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

Explaining the Science Behind MMJ And Joint Pain Relief

These days, most people in the United States are aware that Medical Marijuana, aka MMJ, can be used for pain relief – and more specifically, joint pain relief for conditions such as arthritis. But why does marijuana help joint pain? What’s the best strain of MMJ to use for this purpose? And how exactly can you seek out joint pain relief with medical marijuana? Here’s all you need to know.

How does marijuana help joint pain?

When it comes to MMJ and joint pain relief, medical marijuana has two active chemicals that play a role in the process: THC and CBD. THC is the most well-known active chemical since this is the psychoactive stimulant responsible for the “high” many people associate with cannabis. However, THC also very closely resembles cannabinoid chemicals that occur naturally in our body, meaning when you introduce THC to your system, it binds to the cannabinoid 1 receptors, reducing pain.

Like THC, CBD is a phytocannabinoid found in medical marijuana. However, unlike THC, it has no psychoactive effects. It binds very weakly, if at all, to cannabinoid 1 receptors, and can in fact stop THC binding as much as it normally would, reducing the psychoactive effects. Does this mean less pain relief? Actually, no. In fact, consuming the two together (as naturally occurs in marijuana) can actually help. CBD reduces some of the negative effects of THC like increased heart rate, while increasing its half-life (which in theory can increase the length of its effectiveness), while also having its own pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties.

CBD and THC are by no means the only phytocannabinoids in MMJ to help with joint pain relief, but are certainly the most well-known and the most likely to be marketed at dispensaries.

MMJ Recs - woman holding MMJ

There’s a fortunate connection between soothing sore joints and MMJ.

Which strains and doses are best?

When it comes to the best strains and doses of medical marijuana for joint pain relief, it depends on many factors. As mentioned before, phytocannabinoids have been shown to work best when used together, as they are naturally found, which means individuals looking for general pain relief will probably be best off with a strain high in both CBD and THC.

However, due to the psychoactive effects of THC, this is not always possible, and so having MMJ high in CBD and low in THC could be a great option. This can have the same pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory effects – often the key problem for joint pain – while still allowing the user to get on with their normal day, uninhibited by the psychoactive side-effects of THC.

The dominant strains you will come across are cannabis sativa, which generally has a higher amount of CBD, and cannabis indica, which contains more THC. In addition to these, there are numerous hybrids with varying levels of phytocannabinoids, so the best option is to see what works for you as an individual.

Who does joint pain affect?

While we often associate joint pain with the elderly, it is something that affects many groups across a variety of ages. In fact, a national survey in the U.S. found that over a third of adults reported experiencing joint pain in the 30 days leading up to the questionnaire. It can be caused by aging, most commonly in the form of osteoarthritis, but also comes from the autoimmune condition of rheumatoid arthritis or any number of injuries and illnesses. This means that while the elderly or obese are most at risk, people who regularly play sports or do manual labor can also find themselves with severe joint pain.

MMJ Recs - elderly

Elderly people are most likely to suffer from joint pain, but others who experience it may also experience joint pain relief with medical marijuana.

How can I get an MMJ card?

If you’re interested in seeking joint pain relief with medical marijuana, the first thing you need to do is make sure you pursue it legally by obtaining a medical marijuana card. The requirements for an MMJ card differ from state to state, but generally speaking, if you have a condition that causes severe joint pain, you will be eligible. In California, for example, qualifying conditions include rheumatoid arthritis, which is what many people with joint pain suffer from.

The first step to acquiring an MMJ card is getting a letter of recommendation from a health professional that states that you would benefit from medical marijuana. While this can be done through your normal GP, many patients opt to apply online. Services like MMJ Recs allow joint-pain sufferers to carry out the whole process from their homes, first with an online medical form, then a video conference with a medical professional to determine eligibility. If accepted, you can get a recommendation almost immediately, allowing you to apply for your MMJ card.

Considering the possibly hundreds of phytocannabinoids that exist in medical marijuana, the exact science as to how it helps with joint pain is still being researched. However, there is a significant body of evidence that shows the impact of both CBD and THC on joint pain, so whether you are suffering from age-related arthritis or joint pain incurred from sports, it may be worth considering the connection between sore joints and MMJ!

4 Ways Medical Marijuana Can Help Arthritis Patients

Medical marijuana is used for many chronic conditions, one of which is arthritis in all its forms. Like many of the conditions that qualify patients for MMJ cards, the main course of action for those that suffer from arthritis is the management of their symptoms, which include joint pain and stiffness, among others. MMJ has been used by many arthritis sufferers to manage these symptoms. So how does marijuana help arthritis, exactly? Here’s what you need to know about MMJ and joint pain.

