Medical Monday: Cannabis and Arthritis

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In the United States alone, there are more than three million cases of reported cases of arthritis per year. This common condition, caused by joint inflammation, tends to worsen with age. Yet, arthritis affects people of all ages. Arthritis is painful, making managing daily tasks difficult. It can affect one's ability to walk, hold objects, or exercise.

There are two common types of arthritis: osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. The former type causes cartilage—the soft, slippery tissue between our bones— to break down. Rheumatoid arthritis is actually an autoimmune disorder that initially targets the major joints in the body.

Am I at risk for arthritis? 

Family history - Do you have relatives with arthritis? Researchers believe developing arthritis may be partially due to genetics.

Previous joint injury - That bad knee from playing sports in high school may actually develop into arthritis with time.

Age and sex - If you're older, you are more likely to develop arthritis. Women are also more at risk.

As more Americans age, the number of people living with arthritis will inevitably rise. Arthritis affects the individual's quality of health; the condition can be extremely painful—which makes many folks eligible for a medical marijuana card in Arizona. But many people still wonder: Can cannabis actually alleviate the stiffness, pain and inflammation all-too-common for those with arthritis?

As discussed in another blog post, cannabis is an incredible anti-inflammatory agent. Both research and patients' experiences prove this benefit. Therefore, as arthritis is primarily an inflammatory condition, cannabis therapy could help immensely with the quality of life of affected patients.

A study published by the journal, Rheumatology, in 2014, seems to illustrate a connection between CB2 receptors and the affected tissue in arthritic patients. This study concludes that CBD therapy may be beneficial to treat the inflammation of joints caused by arthritis. While the study is, admittedly, difficult for those of us who are not medical professionals, it does highlight the link between inflammation and the endocannabinoid system.

In addition, a Canadian-based researcher, Dr. Jason McDougall, was awarded a grant in 2015 to research cannabis therapy and arthritis. In an interview with Canadian media, McDougall shared his hypothesis: "What we hypothesize is that by locally administering these cannabis-like molecules to those nerves, we'd actually be able to repair them and reduce the pain of arthritis."

While some patients may choose to take prescribed over-the-counter pain medication, others seek more natural (and less addictive) remedies, such as cannabis. As more states legalize cannabis, support for this option has grown. A poll conducted by the AARP At HMH, we are thrilled that this option is accessible to patients that need it.