Updated on January 30, 2019. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Richard Koffler, MD, Board Certified Physiatrist
When you have arthritis, your joints and the tissue around them become inflamed. Depending on the type and severity of someone’s arthritis, it can cause emotional stress and mobility impairment. Arthritis patients often have to take many medications at once, but marijuana could supplement or replace some of them.
Marijuana tackles two of arthritis’ major symptoms. It works as an anti-inflammatory agent to reduce the inflammation in your joints and tissue. Also, it relieves pain caused by arthritis, making mobility easier.
Since standard medication for arthritis symptoms tends to have severe side effects, marijuana could reduce the incidence of those issues.
Blake et al. wanted to test the ability of a cannabis-based medicine called Sativex to help arthritis patients. They specifically wanted to observe its effects on arthritis-related pain. If Sativex could act as a pain reliever for folks with arthritis, it could give them another treatment option.
To measure the effectiveness of Sativex, the team recruited 58 participants for a double-blind study. They gave a dose of Sativex to 31 of the patients, while the other 27 got a placebo dose. Over the course of five weeks, the patients took their assigned medication daily and completed assessments on pain, stiffness and sleep quality.
Sativex worked wonders for the patients who took it. The Sativex group had great improvements in their pain levels and quality of sleep. They mostly dealt with mild to moderate side effects, and nobody had to withdraw from the trial due to major issues.
Aggarwal et al. wanted to understand the traits of patients who take medical marijuana for pain, including patients with pain related to arthritis. In particular, they needed to understand the demographics of medical marijuana patients in the state of Washington. Answering these questions could help doctors develop better treatment programs.
To get an idea of what the cannabis patient population in Washington looked like, they sampled 139 records from a pain clinic located in Seattle. They examined charts from patients over 18 who had a valid medical marijuana recommendation. The team recorded factors such as length of cannabis treatment and pain scores.
Out of the 139 participants, 37 of them had osteoarthritis — that makes up 26.6% of the sample, implicating larger populations could have a similar amount if we study them more. The vast majority of the pain clinic visitors felt significant pain relief from their cannabis medicine, including those with arthritis.
Building on evidence that the endocannabinoid system has a large part to play in treating inflammatory diseases, Richardson’s team wanted to examine the cannabinoid receptors in arthritis patients. The endocannabinoid system and cannabinoid receptors take in marijuana chemicals. So, understanding how they appear in arthritis patients can help us use cannabis for them.
Richardson’s team asked 45 patients to take part in their study — 32 with osteoarthritis and 13 with rheumatoid arthritis. To check their cannabinoid receptors, they took fluid samples from their joint tissue. These folks already had to go through surgery on their knees, so the team only had to take the sample during the procedure, avoiding any extra invasive methods.
The subjects not only had endocannabinoids and cannabinoid receptors in their joint tissue, but they had more of them than patients without arthritis. In theory, if arthritic joints have more receptors than healthy ones, medical marijuana will have a greater effect on them.
It can be difficult to find reliable resources on medical marijuana, but we have just what you need. We offer an overview of arthritis and how we can address it with cannabis medicine. Our database also includes resources to help you find medical professionals experienced in using cannabis for arthritis.