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Can Medical Marijuana Help Osteoarthritis Pain?

Medical marijuana has been used to help treat a variety of health ailments, from conditions such as epilepsy to chronic pain disorders. The many states that have approved the use of cannabis as medicine have taken into account the research stating that MMJ often provides relief from the debilitating symptoms of certain chronic health disorders.

There are two distinct compounds in cannabis that have been shown to help with health ailments: delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). While both can aid in medicinal treatments, THC is psychoactive, which means some may want to avoid it. Whatever side of the fence you’re on, there is no doubting marijuana’s medicinal properties. But can medical marijuana help osteoarthritis pain?

What is osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease that occurs because of wear and tear damage to the joints. When the cartilage between the bones becomes damaged or breaks down, it can cause inflammation in the area and less protection for the joint itself. This leads to the common symptoms of the disease – pain, stiffness, decreased range of motion, and swelling.

Many risk factors come into play in developing osteoarthritis, such as age, injuries to the joints, obesity, genetics, and gender (women are more likely to have osteoarthritis than men).

This joint condition is the most common form of arthritis. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly 32.5 million American adults suffer from osteoarthritis. There is no cure, so treatment and management are the only options for people looking to relieve the symptoms.

medical marijuana edibles
Image by Kindel Media on Pexels: Do edibles help with arthritis pain?

Can you use MMJ for arthritis?

Some research suggests that using medical marijuana can help the symptoms of certain arthritic conditions. That doesn’t mean you can automatically use it to help with your symptoms – it has to be on the approved conditions list of the state you reside in. Since these lists vary from state to state, it’s important to determine whether you’re eligible to use MMJ for your arthritis depending on where you live.

Chronic pain is often associated with osteoarthritis, and many states list pain as an approved condition for the use of medical marijuana. It’s important to note that not all pain is the same, and thus, not all conditions that present with pain are approved. To determine if arthritis pain is included in your state, you will have to check its list of qualifying conditions or inquire further with your doctor.

Does CBD work for arthritis?

According to a poll by the Arthritis Foundation, 29% of people who participated currently used CBD to help their arthritis pain, with 80% stating that they have used it in the past or are considering using it in the future. With that many people on board with the use of CBD for arthritis pain, it’s easy to draw the conclusion that it can help ease arthritic-drive pain.

While the above is considered to be anecdotal evidence at best, some research does suggest that using CBD oil for osteoarthritis can help to relieve pain because of the way the endocannabinoid system is involved with the types of pain present with osteoarthritis. For example, osteoarthritis pain can be considered inflammatory, nociceptive, and neuropathic. Each of these types of pain can be improved by the endocannabinoid system. 

cbd oil in dropper
Image by Crystalweed Cannabis on Unsplash: Can you use CBD oil for arthritis?

One specific study published in September 2020 looked at the way CBD modulated certain inflammatory cells in the body that could induce pain in people with osteoarthritis. The study itself was done using canines, not humans; however, the results were promising.

Spanning four weeks, the study found that CBD has the ability to lower the production of inflammatory cells while also increasing the production of anti-inflammatories within the body. This decrease and increase action led to less pain and better mobility in animals with osteoarthritis.

Although more research is needed for humans, this study does show promise when it comes to using medical marijuana for osteoarthritis pain. More studies are likely to be conducted around the use of medical marijuana for arthritic conditions, but current research has shown that up to 24% of people with osteoarthritis have begun experimenting on their own using medical cannabis for their symptoms. 

Featured image by Towfiqu Barbhuiya on Unsplash