Medical Cannabis and Arthritis: What You Should Know
May was Arthritis Awareness Month, and although we just turned the corner into June, we still want to take advantage of an excellent opportunity to discuss the complexity of one of the world’s most common diseases and how medical cannabis may be able to help with some of its symptoms. While arthritis is often assumed to be little more than frequent aches and pains in older individuals, there is far more to the disease than what immediately meets the eye.
Osteoarthritis (commonly called plain old arthritis) can be characterized by a number of different symptoms, many of which are easily recognized by the average person. Mainly joints are affected, though depending on the form the disease takes tissues and organs can suffer as well. The most classic symptoms of arthritis are joint ache and pain, inflammation around the joints, issues with basic movement, and difficulty performing average tasks that would otherwise be easily doable.
Though like in other conditions there are subcategories of arthritis, most cases tend to fall within one of two major categories: osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Here’s a basic description of each:
Osteoarthritis, a type of degenerative arthritis, reduces the volume of cartilage present in the space between bones. This means that the bones lose the cushioning that would typically protect against friction and impact. Osteoarthritis cases typically involve pain, swelling, and stiffness due to this loss of protection. This form of arthritis can be a result of increased age, weight gain, or genetic predisposition.
In rheumatoid arthritis, inflammation is the key component causing the patient’s pain and discomfort. When the body is unable to properly dispatch a disease or infection, the attempts at producing localized inflammation may result in sporadic forms of unmanaged inflammation. These instances generally are attracted to the joints, though internal organs can also be at risk in some cases.
Arthritis isn’t limited to its osteo and rheumatoid forms, despite their being the most common. Infectious and metabolic cases of arthritis can also take shape, and affect the body in other ways. Infectious arthritis is somewhat self-explanatory; an infection infiltrates the body and begins unwanted inflammation processes. Some STDs can cause this type.
Metabolic, on the other hand, comes from increased volumes of certain acids in the body that begin crystallizing into painful joint-affecting blockages.
These and the previously mentioned forms of arthritis all depend on early diagnosis and careful treatment to maintain and lessen symptoms.
Treating With Cannabis
As full-blown cures are not currently available, pain relievers are typically the most commonly prescribed treatments for arthritis sufferers. Unfortunately, this means that patients are being given powerful opioids and analgesics that have the potential to do more harm than good. I’ve discussed the risks presented by popular prescription and over-the-counter drugs in the past (here and here); luckily, an alternative in pain relief exists and continues to prove quite effective.
Medical cannabis became increasingly popular amongst arthritic individuals over the past several years. This jump in usage for a remedy that is relatively new (or, realistically, recently returning to acceptance and popularity) to the market can be attributed not only to the waning desire for prescription opioids and NSAIDs, but also to cannabis’ legitimate ability to relieve pain.
The ever-growing body of medical cannabis research shows promise for those dealing with symptoms of arthritis. Most notably, per findings published by the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology at the University of Calgary, both cannabis and CBD oil can help to reduce inflammation. Researchers concluded that the natural chemicals present in cannabis can intercept pain reactions in the joints to soothe and settle inflammation before or during its onset.
Far more research is available regarding cannabis’ affect on general chronic pain than on arthritis specifically, though many of the findings are incredibly relevant to the symptoms and complications experienced by arthritic individuals. Dr. Kevin P. Hill, MD, MHS of McLean Hospital’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse division discussed cannabis’ capabilities for chronic pain in a clinical review:
“Use of marijuana for chronic pain, neuropathic pain, and spasticity due to multiple sclerosis is supported by high-quality evidence. Six trials that included 325 patients examined chronic pain, 6 trials that included 396 patients investigated neuropathic pain, and 12 trials that included 1600 patients focused on multiple sclerosis. Several of these trials had positive results, suggesting that marijuana or cannabinoids may be efficacious for these indications.”
Is Medical Cannabis For You?
Many of arthritis’ symptoms can be relieved through careful use of medical cannabis, though as every individual is different and benefits differently from certain medications, one is advised to take care in exploring such a route. The variety of options in administration alone can be intimidating when choosing medical cannabis; choosing between topical applications, inhalation, or ingestion involves factors that could affect the ability of the medication to provide intended relief.
When considering medical cannabis for the treatment of arthritis or other chronic pain symptoms, always consult first with a doctor. Myself and other physicians in the medical cannabis field are conducting regular research on dosage, application and administration, and expected outcomes that makes developing a treatment plan safer and more effective.
Though hemp-derived CBD products are available for purchase whether or not you have a valid medical cannabis card, we strongly encourage you to consult with us or with another trusted medical cannabis resource before starting treatment with any of them. You can schedule a consultation for a time and location that is convenient for you using our website, or by reaching out to me directly at (561) 406-0685.
Today’s blog post is written by Rick Liogier-Weyback, M.D., founder and president of Doctor Jane and our licensed medical cannabis physician. If you are considering cannabis treatment or are wondering if medical cannabis may be right for you, please contact the team here at Doctor Jane to schedule a consultation today.
About Doctor Jane
Doctor Jane is South Florida’s most discreet, professional, and convenient concierge medical cannabis practice. Dr. Luis Enrique R. Liogier-Weyback and his wife, Katie Liogier-Weyback, B.S., R.N., founded Doctor Jane on the core tenets of bringing personal, convenient, professional and discreet patient care to the medical cannabis treatment process. Doctor Jane provides South Florida patients and their caregivers with a safe space where they can exercise their right to access medical cannabis therapy in an environment of their choosing, free from stigma and complications.
Visit our website to find out more or to schedule your own medical cannabis consultation. www.DoctorJane.net.