Growing up, arthritis seemed like one of those ailments that was always a lifetime away. I had the naivety that comes with being young on my side. I’d see an older person taking their time down the street and assume arthritis began and ended there. Like it was exclusively a ‘down-the-line’ thing. The reality, however, is that people of all ages can be affected by arthritis. Furthermore, what appeared to me as a child as just stiffness, only a minor inconvenience is, in fact, a serious ailment that affects the lives of millions of Canadians, of all age ranges, and seriously limits their ability to enjoy life to the fullest.
Statistics show that about six million (or one in five) Canadians suffer from arthritis. Of these numbers, about 24,000 are children with juvenile arthritis. The prevalence, according to studies, is increasing so much that by 2040, arthritis is projected to be effect 24% of the general population (one in four Canadians).
Arthritis is a progressively worsening joint problem that can significantly impact quality of life. While research is always being done, there is no cure, and there’s no special drug that can reverse the disease process. Medications can help control the symptoms and, at the same time, slow down its progression. That said, people are always looking for new ways to ease their suffering.
Nowadays, as we prepare to enter 2020, many patients use medical cannabis for symptom control. It offers several therapeutic benefits that help control symptoms and improve their quality of life.
What is Arthritis and Who is Most Affected?
The synovial membrane covers the inner surface of joints and secretes a fluid called synovial fluid. It lubricates the joints and acts as a buffer, protecting them from impact. It also helps absorb weight and provides pain-free joint motion.
Many factors affect the health of the synovial membrane. These include age, genetics, repetitive joint motions, injuries, infections, chronic health problems, obesity, nutrition, and immune system problems. Not only can these factors damage the synovial membrane and decrease its production of synovial fluid, but they can also contribute to the development of joint problems like arthritis.
With arthritis, the joints become inflamed, swollen, and painful. There is also synovial membrane damage. Because of the pain and inflammation caused by tissue damage, joint range of motion also decreases. As the disease progresses, chronic inflammation will cause structural changes in the joints themselves, resulting in deformities that further restrict joint motion.
Arthritis commonly affects weight-bearing joints like the knees. Some types of arthritis like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus affect multiple joints. The disorder mostly affects older people and overweight individuals, causing problems to their weight-bearing joints. People with immune system problems like psoriasis, Sjögren’s syndrome, scleroderma, and systemic lupus erythematosus can also develop arthritis. In chronic diseases like these, the immune system itself attacks the joints and damages the structures.
How Can Cannabis Benefit Arthritis Pain?
Medications such as painkillers, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, corticosteroids, and anti-rheumatic drugs help stop the progression of arthritis and control the symptoms. Unfortunately, long-term use of these drugs can cause worrisome side effects. Not only can some of them increase stroke and heart disease risk, but they can also cause liver damage, nerve damage, and osteoporosis. Furthermore, corticosteroids also increase the risk of developing or worsening diabetes, since it increases blood sugar levels.
Cannabis has multiple beneficial properties that can help people with arthritis. For one, by activating the endocannabinoid system and other receptors that control pain, cannabis helps decrease joint pain. Its activation of these biological systems also helps control chronic inflammation. With these symptoms controlled, comes an improvement in joint range of motion.
In addition to this, cannabis also helps increase the levels of our endogenous cannabinoids or endocannabinoids. These endocannabinoids produced by our own cells are the primary compounds that activate the endocannabinoid system into controlling pain and inflammation.
Cannabis also helps control other symptoms associated with arthritis such as depression, anxiety, sleep loss, fatigue, and appetite loss. All of which are actually very common in patients with arthritis. Cannabis also improves appetite and promotes better sleep.
A recent survey, done just this year for the 2019 EULAR or Annual European Congress of Rheumatology, showed that 46% of their 1059 participants use CBD for rheumatoid arthritis while 22% use CBD for osteoarthritis. Some of the participants also reported using cannabis for ankylosing spondylitis as well as psoriatic arthritis. The majority of them (97%) reported significant improvement in their arthritis symptoms. They also noted that it helped improve their sleep, fatigue, depression, nausea, and overall physical function.
What are the Best Products for Arthritis
For those who prefer the inhalation method (smoking and vaping), these are high-CBD strains, perfect for those who can’t tolerate high-THC weed:
For topicals we recommend:
For those who prefer to vape we suggest:
For those who prefer the ingestion method we suggest:
For the sublingual method:
Sovrin CBD Tincture
This contains full-spectrum CBD, so it contains other cannabinoids like CBN, CBG, and a small amount of THC. If you want pure CBD, then try Trichome CBD Isolate Oil. This product contains pure CBD only. It contains no other cannabinoids like THC and CBN.
Of note, we react differently to cannabis. Some may find immediate relief. But others may have to wait a while for their body to adjust to the addition of the cannabinoids. So when using these products, you have to start at a low dose first. Stay on the dose for about three days to assess your body’s reaction to the cannabinoids. If you felt no significant improvement after three days, then simply increase your dosage. If you developed adverse side effects on your first dosage, then decrease the dosage.
Medical cannabis, in general, is sort of trial and error. A personalized treatment. You have to find the best dose that works for your symptoms. It is always best to start at the lowest dose possible and simply adjust it according to your body’s reaction.
Arthritis, especially left untreated, can become a debilitating medical problem. Not only can it affect your daily activities, but it can also significantly impact your quality of life. Cannabis, as a powerful analgesic, as well as an anti-inflammatory agent, can help treat arthritis and reduce other symptoms such as sleep loss, appetite loss, and mood problems.