Cannabis and Arthritis: Can Medical Cannabis be Used to Treat Joint Pain?04 November 2022
- Medical cannabis cannot cure arthritis but is an effective treatment for pain and inflammation.
- Medical cannabis is not the same as recreational cannabis. It is free of dangerous contaminants and it is cultivated in carefully controlled conditions.
- According to the NHS, products containing only CBD, such as Epidyolex and Sativex, do not have any known risks.
Arthritis is a widespread condition, and it affects a lot of people all over the world. It is estimated that over 10 million individuals in the United Kingdom suffer from arthritic discomfort. There is no long-term cure for arthritis, so patients are always on the constant lookout for new ways to manage their symptoms.
The 2018 legalisation of medical cannabis opened up an entirely new avenue for treating pain. Unfortunately, patients thought that this move would make it easy to get a medical cannabis prescription for arthritis pain from the NHS. However, this is not the case because only a few prescriptions have been issued. Luckily, qualified patients can still get medical cannabis prescriptions at private practices.
In sharp contrast, according to a recent patient survey conducted by the Centre for Medical Cannabis (Couch, 2020), 1.4 million individuals use illicit cannabis for medical purposes.
So is it really safe to use medical cannabis for arthritis? What can be the potential side effects? And how can you legally source medical cannabis? This blog article will explore these questions in detail and highlight the benefits of using medical cannabis to treat arthritis.
What is arthritis? Symptoms & types of arthritis
Before you use medical cannabis to relieve arthritic pain, you should know how it works and what it can do for you. This entails determining the type of arthritis you have in order to figure out how cannabis can help relieve your pain.
Arthritis is not a single condition. It is a term that refers to several different joint diseases. There are over 100 types of arthritis, each with its own set of symptoms and complications. It is most frequent in persons over 50, although it may affect anyone at any stage. The discomfort usually begins gradually and intensifies over time, making daily tasks difficult.
The main symptoms associated with arthritis are swelling, pain, stiffness, and decreased range of motion. Those with arthritis often have trouble getting enough rest and are very fatigued. While there is no one cause of arthritis, it can be triggered by a number of events. Most cases of arthritis however are the result of the immune system attacking itself.
Risk factors that increase a person’s chances of developing arthritis include:
- Obesity: Carrying too much weight around your body can cause knee pain, specifically in people with particularly delicate knees.
- Smoking infections: Chemical exposure related to tobacco use is a significant factor in developing multiple inflammatory autoimmune conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis.
- Advanced age: As people age, their chances of developing osteoarthritis increase.
- Gender: Women are more susceptible to developing rheumatoid arthritis than men.
- Lifestyle: People who engage in professions or hobbies involving repetitive joint movements are more likely to develop arthritis.
- Injuries: Injury to a joint can lead to arthritis in the future.
You can take a few steps to help prevent arthritis from developing. First and foremost, keep your body as active as possible. Regular exercise reduces inflammation and strengthens the joints. Consume a nutritious diet high in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat proteins. This will assist in guaranteeing that your body receives the vitamins and minerals it requires to be healthy and fight sickness.
Types of Arthritis
Osteoarthritis: The most widespread form of arthritis is osteoarthritis, which is caused by joint wear and tears. This type of arthritis typically affects the large joint in the knee or hips but can also affect smaller joints in other body parts.
Psoriatic arthritis: People diagnosed with psoriasis, a skin disease, can develop psoriatic arthritis, which causes joint swelling.
Rheumatoid arthritis: Rheumatoid arthritis is another autoimmune disease that attacks tissue cells and the immune system.
How can medical cannabis help with arthritis?
Living with arthritis can be difficult, as the condition can cause significant pain and limited mobility. While there is presently no cure for arthritis, cannabis may be able to provide relief from some of the symptoms associated with the condition.
Cannabis is a flowering plant that produces cannabinoids, which can affect our body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS) and how it functions. The ECS comprises receptors and endocannabinoids (cannabis-like products) which play a vital role in our circadian rhythm, appetite, mood, and pain experience.
Medical cannabis is not the typical cannabis you find on the street. It is devoid of hazardous pollutants since it is grown in careful and regulated settings. Cannabis contains approximately 100 cannabinoids, two of which are often used in medicine: delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). Each has a distinct effect on the body in different ways.
THC is the psychoactive component of cannabis that is sometimes known for its “high”. It has been shown to relieve pain, inflammation, and anxiety. The cannabinoid CBD does not have psychoactive effects, and they both can help treat chronic pain syndromes like fibromyalgia or multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, glaucoma and conditions caused by nervous system damage such as Parkinson’s disease.
Several promising studies have shown that medical cannabis may be helpful as a:
- Treatment for chronic pain connected to arthritis
- Substitute anti-inflammatory treatment
- Effective treatment for depression and stress associated with debilitating arthritis
- Treatment for arthritis-related insomnia
Medical cannabis for joint pain: THC or CBD
CBD and THC are both effective pain relievers. THC’s euphoric properties may result in more rapid pain alleviation. CBD, on the other hand, can assist reduce inflammation, which is helpful for long-term effectiveness.
THC has a higher potential in treating neuropathic pain and inflammation. It binds to two G protein-coupled receptors in human bodies, CB1 and CB2. CB2 receptors have been linked to pain and inflammatory relief. It lowers glutamate release by acting on these receptors, reducing pain signals and inflammation.
CBD is thought to work on pain by relieving both sites of inflammation and pain in the central nervous system. The fact that CBD can effectively calm down the response that is associated with arthritis makes it a desirable treatment option for those suffering from this condition. Another advantage of CBD is its anti-inflammatory qualities. In autoimmune illnesses like rheumatoid arthritis, inflammation occurs due to your body fighting the illness.
