Arthritis presents a real problem. Clinicians classify it as “an auto-immune disease” which, in my book, means they don’t know what it is or what to do about it. Look arthritis up, and you’ll find it is typically identified by symptoms. Then, they give names to different clusters of symptoms as if they were separate diseases.
Moreover, you don’t catch arthritis, so the word “disease” seems deceptive, too. Arthritis, in one form or another, affects millions throughout the world without discrimination. And, the related pain has been treated with cannabis for so long, it pays to investigate the connection.
Arthritis and its many forms
Medical News Today says, “Arthritis refers to around 200 rheumatic diseases and conditions that affect joints, including lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.” That doesn’t say much for medical advancement. Starting the list of 200 arthritic conditions are exotic names like Adult-onset Still’s disease, Behçet's Disease, Chondromalacia Patella, and more.
But, here are some better-known labels in alphabetical order:
- Ankylosing Spondylitis: Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) primarily affects the spine causing inflammation where nerves meet the vertebrae. In bad cases, the inflammation causes sections of the spine to fuse in a fixed, immobile position typically where the spine meets the pelvis. AS has a strong correlation among people testing positive for the HLA-B27 gene maker.
- Degenerative Disc Disease: Lumbar Degenerative Disc Disease is another umbrella term covering several ailments. As one with personal experience, I am not ready to have the pain dismissed “like wrinkling skin and graying hair” as Spine.org does. Basically, practitioners label back pain as DDD if it has no other explanation.
- Fibromyalgia: Difficult to diagnose but very real, “Fibromyalgia pain has no boundaries. People describe the pain as deep muscular aching, throbbing, shooting, stabbing, or intense burning” according to the American Fibromyalgia Syndrome Association. Perhaps because fibromyalgia strikes more women than men, it has not garnered the attention it deserves. Just saying!
- Gout: Gout is an arthritis causing painful and stiff joints where there has been an accumulation of crystals formed by uric acid. The inflammation may start in big toe, cause lumps under the skin, and create kidney stones.
- Lupus: With SLE (systemic lupus erythematosus), your auto-antibodies or immune proteins misread your system and mistakenly and offensively target your own tissues or organs. The Lupus Research Alliance says, “Lupus can affect the joints, skin, brain, lungs, kidneys, and blood vessels, causing widespread inflammation and tissue damage in the affected organ.”
- Rheumatoid Arthritis: Rheumatoid Arthritis is the form most people think of when asking about arthritis. The inflammation strikes the wrist and ankles, fingers and toes. The natural immune system is out of whack, and the inflammation occurs where the immune system attacks.
- Osteoarthritis: OA attacks over 30-million adults in the USA. The inflammation degrades the joints in hips, knees, and shoulders. Aggravated age, wear, and tear, OA often leads to joint replacement surgery.
- Psoriatic Arthritis: Psoriasis develops unsightly and irritating scaly patches on the skin. Psoriatic Arthritis (PA) occurs in many who suffer from Psoriasis, but PA in internal. It builds the same plaque internally and causes mild to severe pain in fingers, toes, and mower back.
- Scleroderma: Scleroderma stiffens the skin and/or internal tissues. It can be mile to severely progressive causing death if it attacks lungs, heart, or other organs. It has little correlation with the other conditions listed here except in having stiffness and pain in its symptomology.
There is no known cause for arthritis. Genetic and environmental factors may play a role, but there is no specific cause. Indeed, most of the research into the field searches for relief rather than causation or cure. Most mild cases are treated with over-the-counter NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like Tylenol or Ibuprofen. More serious pain is treated with prescription-strength NSAIDs or acetaminophens.
Some pain is treated with corticosteroid injections into joints. And, considerable success has followed use of injectable biologics marketed as Embrel, Humira, and Remicade. Some conditions respond to surgical intervention from cauterization of the nerves to joint replacement. And, patients have sought alternative care in chiropractic procedures, acupuncture, diet, and exercise.
Arthritis, cannabis, and the things you need to know
Cannabis offers two approaches to the chronic pain of auto-immune diseases classified as “arthritis.”
1. Distraction: The THC content in cannabis, depending on the strain and the percentage of THC, induces psychoactive effects. Every user reacts differently, but THC will trigger euphoria and mood change.
This “high” will take your mind off your physical pain. But, some of these conditions, especially Fibromyalgia and Lupus, also create a chronic psychological depression that needs relief, too. Moderating your use of THC can provide an escape from those dark conditions.
2. Anti-inflammatory properties: CBD is known and scientifically recognized as an anti-inflammatory. And, because all forms of CBD involve inflammatory triggers, the CBD in cannabis can be your solution.
CBD also induces sleep. Depending on the strain and percentage of CBD, you can fight pain-related insomnia or sleeplessness with regular CBD intake.
THC and CBD work in mysterious synergy to both energize and calm the brain and body. It’s thought then that cannabis can treat your auto-immune pain and related symptoms depending on:
- The degree of seriousness in your condition
- Your gender, weight, and metabolism
- The strain of cannabis, and
- The THC: CBD ratio.
It may take some trial and error to find the right combination for you, but regular cannabis consumption could provide the relief you need to restore your quality of life and work.