Medical Marijuana for Arthritis Relief
Arthritis is the leading cause of disability among adults in the United States. The Arthritis Foundation estimates that about 54 million adults have doctor-diagnosed arthritis. As overall life expectancy increases, some authorities have estimated that this number could grow to more than 78 million arthritis patients by 2040. Common symptoms include chronic pain, joint inflammation, and in some cases can effect an individual’s organ systems in the case of rheumatoid arthritis disease.
Types of Arthritis
The most common form of arthritis is osteoarthritis, or arthritis that effects the bone. This condition usually manifests from common “usage” injuries, such as knee arthritis in athletes or runners. Early symptoms include intermittent pain with strenuous activity. Joint stiffness is commonly experienced in the morning or after a long period of inactivity. For more severe cases, some people notice a grinding sensation in their joints due to cartilage damage. Osteoarthritis usually affects large joints, such as the knee or lower back and hips.
There is also an immune system related type of arthritis, called rheumatoid arthritis. This condition can occur in individuals with a genetic predisposition for this disease. Inflammatory or rheumatoid arthritis disease usually have different onset and symptoms compared to osteoarthritis. Patients commonly experience pain, swelling, and stiffness in one or multiple joints. Morning stiffness in these types of arthritis’ typically lasts more than an hour. Pain aggravates with inactivity and improves with physical activity. Fever, weight loss, fatigue, and anemia can also be associated with pain. Inflammatory arthritis usually affects multiple, small joints, such as those in the fingers and hands, elbows and back. Inflammatory arthritis can also affect the wrists, elbows, shoulders, and knees. Inflammatory arthritis also tends to affect other organs, such as the heart, kidney, skin or lungs.
A complete list of symptoms associated with arthritis can be found here: list of symptoms .
Potential Benefits of Medical Marijuana For Arthritis Patients
As we’ve discussed in previous articles, marijuana has been used as a treatment for pain for centuries. Historians have found written accounts of ancient Chinese healers from as early as 2000BC documenting their use of marijuana in treatments to “undo[es] rheumatism.” More recently, research from preclinical animal studies has found that plant cannabinoids like THC and CBD and the synthetic versions like Nabilone, and elmiric acid have anti-inflammatory effects, which can be used to treat the inflammatory effects of arthritis. These cannabinoids have been shown to block various inflammatory molecules associated with arthritis. Scientists suggest that drugs targeting the endocannabinoid system, like medical marijuana, have the potential to manage both degenerative and inflammatory arthritis.
The endocannabinoid system has been shown to regulate many important processes in the body including inflammation, pain, and the immune response. While there is still a lot of research to be done to clearly define the role of this system, research has been suggested that pain and inflammation associated with inflammatory arthritis correlate with an impaired endocannabinoid system.
Lastly, medical marijuana could be a safer treatment for pain associated with arthritis than many common treatments, such as opiate drugs. Unlike opioids, the compounds in marijuana do not interfere with other prescribed drugs, do not cause complicating conditions such as constipation, and it is impossible to overdose on marijuana.
Medical marijuana shows promise as a safe and effective treatment for individuals suffering from osteo and rheumatoid arthritis. While there is still more clinical research to be done, there is quite a bit of anecdotal evidence to suggest it works.
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