Studies suggest combining CBD and THC may give the best pain relief. In one research, those who received a CBD-THC combo had more pain alleviation than those who took THC alone. However, before trying CBD or THC for the first time, talk to your doctor. They may have some specific recommendations related to your condition.
What is the research behind cannabis and arthritis?
More individuals are using medical cannabis to treat their diseases now that it is legal in the UK. Its usage in medicine, however, dates back to 2700 BC, when it was used to cure illnesses and chronic ailments.
Only a handful of well-designed clinical investigations on cannabinoid-containing medicines have been conducted. Researchers know relatively little about the therapeutic properties of cannabis. However, things are looking up, with more medical advances and clinical trials on the way.
A few studies conducted on cannabinoid-containing medicines are summarised as follows:
- Blake et al. conducted a double-blind placebo and randomised controlled trial in Nottingham, UK, in 2006. This meant neither the patient nor the doctor knew whether they were given a therapeutic cannabis spray or a placebo. In this study, 58 rheumatoid arthritis patients were administered Sativex, which has a 1:1 ratio of CBD and THC. They discovered that giving Sativex to patients successfully reduced pain and enhanced sleep.
- A review by NASEM 2017 (National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine) provides a wide range of research conclusions on the health effects of cannabis and cannabinoids, which are:
- For the management of severe pain in adults (cannabis)
- As an antiemetics, it helps relieve the symptoms of chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting by preventing the vomiting reflex from being activated.
- To alleviate spasticity symptoms described by patients with multiple sclerosis (oral cannabinoids, equal amounts of THC and CBD specifically)
- Epilepsy (CBD specifically) (Drug Science, 2019)
- The United Patients Alliance (UPA; 2018) found patient-reported evidence suggesting medical cannabis can help with long-term pain relief. And since the most common symptom of arthritis is pain, medical cannabis is a perfect fit. In addition, most arthritis patients will endure bouts of despair, anxiety, and insomnia. All of these conditions are treatable with medical cannabis.
Cannabis is currently a controlled substance under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 (Crime, Policing and Fire Group (CPFG) Drugs and Alcohol Unit, 2018). Medical cannabis is authorised in the United Kingdom for certain conditions (CPFG Drugs and Alcohol Unit, 2018). According to NHS guidelines, medical cannabis can only be administered when there is clear published evidence and all other alternatives for cure have been exhausted.
Is it safe to use medical cannabis for arthritis?
The NHS states that the hazards of taking cannabis products containing THC (the psychoactive substance) are presently unknown. Clinical studies are now being done to assess the impact of cannabis-based therapies on various illnesses, ailments, and symptoms.
Generally, medical cannabis has been shown to have minimal harmful side effects and be safe. However, further research is needed.
Side effects and contraindications of medical cannabis for the treatment of arthritis
More and more people are turning to medical cannabis to help relieve their arthritis symptoms. However, like any medication, there are potential side effects which may not make it suitable for all arthritis patients. Before starting treatment, consult your doctor to discuss these risks and benefits.
Side Effects: Some common side effects of medical cannabis use include drowsiness, dizziness, impaired coordination, and difficulty concentrating. It is vital to monitor these symptoms closely while taking medical cannabis to avoid any serious accidents or injuries. If you experience any side effects from medical cannabis, please consult your doctor immediately.
Contraindications: There are a few contraindications to consider when consuming medical cannabis to treat arthritis. These include pregnant women, children under 18, and people with cardiac issues, respiratory problems and psychosis. If you have any other medical issues or injuries that might be aggravated by THC, see your doctor before taking this herb for therapy.
How to use medical cannabis for the treatment of arthritis
Different ways of administering medical cannabis for arthritis include ingesting, inhaling, and applying topically. Cannabis products can be found in a variety of natural and synthetic forms, such as
- Medicine (pills and capsules)
- Dietary supplements
- Oils and tinctures
- Creams and lotions
Can you get medical cannabis for arthritis?
Yes, you can get medical cannabis for arthritis. To be eligible for medical cannabis in the United Kingdom, you must first obtain a prescription from a doctor specialising in the type of arthritis you have. A general practitioner can recommend you to a specialist but cannot prescribe medical cannabis.
There are two legal and safe ways to obtain medical cannabis for arthritis:
From the NHS: The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and the NHS are currently cautious about prescribing medical cannabis. As a result, NHS physicians can only recommend cannabis for severe epilepsy, chemotherapy nausea, and stiffness induced by multiple sclerosis (MS).
From Private Clinics: A few private clinics across the UK offer medical cannabis on a non-prescription basis, but you will need to determine their eligibility and requirements before booking an appointment. Regardless of how you get your medical cannabis, always remember to follow the advice and warnings of your doctor.
At The Medical Cannabis Clinics, we are passionate about helping people understand the potential benefits of using medical cannabis. Our medical experts believe that medical cannabis is a viable treatment option for chronic diseases where other treatments have not been successful. If you want to evaluate your treatment options and get a medical cannabis prescription for your specific situation, schedule a consultation with one of our specialists.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does CBD oil help with arthritis pain?
CBD oil is made out of cannabis plant components. Some patients with arthritis who used CBD oil experienced considerable pain alleviation, increased sleep, or less anxiety, according to anecdotal data.
Which is the best CBD strain for arthritis pain?
Researchers have discovered that individuals favoured indica strains to treat arthritis symptoms such as pain relief, sedatives, and sleep.
Is CBD or THC better for arthritis?
They are both excellent at relieving arthritic pain. THC appears to have a more substantial influence on how the mind perceives pain, whereas CBD may function to alleviate pain at the cause.
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