How does cannabis work to relieve arthritis pain?

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  • Updated 438 days ago
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Cannabis is widely used by those suffering with arthritis, with a recent survey suggesting that over half of arthritis patients have turned to the substance for pain relief.

Find out how cannabis, MMJ, and CBD work to relieve joint pain caused by arthritis, RA, and inflammation.

Cannabis is widely used by those suffering with arthritis, with a recent survey suggesting that over half of arthritis patients have turned to the substance for pain relief. But how exactly can medical marijuana (MMJ) or CBD relieve arthritic joint pain? From improving sleep to affecting how arthritis patients’ immune system respond, we’ve unpacked some of the claims about MMJ and CBD to help you understand how it works.

Understanding arthritis and inflammation:

The pain caused by arthritis is thought to come from inflammation caused by the immune system attacking affected joints, or from wear and tear, depending on the type of arthritis. Inflammation is the body’s natural reaction to protect itself from damage. Arthritis patients often suffer from chronic pain, meaning the pain lasts more than three months, but they also experience bouts of acute pain.

At the moment, research in humans as well as animals have shown that cannabinoids can calm the body’s immune response, which in turn reduces inflammation. These findings suggest that CBD and MMJ reduce pain in arthritis patients by reducing painful inflammation. Research is ongoing but there is already a large body of evidence including anecdotal evidence to suggest that patients who take marijuana or hemp products for arthritic joint pain find that it helps reduce their discomfort.

One of the most popular ways to use cannabis to treat pain caused by arthritis is by taking CBD. Unlike its psychoactive cousin THC, CBD does not cause a ‘high’ but it does affect the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). Researchers believe the ECS is the system responsible for the benefits arthritis sufferers report when taking cannabis-derived substances. There is increasing evidence that the ECS regulates inflammation, therefore taking CBD could be an effective way to reduce inflammation and the pain it causes for those who suffer from arthritis.

The link between sleep and pain:

A common issue for those who suffer with arthritis is poor sleep. Patients often find themselves in a vicious cycle of pain being made worse by lack of sleep, and then struggling to sleep because they are in pain. Research published this year shows that CBD could have a positive effect on sleep, which in turn could help reduce pain.

It can feel a bit like a chicken and egg situation when it comes to figuring out whether bad sleep causes pain or vice versa. Either way, evidence suggests CBD could help break the cycle. However, unlike other sleep aids such as melatonin, CBD appears not to affect people’s alertness during the day. In fact, there is overwhelming evidence now including pharmacological evidence to show that CBD improves wakefulness during the day as well as its effectiveness on sleep at night- although the subject continues to be further investigated.

In states where marijuana has been legalized, people suffering from arthritis can opt for products that contain both CBD and THC to help them sleep. Products made from the whole cannabis plant are thought to encourage a reaction called the ‘entourage effect’ which may promote even better sleep than CBD alone. This happens because all the different molecules that are found in the cannabis plant working together to extend the amount of time cannabis products’ effects last.

How to take CBD or MMJ for arthritis pain relief:

CBD or MMJ for arthritis pain relief

Both CBD isolates and MMJ can be administered in a variety of ways, from topical ointments and gels, to vapes and capsules. The most effective administration for pain relief varies from patient to patient. At the moment it is believed that topical application is slightly less beneficial to patients compared to other options, but some arthritis patients choose to apply topicals when they are suffering with acute pain and report that it works very well. Another popular option for people with chronic pain from RA is taking a daily dose, in the form of oil or a capsule to maintain a level of relief.

Regarding dose, the best advice is to speak with a doctor or trusted professional where you purchase your product. There are also dosage calculators available online that take into account factors like your weight and the condition you are looking to treat. Many arthritis patients who turn to CBD or MMJ start on a low dose and build up until they notice less pain or inflammation.

When it comes to choosing a cannabis product for pain relief, general consensus is that both Sativia and Indica are effective at treating pain. In states where marijuana is legal, Blue Widow is one of the most popular strains for people suffering with chronic pain.

For patients who would rather stay away from psychoactive THC, or who live in states where hemp CBD is the only legal option, full-spectrum products offer the greatest chance of relief. There has been some research that shows full-spectrum CBD is effective for treating pain as well as having an all over analgesic effect throughout the body.

The bottom line:

Much of the research available today suggests that cannabis products are effective in regulating many functions in the body thus reducing the inflammation and pain caused by arthritis. Anecdotal as well as scientific evidence indicate that MMJ as well as CBD products are effective in various forms. Remember to start at a low dose and to talk to your doctor or healthcare professional about whether to start with oral dose or with a topical product. Most patients will pain relief once they establish the best course for their individual needs. All that is needed is a little time, guidance, patience and consistency.

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