Updated on January 25, 2019. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
Just about everyone has experienced some joint pain in their life. Whether it’s a bad knee, mild shoulder tightness or debilitating arthritis, we all will have pain in our joints at some point. Rather than reaching for the bottle of ibuprofen or taking prescription opioids, many individuals are now turning to medical marijuana and joint pain treatment to find relief.
Your joints exist at every point in your body where you have two bones coming together. Their purpose is to provide flexibility and produce movement in your body. Along with flexibility, your joints help create stability and maintain an adequate range of motion when you’re performing certain activities. Joints are susceptible to stiffness and pain, since they’re responsible for all musculoskeletal movements.
Joint pain links with many types of arthritis. However, you can get joint pain from specific injuries and conditions unrelated to arthritis. And, since treatment varies according to the cause of your joint pain, it’s important you receive the right diagnosis.
No matter what the cause of your joint pain is, it can affect the quality of your life. Some possible injuries and conditions causing joint pain include:
Typically, joint pain by itself isn’t a medical emergency. You can treat mild joint pain at home successfully.
Pain in your joints can range from being mild to debilitating. It can go away after several weeks, or it can last months.
Joint pain has many types, including:
Arthritis is inflammation in your joints. You may feel difficulty in moving where your body becomes stiff. Or, you may experience swelling and severe pain in your joints.
Osteoarthritis is a common form of arthritis that causes underlying bone and joint cartilage deterioration.
RA is a chronic inflammatory disorder that affects the joints of your feet and hands. It impacts your joint linings, instead of causing wear and tear damage like osteoarthritis. It also creates bone erosion due to swelling.
Gout is another type of joint pain leading to uric acid metabolism problems. Sometimes, it results in deposition of chalk-stone in your joints. Gout can cause sudden or severe pain and is an increasing health problem.
This joint pain causes inflammation in your joints. It also creates nerve ending irritation and may damage your cartilage with no nerve endings. You may exacerbate this by carrying heavy loads.
When you have fluid buildup in your joint-surrounding soft tissues, it leads to joint swelling. Various factors can cause this swelling, such as:
Joint tenderness is joint pain that increases when you press the painful joint. It can also become painful when you move the joint. Any injury, infection or inflammation can result in joint tenderness. Usually, arthritis is the cause. Joint tenderness often comes with other symptoms like joint redness, joint stiffness and joint swelling.
Any joint pain can increase in severity if you continue performing intense activities or leave it untreated for a while. Any of the diseases mentioned above can cause severe joint pain. It eventually can lead to damaging of tissues and complete wearing of joints. Certain activities can make the pain worse, including:
If you’re experiencing severe pain, you require medical treatment and you should suspend heavy activities until you recover.
Arthritis has been affecting people of any age since ancient times. Doctors didn’t know much about it except for its signs and symptoms. You can trace RA back to prehistoric man and dinosaurs. Text going back as far as 4500 BCE refer to arthritis. The earliest known description of symptoms like those of RA are in a 123 CE text.
Arthritis was rare before the 1600s. After that, during the Age of Exploration, it spread across the Atlantic. It acquired its current name in 1859.
Signs and symptoms of joint pain may include:
See your doctor right away if the following symptoms accompany your joint pain:
Pain in the joints can lead to lifestyle restrictions, chronic pain or disability. Having joint pain, mainly when it’s with unrelenting arthritis, is hard to live with on a daily basis. A lot of individuals with arthritis also have stiff joints. Usually, because they experience pain with movement, they avoid movement altogether. Immobilizing joints, however, only increases the stiffness.
Your joint pain may be mild with a little soreness after you perform certain activities, or it may be more severe, limiting your movement.
Although the pain is coming from your joints, it can also affect your state of mind or be a cause of it. For instance, if you’re already anxious or depressed, you’ll likely experience more pain than what you would experience when your mood is more balanced. Since pain by itself is depressing, you only make the problem worse by worrying about it.
There’s a connection between emotions and chronic pain, reports the Arthritis Foundation. Sometimes, this connection is so deep it’s hard to tell where one starts and the other ends. Depressed individuals, for instance, have around three times the risk of developing chronic pain than those who don’t have depression, according to the Arthritis Foundation. And individuals experiencing chronic pain have the same risk of ending up with depression.
Individuals who are dealing with anxiety or depression are more vulnerable to pain. Anxiety and depression can intensify feelings, including sadness, hopelessness and pain. Emotionally, mentally and physically, pain and everything sensory intensifies.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, statistics relating to joint pain include:
No matter what the reason is for your joint pain, medication and physical therapy typically help you manage it. Other alternative treatments can as well. Your doctor will first look for the underlying condition causing your joint pain and to decide on the appropriate treatment plan. The goal is to decrease inflammation and pain and preserve your joint function.
