A Guide to Cannabis and CBD for Treating Arthritis
Learn the research and use of Cannabis and CBD for treating arthritis and arthritic pain.
What is Arthritis?
Arthritis is a word that is commonly used to describe inflammation of the joints. It is a broad term and includes many different types. Two of the most common types are osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Since there are different causes and treatments for the various types of arthritis, we are going to focus on these two.
What are the symptoms of arthritis?
The most common symptoms of arthritis are;
- joint pain
- stiffness, and
Range of motion may also be affected and individuals may experience redness of the skin around the joint.
In the case of RA, the individual may feel tired or experience a loss of appetite due to the inflammation the immune system’s activity causes. This may lead to becoming anemic (red blood cell count decreases). Severe RA can cause joint deformity if left untreated.
It is also interesting to note that many people experience their worst symptoms in the morning. (source)
What causes arthritis?
Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis, and it is considered a degenerative disease. When the cartilage – the slick, cushioning surface on the ends of bones – wears away, bone rubs against bone, which causes pain, swelling and stiffness. Over time, joints can lose strength and pain may become chronic. Risk factors include excess weight, family history, age and previous injury (an anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, tear, for example).
Rheumatoid arthritis is considered inflammatory arthritis. It occurs when the immune system goes awry, and mistakenly attacks the joints with uncontrolled inflammation, potentially causing joint erosion and may damage internal organs, eyes and other parts of the body. (source)
Traditional Treatment for Arthritis
Because arthritis looks different for everyone treatments are typically tailored to each individual through working with a team of health care professionals.
There is no cure for arthritis so treatment is focused on effectively managing the symptoms associated with the disease. Treatments often include;
- physical therapy
- cold-pack application
- paraffin wax dips
- anti-inflammatory drugs
- pain medications (ranging from pain-relieving over-the-counter medications to narcotics)
- immune-altering medications
- biologic medications, and
- surgical operations (including joint replacement surgery). (source)
These treatment methods can be effective but are often not sufficient for the amount of pain that is experienced. Managing pain, especially when it becomes chronic, can be a challenge. Pain medication is often the go-to treatment method. But, not only does pain medication have negative side effects, people often build up a tolerance (require a higher dose to obtain the same effect) which has the potential to lead to addiction.
Treating Arthritis with Cannabis
Since treatment for arthritis is focused on symptom management, to determine the effectiveness of treating arthritis with cannabis we should consider the symptoms. Cannabis and CBD can have a positive impact on the two main symptoms associated with arthritis; inflammation and pain.
Cannabis and CBD have shown to have anti-inflammatory properties by interacting with various pathways in the body, including the endocannabinoid system. (source)
The CB2 receptors in our endocannabinoid system are predominately found on the cells of our immune system. (source) This indicates that cannabinoids play an important role in our immune system. This may explain why cannabis and CBD have been effective in treating RA.
We have previously discussed the impact of cannabis and CBD on chronic pain in more detail. This article includes research that supports the use of cannabis to treat pain as well as how it can be used safely and effectively.
What the Research Says
Research on Cannabis and CBD is still preliminary. Though, the following studies on animals suggest that CBD could help to treat arthritis:
- A 2011 study found that CBD helped to reduce inflammatory pain in rats by affecting the way that pain receptors respond to stimuli.
- A 2016 study found that the topical application of CBD had the potential to relieve pain and inflammation associated with arthritis.
- A 2017 study found that CBD might be a safe and useful treatment for OA joint pain.
We cannot assume that study results for animals extend to humans. But a large number of individuals effectively use cannabis to treat arthritis and report positive impacts. Hopefully, we will see more clinical trials on the effectiveness of cannabis and CBD for arthritis to more firmly confirm it’s use.
Cannabis and Arthritis: How to Use
Since there is little research directly on the use of cannabis for arthritis and arthritic pain, there is no universal treatment method or dosage. If you are experiencing joint pain and think you may have arthritis you should speak to your doctor. It is important to get an official diagnosis as well as getting a medical opinion before making any major changes to your treatment plan.
Cannabis and CBD can be consumed in many different ways; oral capsules, tinctures that are dissolved sublingually (under your tongue), topicals that are absorbed into your skin at the site of pain. It can even be cooked in your favourite meals or added to your favourite drinks.
At Envy, we suggest experimenting with the route of administration. Edibles and capsules typically take longer to become effective but are longer lasting. This is often a benefit at night to help with sleep. Tinctures and vaping CBD oils take effect more quickly, therefore are often used for acute symptoms and flare-ups. We also recommend starting with a low dose and increasing slowly to find the dose that is most effective.
With oral consumption, many people start with CBD because it is not psychoactive. If it does not provide enough relief you can add THC. This is why Miss Envy has CBD tinctures as well as tinctures with different concentrations of CBD and THC to meet everyone’s needs. In many cases, CBD may be enough on its own.
Cannabis Topical for Treating Arthritis
One of the benefits of using cannabis to treat arthritis is it can be applied directly to the site of the pain with topical cannabis. These treatments not only have a positive impact on pain and inflammation but allow the individual to use both THC and CBD without the psychoactive effects of THC. Using THC and CBD in combination is beneficial because both cannabinoids interact with the endocannabinoid system differently.
Miss envy offers a few different topical treatments to meet your needs:
As well as the Buddha Bar which is specially formulated in a roll-on bar that is easy for use on the go.
We also have amazing bath bombs that can be perfect at the end of the day for soothing aching bodies.
For more information about the use and dose of cannabis for the treatment of pain check out our article on chronic pain.