Chronic pain is the most common reason patients cite to use medical marijuana. Arthritis is among the most common chronic conditions in the United States, and its painful symptoms make it a qualifying condition for medical marijuana in Pennsylvania, falling under the category of chronic and intractable pain. As those seeking pain relief make up the largest audience of medical marijuana users, it has a great deal of potential to help patients with arthritis.
Arthritis is the inflammation of one or more joints, generally causing swelling and tenderness. Though it is most common in adults over 65 years old, it can develop in people of all ages. There are over 100 different kinds of arthritis, but the most widely known are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Arthritis is usually caused by the wear and tear of the cartilage between joints (typically the hands, knees, hips, or spine). Rheumatoid arthritis is slightly different; it is an autoimmune disorder, in which the immune system attacks the soft cartilage between joints. The most common symptoms of arthritis are pain, stiffness, swelling, redness, and a decreased range of motion. Patients with rheumatoid arthritis may also experience fatigue and a loss of appetite, and in more serious cases, anemia and even joint deformity, if left untreated.
There are a number of different pharmaceutical medications that patients can take to manage their arthritis, such as different analgesics and anti-inflammatory medications. Sometime patients feel these medications aren’t enough to help with pain management or reduce inflammation, or they are accompanied by uncomfortable side effects. With that in mind, medical marijuana can be potentially very helpful to patients with arthritis.
How Can Marijuana Help?
Marijuana can be consumed in a number of different forms, and has a great deal of anti-inflammatory properties, so there are a number of products that can be beneficial to patients with arthritis. One of the most popular treatments for targeted arthritis pain are cannabis infused topical lotions. These can be a great option for patients with arthritis because topicals are fast acting and can be applied directly to the area of discomfort, providing targeted pain relief. Topicals also do not cross the blood-brain barrier, so even varieties that are high in THC do not tend to cause any psychoactivity. Alternatively, there are transdermal lotions that can be beneficial for full body relief. In comparison, these do cross the blood-brain barrier and can cause psychoactivity in high THC varieties. The preference between topicals and transdermals will vary between patients, and more information on them can be found here.
Similarly, while tinctures can be used for pain relief on their own (through sublingual ingestion), they can also be used topically for targeted pain relief, or even added to topicals to increase their potency. More information on the topical use of tinctures can be found here.
Other consumption methods that can be beneficial are inhalation and oral ingestion. Inhalation is the fastest consumption method, so it can be helpful for more immediate relief. Though oral ingestion has a longer onset time (1-2 hours), it also has much longer lasting effects (6-8 hours), providing a longer period of relief. These consumption methods can also be used in tandem with one another; a patient could take a capsule, tincture, or other consumable product, and vaporize marijuana while waiting for the ingested product to take effect.
High THC products have the potential to provide a great deal of relief to patients with arthritis, due to its anti-inflammatory and pain relieving properties. CBD can also have a powerful effect for patients with arthritis. CBD can counter the psychoactive effects of THC, and not only create a more balanced effect for the patient, but also work synergistically with THC to provide pain and inflammation relief. Additionally, THC and CBD used in combination have demonstrated the ability to reduce cytokine release from inflammatory cells, believed to be responsible for tissue deterioration in arthritis. Other things to look for in medical marijuana are products that are high in the terpenes myrcene and caryophyllene, both of which have demonstrated significant anti-inflammatory properties.
With chronic pain being the most common reason for using medical marijuana, patients with arthritis can feel comfortable considering medical marijuana as a treatment option. Patients should keep in mind that everyone’s endocannabinoid system is different, so different products will work for different people. Our technicians are here to assist you sort through the wide range of products to help you find the best one to provide relief.
Disclaimer: These statements have not been reviewed for accuracy by the FDA. As always, seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider when considering trying a new treatment. Do not start or stop taking any medications without speaking to your doctor first.