Your options for treatment include:
For mild joint pain, you can usually treat it at home by:
Side effects of NSAIDs may include:
If you experience more severe pain NSAIDs can’t effectively help relieve, your physician may provide you with a prescription for a stronger opioid medication.
Side effects of opioids may include:
Other medications might help with your pain, including:
Capsaicin is found in chili peppers and could help reduce your joint pain. It blocks substance P, which is the compound believed to be involved in the transmission of nerve impulses and pain, and triggers the release of your body’s natural endorphins, blocking pain. Capsaicin may have side effects, including stinging or burning in the area you apply it.
If topical or oral medications aren’t helping, you may find pain relief through injections of steroid medication. The doctor injects the medication every few months directly into your joint. Those with joint disease, arthritis or tendinitis commonly use injections. While a temporary solution, injections are effective.
A physical therapist can help you strengthen your joint muscles, improve your range of motion and stabilize your joint. They’ll use techniques like:
Losing weight may help eliminate a bit of the pressure on your joints if you’re overweight. The ideal way of losing weight is exercise and diet, but try to stick with lower-impact activities, so you don’t further aggravate your joint pain. Bicycling and swimming are good exercises, since they don’t put a lot of impact on your joints while you’re exercising.
Medical cannabis for joint pain can do wonders. THC and CBD, cannabis’ two active compounds, especially help with joint pain, since weed does a lot more than get you high. It provides you with natural pain management, overall enhanced quality of life and increased dexterity.
CBD affects your immune system, naturally helping with RA and other autoimmune conditions. In fact, the journal Rheumatology published a study showing arthritis patients had unusually high levels of CB2 receptors in their joint tissue. By using medical marijuana, they were able to fight joint inflammation through CB2 receptor pathway activation.
Marijuana and joint pain treatment can help ease joint pain symptoms such as:
THC is medical pot’s psychoactive ingredient, providing the intoxicating, euphoric “high” effect. It also helps deactivate inflammatory proteins and calm your immune system. It works as a painkiller. CBD is non-psychoactive and helps reduce inflammation. Both chemicals, at the most basic level, work together to reduce inflammation and relieve pain. When you combine both, the CBD significantly decreases the “high” sensation you experience.
Those experiencing discomfort from RA and other conditions related to the joints are overwhelmed with inflammation. Medical marijuana and joint pain treatment contains inflammation-fighting compounds, particularly CBD and THC.
Medical marijuana is well-recognized for helping with various debilitating situations and medical conditions. It’s particularly beneficial to individuals who are living with joint pain. Fortunately, you’ll find many cannabis strains offering help specifically with joint pain, other than those listed below.
When it comes to relieving pain, many medical weed products exist to help. The type of pain you’re experiencing, its location and how long you’ve been experiencing it all help determine which strain works best for you. Below are some common delivery methods, however.
Most individuals experiencing joint pain know all about Bengay or Icy Hot. Medical marijuana topicals work similarly.
Cannabis topicals aren’t psychoactive, so when you apply them to your skin, you’re not going to get high. They’re just weed-infused creams, lotions, oils and balms your skin absorbs to combat inflammation and pain.
One of the fastest ways to experience relief from your joint pain is through inhalation. Unlike balms or creams, inhaling marijuana with THC will give you a “high” effect. However, this also depends on the type and dose of the herb you use. If you don’t like the “high” sensation, go for a CBD-dominant strain to reduce this effect.
More patients find the most efficient inhalation option is cartridge-based vape pens. They’re also better with dosage control. They’re easy to use, discreet and don’t emit a distinct weed odor or smoke.
If you’re seeking immediate relief, you might want to skip the edibles, since it could take a couple of hours before you experience any effects. You have to process edible marijuana through your digestive system, and this takes much longer than it does when you smoke it.
Whether you consume cookies, mints, chocolates or gummies, edibles can provide you with long-lasting relief. Once you know which exact dosage is right for you, they make a simple and discreet option of treating your joint pain all day long.
Remember, understanding proper dosage when buying medical marijuana for joint pain is important. Each patient has a differing threshold of pain tolerance, so it may take some trial and error before you get it down correctly.
Typically, you’ll want to start off slowly with a low dose and work your way up. If you need more, you can always take more, but pace yourself. If you need guidance, a qualified marijuana doctor can assist you with cannabis and joint pain. Use our extensive database on our Marijuana Doctors website to search for a cannabis doctor or locate a medical marijuana dispensary — or both.