Pain. Stiffness. Swelling. Redness.
And, worst of all, a decreased range of motion affecting everyday living.
These are all symptoms of arthritis—a disease that is the leading cause of disability among adults in the U.S. About 54 million adults have doctor-diagnosed arthritis and that number is expected to rise to 78 million by 2040!
With all of the discomfort caused by this condition, it is no wonder that sufferers are looking for more and new solutions. A recent survey of patients with arthritis found that nearly 60% of them reported using cannabidiol (CBD) products to relieve their pain and symptoms.
CreakyJoints Surveys Arthritis Patients about CBD
CreakyJoints is a non-profit organization with a mission to empower and support arthritis patients. Recently, they set out to understand how their arthritis patient community perceives and uses medical marijuana and CBD. W. Benjamin Nowell, PhD, Director of Patient-Centered Research at CreakyJoints, and his colleagues did the study.
The team sent a 77-item survey to 1,059 participants from the CreakyJoints and ArthritisPower research registries. 46% of the registries had the primary diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis and 22% had osteoarthritis. Less than 30% reported satisfaction with their current treatment regimen.
According to survey results, 57% of arthritis patients reported trying medical marijuana or CBD. The top symptoms managed with marijuana/CBD were: pain, inability to sleep, relaxation, depressed mood, nausea, physical function, and fatigue. 93% of those who tried CBD said that it improved their symptoms.
What is Arthritis?
Arthritis is the swelling and tenderness of one or more joints. The primary symptoms of arthritis are joint pain and stiffness.
There are actually over one hundred different kinds of arthritis.
The most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). OA affects nearly 31 million Americans.
The cause of arthritis really depends on what type of arthritis it is. In the case of osteoarthritis, the cause is wear-and-tear damage to the joint’s cartilage. Cartilage is the hard, slick coating on the ends of bones where they form a joint. Cartilage serves the purpose of cushioning the ends of the bones. It allows for nearly frictionless joint motion. Damage to the cartilage can result in bone grinding directly on bone. This can be painful and lead to restricted movement. This wear and tear can occur over many years, or it can be hastened by a joint injury or infection.
Osteoarthritis affects the entire joint. It causes changes in the bones and deterioration of the connective tissues that attach muscle to bone and hold the joint together. It also causes inflammation of the joint lining.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is the second most common type of arthritis. RA affects 1.5 million people annually. With RA, the body’s immune system becomes overactive and attacks joints and organs. The immune system of RA sufferers goes after the lining of the joints. In time, chronic inflammation breaks down the joint and damages it permanently.
Inflammation is present to a greater or lesser extent in many types of arthritis.
Comorbidities (Other stuff Arthritis Sufferers Deal With)
As if one condition were not enough to deal with, people who suffer from arthritis often have others as well. In a sort of morbid domino effect, arthritis is much more common among people who have other chronic conditions. In fact, according to the Arthritis Foundation, 49% of adults with heart disease have arthritis, 47% of adults with diabetes have arthritis, and 31% of adults who are obese have arthritis.
What is CBD?
CBD is the abbreviation for cannabidiol. Cannabidiol is one of over one hundred chemical compounds called cannabinoids.
Cannabinoids occur naturally in cannabis plants. There are two main types of the cannabis plant—hemp and marijuana. CBD is found in both types of plants, but hemp contains only trace amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is the cannabinoid found in marijuana that gets you “high”.
Users and research both demonstrate that there are many health benefits associated with the cannabis plant and CBD specifically. CBD hemp oil has been shown to relieve inflammation, pain, anxiety, seizures, inflammation, and other conditions.
The Endocannabinoid System
Not only are cannabinoids found in cannabis plants, but they are also found in our bodies. In plants, cannabinoids are referred to as phytocannabinoids (Phyto means “plant”). In our bodies, cannabinoids are referred to as endocannabinoids (endo means “within”).
The endocannabinoids produced by our bodies work with our own Endocannabinoid System (ECS). This ECS system was discovered fairly recently. In fact, it was thanks to marijuana that the system was even discovered at all. Scientists, trying to understand why THC affected the body as it does, discovered that cannabinoid receptors exist on cells throughout our bodies in 1998. Just a few short years later in 1992, it was discovered that the body also produces its own cannabinoids.
The Endocannabinoid System is comprised of the cannabinoid receptors located on the surface of cells throughout the body and the endocannabinoids themselves.
