Arthritis is a disease commonly associated with joint pain, especially affecting elderly people. Cannabis has been proven to have medicinal properties for the treatment of different diseases, due to its anti-inflammatory and anti-pain properties, that makes it a possible alternative treatment for arthritis.
What Is Arthritis?
There are two common misconceptions about arthritis. The first one is that only affects elderly people. The second misconception is that arthritis is only joint pain. According to the Arthritis Foundation, there are more than a hundred types of arthritis. The illness is most common among elderly people, especially women, but it can affect people of all ages, sexes, and races. Symptoms of arthritis could come and go; their intensity can vary between mild, moderate or severe.
The most common symptoms among the different types are presented in the joints with swelling, pain, stiffness, and decrease of range of motion. The symptoms could remain constant, but in some types, they progress and get worse over time. In some cases, arthritis could result in chronic pain, inability to perform daily activities and difficulty when walking or climbing stairs. The disease could also affect other parts of the human body like the heart, eyes, lungs, kidneys, and skin. Grant Cooper from the Princeton Spine and Joint Center classifies the different types of arthritis into two groups: degenerative arthritis and inflammatory arthritis
Types of Arthritis
Osteoarthritis: Every disease has a potential of growing over time, arthritis comes under this ambit as well. A degenerative kind of arthritis is known as osteoarthritis, as it has a potential of growing over time. Common knowledge about arthritis tells us it’s a bone and cartilage related disease. Osteoarthritis is associated with the wearing down of protective cartilage, the cartilage in its function is used to protect the bones from wearing off when they come into contact with each other, which is usually the case in joints.
So when the protective cartilage is affected, then there is a possible chance of wearing bones of the hands, knees, hips, and spine. Wearing down of bones also entails pain, lack of flexibility and a horrible sensation of the grating. The disease gets worse with age and effects women worse, this type of arthritis also increases the risk of other diseases like obesity and general joint injuries.
Rheumatoid arthritis: Often chronic inflammatory arthritis is associated with rheumatoid arthritis. It’s associated with the membrane linings that surround a joint, which leads to protection to friction between the bones. The disease is considered genetic and affects mostly women and people of old age. Rheumatoid arthritis entails other effects to the body like fatigue and stress.
Psoriatic arthritis: This category of arthritis is associated with a skin disease known as psoriasis. It’s categorized as autoimmune inflammatory arthritis which predominantly affects individuals who suffer from this skin disease; psoriasis entails silvery scales and red patches of skin. According to accumulated data, it can be said that there’s a 30% chance of people psoriasis to develop psoriatic arthritis.
However, psoriatic arthritis has further subdivisions; symmetric psoriatic arthritis, asymmetric psoriatic arthritis, distal psoriatic arthritis, spondylitis, and arthritis mutilans. The disease has nature and nurture reasons for activation; a family history with the disease or some recent incidence may lead to this disease, reasons for which are sporadic and not many precautionary measures are available or known.
Infectious arthritis: Arthritis that we have discussed so far has been due to some other disease rebounding in the form of arthritis or the lack of certain vitamins in the diet. Another category of arthritis is known as infectious arthritis; it’s caused by an external agent which could be a virus or any other microorganism. The category is also known as septic arthritis and normally affects one large joint of the body, this type of arthritis usually comes over due to an attack of the bacteria through a wound and is targeted to the bloodstream.
This predominantly affects people with weak immune systems like children and people of old age. The disease also comes with a multitude of diseases as the immune system is weakened in that circumstance. Fever, fatigue, and weakness is followed by septic arthritis.
Metabolic arthritis: Another form of arthritis is associated with the metabolism rate of the body; is known as metabolic or gout arthritis. The disease is due to the crystallization of uric acid and deposition of those crystals on joints. The joints have protective and lubricant membranes on them which are meant to avoid friction between the bones; as you can imagine the friction between bones isn’t something to be excited about. The crystal deposition on the joints creates friction on the surface of the bones, this creates extreme pain and tears the tissues around the affected area. This disease is more likely to happen to people with high uric acid production.
The American College of Rheumatology and the Arthritis Foundation catalog rheumatoid arthritis (RA) as the most common type of autoimmune arthritis. Autoimmune diseases happen when the immune system doesn’t work properly and attacks its tissues, in the case of rheumatoid arthritis the lining of the joints, causing swelling and deformity. The exact cause for RA is unknown. Studies have shown evidence that autoimmune diseases are hereditary and that certain genes make a person more likely to suffer from RA. There is no cure for RA, but scientific advances have made it possible to stop or slow its progression.
The main symptom is the inflammation of the joint. If it goes unchecked, it could damage not only the joint tissue but the bone itself. Rheumatoid arthritis mostly affects the joints of the hands, feet, wrist, elbows, knees, and ankle, according to the Arthritis Foundation. The pain or symptoms will affect the joints from both sides of the body; if the right wrist was swollen, the left wrist would be swollen as well.
The main symptoms are tender and swollen joints, morning joint stiffness and fatigue (the stiffness normally improves with the day or with the movement of the joints), fever and weight loss. RA normally will start affecting the joints in fingers or toes and spread to bigger joints as the disease progresses. The symptoms differ from other types of arthritis as the morning stiffness might be prolonged and improve during the day, a difference from osteoarthritis as it is not characterized by morning stiffness.
There is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis, but if detected and treated in the early stages, it is possible to prevent any permanent damage to the joints. The goal of treatment for RA is to improve the joint pain and swelling, improve the ability to participate in daily activities and delay the symptoms progression. The most common initial treatments are disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARD) that focus on relieving the symptoms and slowing the progression of the disease. These drugs are normally prescribed along with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) and/or cortisol. Modern DMARDs are more effective and have fewer side effects.
