, but it also can be a protectant to the nerves.
Despite other studies suggesting little to no impact on symptom severity, CBD continues to receive praise for its benefits from both patients and physicians. Physicians report that they recommend CBD for their arthritis patients because the administration can be flexible to suit the needs of the patient.
CBD oils, for example, can be given in the form of a capsule, infused in butter and other oils, and used in cooking. A few drops under the tongue can also allow the compound to absorb into the bloodstream. Alternatively, you can use it as a cream and apply to the site of the pain. The possibilities seem endless.
If you're considering incorporating CBD into your treatment plan, be aware that it can interfere with other medications. CBD can affect us in different ways, so seek advice from your health-care professional if you're looking for an alternative option.
While opioid use is at an all-time high, many patients and physicians are turning to cannabis for a safe, natural alternative. In fact, many accounts of patients report using cannabis as an exit-drug to ween off their some of their pain medications. In the meantime, cannabis can be enjoyed without the risk of addiction (or the high), with all the benefits.
Cannabis affects different people in different ways. Some may have an immediate effect, while it may take a little longer for others to find what works for them. In any case, if you're interested in exploring the benefits of CBD, seek advice from your health-care professional. Either way, it may be worth looking into.
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