Two types of cannabinoid receptors have been discovered–CB1 receptors and CB2 receptors.
CB1 receptors are found all over the body, but many are in the brain. The CB1 receptors in the brain affect pain, coordination, and movement, thinking, emotions and mood, appetite, and memory, among other things. CB2 receptors are found more commonly in the immune system. They affect inflammation and pain.
CBD and Inflammation
Inflammation has been found to be at the root of many diseases. This is ironic considering that inflammation is the body’s way of protecting itself from infection, illness, or injury.
When the body is doing its job well, the inflammatory response increases the production of white blood cells, immune cells, and substances called cytokines that help fight infection.
However, when inflammation becomes chronic, it is a problem. In fact, chronic inflammation plays a role in almost every major disease, including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and even depression.
CBD is an anti-inflammatory and as such has been shown to positively impact individuals suffering from a number of conditions.
What the Research Says about CBD and Arthritis
Research on CBD has revealed that it found that offers individuals diagnosed with arthritis several potential benefits.
One of the primary CBD oil benefits for arthritis sufferers is its pain-relieving effects.
In 2017, researchers published findings about the use of CBD for osteoarthritis. The study involved the use of CBD in animal studies using rats. Titled Attenuation of early phase inflammation by cannabidiol prevents pain and nerve damage in rat osteoarthritis, the data indicated that local administration of CBD did indeed block osteoarthritic pain and additionally prevented later development of pain and nerve damage in joints.
Research has found that cannabinoids relieve other chronic pains as well. For instance, 2008 research indicated that cannabinoids eased pain for individuals diagnosed with conditions such as multiple sclerosis and cancer.
While this and other research is very promising, the existing studies of the effects of CBD on arthritic patients are relatively small. Many more studies are still needed to fully understand the benefits of CBD oil and other cannabis-based treatments for patients suffering from arthritis.
Among CBD Users, Arthritis Common
While researchers are still working to document the effects of CBD for arthritic conditions, patients are moving ahead and using it.
A Gallup poll found that 14% of Americans say that they use CBD products—a full 40% of them for pain. Though in this poll, the specific pain was not specified, 8% of users indicated that they were specifically using CBD to treat arthritis. In fact, arthritis was the fourth largest reason people were using CBD after pain (40%), anxiety (20%), and insomnia (11%).
Arthritis is NOT Just an Older Person’s Disease
Though it would seem that arthritis is a disease that affects only senior citizens, that is simply not the case. Though it is more common among older Americans, the fact is, half of those suffering from doctor-diagnosed arthritis are under 65.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) 7% of people 18 to 44 years old report doctor-diagnosed arthritis. 30% of people between the ages of 45 and 64 report it. In the 65 or older age group, 50% report doctor-diagnosed arthritis. As people age, the risk of developing most types of arthritis increases, but there are other risk factors as well.
Risk Factors for Arthritis
There are several things that can cause a person to be more predisposed to developing arthritis.
- Having one form of arthritis makes one more susceptible to developing another type of arthritis (how is that for injustice?!?)
- Congenital disorders (disorders present at or before birth) or developmental disorders like hip dysplasia
- Metabolic and endocrine disorders like diabetes and hypothyroidism
- Muscle weakness
- Obesity which can increase the rate of cartilage loss and speed of progression of osteoarthritis
- Repetitive overuse such as in an occupational or athletic activity
- Believe it or not, being a woman. One in four women suffer from arthritis compared to one in five for men. Plus, women suffering from arthritis consistently report higher pain scores than men.
A Holistic Approach to Arthritis Relief
As with almost all health conditions, one’s chances to improve the situation increase with a multifaceted approach. In the case of arthritis, there are several things one can do to help alleviate symptoms.
- Physical Activities. Not only can this help you lose weight which will put less stress on your joints, but it can also provide real relief. Include stretching to increase your range of motion, strength training to build muscle, and aerobics to increase your stamina and burn calories.
- Diet. A diet that includes fatty fish like salmon that are high in omega-3 fatty acids. Eating other anti-inflammatory foods like garlic, ginger, broccoli, walnuts, berries, spinach, grapes, olive oil, and tart cherry juice is also a good idea.
- Chronic pain and emotions are intertwined. Practicing mindfulness and finding ways to ease depression and anxiety will help one’s physical state as well.
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