Updated on January 30, 2019. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Richard Koffler, MD, Board Certified Physiatrist
Any type of arthritis will cause inflammation, stiffness and swelling in your joints, making it difficult to move the affected area. When you have the most common kind of arthritis, osteoarthritis, your cartilage wears away, making your bones rub together. It mainly happens in the joints in your hips, knees, hands and spine.
We have extensive data showing medicinal marijuana relieves primary arthritis symptoms like pain and inflammation. By calming down your immune response, marijuana reduces the inflammation in your joints. It also works separately to lower the pain you feel and address secondary arthritis symptoms.
Building off previous evidence showing cannabis medicine’s ability to relieve pain, Blake et al. tested the effectiveness of Sativex on arthritis pain. Sativex is a pharmaceutical medicine that contains marijuana extract. This was the first-ever controlled trial of a marijuana-based medication in rheumatoid arthritis.
The team divided 58 patients into two groups — one that took Sativex every evening for five weeks, and another that took a placebo during the same period. To measure the patients’ symptom severity, they used their own numerical scale, a standard pain questionnaire and a disease activity scale.
The 31 subjects who took Sativex had significant improvements in their scores for pain, sleep quality and disease activity. They only experienced mild to moderate side effects that didn’t prevent them from taking the medication. Blake et al. concluded that these positive results warranted more investigation into using Sativex for arthritis.
To understand the traits of patients who use cannabis medicine for chronic pain, Aggarwal et al. reviewed the charts of patients attending a Washington state pain clinic. In particular, they looked at patients authorized for medical marijuana treatment.
The researchers examined charts for a total of 139 patients with a valid recommendation in their records. During the review, they scored each chart for history of medical marijuana treatment, pain symptoms, diagnosis and other pain treatments.
It turned out that many patients were using medicinal marijuana for osteoarthritis. Out of the 139 subjects, 37 (26.6%) had the condition. Most of the patients whose charts were reviewed experienced significant pain relief thanks to their marijuana medicine. Aggarwal et al. also found that many of the participants had barriers to access in the past, urging for better care.
Dealing with chronic pain from a condition like osteoarthritis makes it difficult to get through daily living. So, Malik et al. investigated the effects of the synthetic cannabinoid dronabinol on patients with chest pain.
The team worked with 13 patients who had chronic chest pain related to esophageal issues. These subjects received either a placebo or 5mg of dronabinol twice a day for 28 days. At the beginning and end of the dosage period, Malik et al. assessed the patient’s pain, mental health and general health.
Dronabinol not only increased the subjects’ pain thresholds, making them experience pain less frequently, but it also lowered the intensity of their chest pain overall. The patients also benefited from reduced odynophagia, or painful swallowing. None of the participants who took dronabinol had any major side effects. Malik et al. concluded that further study on the subject was warranted.
When you get medicinal cannabis treatment, the power lies in your hands. Learn more about your condition by reading our detailed condition pages on arthritis and osteoarthritis. Once you’re ready to get a medical marijuana recommendation, use our database to find a cannabis-certified doctor near you.