A bit of background on arthritis

Arthritis is a catch-all term for several distinctive conditions that cause swelling and tenderness in the joints, resulting in pain and stiffness. The two most common forms of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis causes the cartilage in your joints to break down, while rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes your immune system to attack the joints, beginning with the linings of the joints, most commonly in the hands and wrists.

In both cases, the course of treatment is to manage the symptoms of arthritis to make the patient more comfortable, which often involves reducing pain and inflammation. This is where the relationship between MMJ and arthritis comes into play.

Can marijuana help arthritis?

If you’ve been wondering “Can marijuana help joint pain?”, the answer is yes! Medical marijuana helps with arthritic joint pain by targeting the two main symptoms: pain and inflammation. When taking medical marijuana, the phytocannabinoids it contains (specifically THC) bind to the cannabinoid receptors of your brain, producing euphoria and pain relief. Additionally, these same phytocannabinoids (specifically CBD) help reduce swelling and inflammation in different parts of the body, including joints.

Interestingly, rheumatoid arthritis causes the body to release inflammatory proteins into the joints, including cytokines, chemokines, nitric oxide synthetase, and by-products of arachidonic acid. These in turn causes the body to produce and release endocannabinoids – the chemicals that bind to the same cannabinoid receptors as THC. Why would the body release ECs as part of the inflammatory response while people use MMJ to combat it? Supposedly, it’s the body’s natural way to try to reduce this inflammation, meaning the phytocannabinoids in medical marijuana actually boost the body’s own natural anti-inflammatory response.

MMJ Recs - joint pain

The main symptom of arthritis is joint pain. So can marijuana help joint pain? Let’s find out!

How does marijuana help arthritis patients?

1) Pain relief

The interaction of THC, CBD and other phytocannabinoids with cannabinoid receptors leads to generalized pain reduction. The euphoric effects of THC have also been held up as reducing the painful symptoms of both rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, even if only through distraction.

2) Inflammation reduction

More notable in the application against rheumatoid arthritis than osteoarthritis, the phytocannabinoids in medical marijuana are believed to help reduce inflammation, specifically in arthritic joints which show an elevated level of ECs. CBD is considered by some to be more effective for inflammation reduction, but current thinking tends to accept that the naturally balanced levels of unprocessed marijuana rather than extracts are the best option for most people.

3) Prevention of nerve damage

Most studies into MMJ and arthritis aren’t carried out on humans due to the ongoing federal ban, but one animal-based study found that “prophylactic CBD treatment prevented the later development of pain and nerve damage in… [osteoarthritis] joints.”

4) Reduced side effects

Medical marijuana certainly isn’t without side effects. Many might consider the “high” from THC and resulting physiological reactions, such as increased heart rate, as major issues – not to mention the potential dangers of consuming MMJ via smoking. However, the physical side effects are considered minor compared to those of other drugs like NSAIDs (e.g. aspirin, ibuprofen), which in strong doses can cause long-term damage to major organs.

What are the best strains?

The MMJ strains most appropriate for arthritis depend on the individual user’s needs. Generally speaking, there are two strains that you’ll come across: cannabis sativa, with high CBD levels, and cannabis indica, with more THC. Research increasingly indicates that a balance of phytocannabinoids could prove the most effective route to take, but those looking to avoid the psychoactive effects of THC may wish to consider getting a strain with higher levels of CBD.

MMJ Recs - Marijuana in Hand

MMJ and joint pain relief go hand in hand if you have the right strain.

How can arthritis sufferers get an MMJ card?

Arthritis is possibly the most common reason for a patient to get an MMJ card, which makes it a relatively easy process, especially when applying online through a platform like MMJ Recs. MMJ Recs allows the patient to complete the entire process from their own home and without having to deal with their normal GP. The first step to acquiring an MMJ card is getting a letter of recommendation from a registered medical practitioner. Through MMJ Recs, this can be done by completing an online medical form (along with the appropriate attachments), then having a conversation with a medical professional via video chat to determine your eligibility. If they believe medical marijuana is right for you, your letter of recommendation can be sent almost immediately, which is then used to secure your MMJ card to be used in dispensaries.

When it comes down to it, we don’t know all of the connections between MMJ and joint pain. However, there is a growing base of evidence that MMJ can manage pain and reduce inflammation for arthritis patients, and all with fewer side effects than other drugs.