Treatment and medication changes as the disease progresses. Patients with more serious symptoms might need to take medications called biologic response modifiers. The purpose of these drugs is to block the immune system signal that leads to inflammation and joint damage. The best treatments combine medicine/drugs with patient education, proper care, and constant rheumatologist visits. It is important for a patient to learn how to cope with the disease, to be able to complete daily activities. The different drugs can have different side effects, depending on each person. Constant check-ups with the rheumatologist allow the patient to track how effective the prescribed drug is and its side effects. Additionally, it allows them to make the proper adjustments if needed.
Cannabis is known by many names; the most common one is marijuana. The word marijuana usually refers to the leaves and female flowers of the cannabis plant. Medical marijuana is the whole plant of marijuana used for medical purposes. Cannabinoids are substances in cannabis that act on cells in the body, called cannabinoid receptors, to cause some effect. Two major ingredients include Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD).
Cannabidiol is a natural chemical compound derived from the cannabis sativa plant. In the cannabis sativa plant, over 80 chemicals known as cannabinoids have been identified. CBD is the second most popular compound found in cannabis, accounting for around 40% of cannabis extracts. CBD is different from other cannabis derivatives for two reasons. Firstly, it is extracted directly from the least processed plant known as hemp, and secondly, because it is not psychoactive; which means that it doesn’t make people high or in other words, it doesn’t change the state of mind of the persons who use it, making it a safe compound.
According to Nora Volkow from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, some of the research done has revealed CBD as being helpful in treatments due to anti-tumor, anti-seizure, analgesic and anti-anxiety properties, among others. Investigations have noted CBD has medicinal possibilities due to its low toxicity levels. Some studies have shown some side effects of the use of CBD, the most common ones being tiredness, diarrhea, and change in appetite and weight. CBD derived directly from the hemp is legal in all 50 states but growing the hemp for commercial purposes is illegal.
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is another natural compound derived from cannabis. It is more popular than CBD but not as largely used for medicinal purposes. CBD is found in large quantities in the cannabis plant, while THC is only present in trace amounts. THC is the primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, which accounts for getting people “high” while consuming it. The chemical structure of THC and CBD are similar, but their effects are entirely different. The effects of THC compound are relaxation, fatigue, hunger, and reduced aggression. As CBD is not psychoactive, the effects are different. The effects of using CBD are the reduction of psychotic symptoms, decreased anxiety and decreased inflammation. It is believed that CBD in big measure neutralizes THC psychoactive effects. Unlike CBD, THC is illegal in all 50-states.
Cannabidiol mimics endocannabinoids: compounds that the human body naturally produces that regulate vital functions. Cannabinoids facilitate communication at a cellular level between cells enabling different procedures. CBD reacts at a cellular level in the brain with receptors called CB1 and receptors on the rest of the body called CB2. For this reason, there have been different studies on the medical properties of CBD and how it can be used to treat several diseases.
The British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology published an article titled “Cannabidiol as potential anticancer drug” in which they study the effects of the use of CBD as a cancer treatment. They focus on 6 different types of cancer: breast cancer, glioma, leukemia, lung cancer, thyroid thymoma, and colon cancer. The results showed that CBD exhibit pro-apoptotic and anti-proliferation actions in different types of tumors. Additionally, CBD exerts anti-migratory, anti-invasive, anti-metastatic, and anti-angiogenic properties. They conclude that there is evidence that suggests CBD is a potent inhibitor of cancer growth.
An article in the Brazilian journal of psychiatry concluded that the antioxidant properties in CBD provide neuroprotection for nigrostriatal dopaminergic neurons against progressive degeneration. The nigrostriatal dopaminergic neurons are one of the four major dopamine neurons located in the substantia nigra in the brain. A study to which the article refers concluded that the use of CBD in Parkinson’s disease patients shows a significant decrease in their symptoms during their treatments.
To know more about the CBD for arthritis, read The Facts About CBD and Arthritis
Marijuana for Arthritis
Marijuana medicinal properties as an anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anti-seizure, and anti-anxiety, among others, have shown to be effective in the treatment of a variety of diseases. A study published in the Arthritis Care & Research Journal from the American College of Rheumatology concluded that there is evidence of the benefits of the use of marijuana for rheumatoid arthritis, but the same results weren’t clear on the proper doses nor the correct marijuana composition to use. The authors suggested that more studies where needed to determine these elements accurately.
A study published in Arthritis & Rheumatology Journal from the American College of Rheumatology studied CBD, a marijuana compound derivative with anti-inflammatory properties in murine collagen-induced arthritis. The study was performed in vitto using collagen-induced arthritis that resembles rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. The scientist performing the study concluded that CBD has strong anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive properties while demonstrating no psychoactive effects, suggesting further studies for human trials.
Rheumatology magazine published a study of the use of CBD for treatment of pain caused by rheumatoid arthritis. During the study, a significant analgesic effect was observed, and the disease’s activity was significantly suppressed. The analgesic effect was present in the suppression of pain in movement and at rest, suggesting a peripheral analgesic action and a centralized effect. CBD was generally well tolerated by the patients that participated in the trial. The study concluded CBD is a potential treatment for chronic arthritis.
Medical marijuana properties have been proven to be beneficial in the treatment of different types of arthritis, especially rheumatoid arthritis. It does not only treat the inflammation characteristic of the disease but also it helps to control the pain. The low to nonexistent toxicity levels produced by some of cannabis derivatives, such as CBD, makes it a reliable alternative treatment for arthritis.
To know more about the marijuana derivative, CBD for Arthritis, read Finding Relief from Arthritis through Topical CBD Cream.