Arthritis is a general term for conditions that affect the joints and surrounding tissues. Joints are places in the body where bones come together, such as the knees, wrists, fingers, toes and hips. The two most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Osteoarthritis (OA) is a painful, degenerative joint disease that often involves the hips, knees, neck, lower back, or small joints of the hands. OA usually develops in joints that are injured by repeated overuse from performing a particular task or playing a favorite sport or from carrying around excess body weight.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune inflammatory disease that usually involves various joints in the fingers, thumbs, wrists, elbows, shoulders, knees, feet and ankles. An autoimmune disease is one in which the body releases enzymes that attack its own healthy tissues. In RA, these enzymes destroy the linings of joints. This causes pain, swelling, stiffness, malformation and reduced movement and function.
How Cannabis Can Help Relieve Symptoms
Cannabis is known as a great anti-inflammatory agent. According to a study done by the University of Kentucky, applying certain cannabinoids topically can relieve inflammation as well as pain in conditions connected to arthritis. Medical cannabis has also been shown to improve sleep – and a lack of sleep is known to exacerbate general pain and arthritis symptoms. Other preliminary studies suggest cannabinoids may have immunosuppressive properties including the ability to inhibit pro-inflammatory molecules called cytokines.
In the first ever controlled trial of a cannabinol (CBM) in RA, a significant analgesic effect was observed and disease activity was significantly suppressed following Sativex treatment. While the differences are small and variable across the population, they represent benefits of clinical relevance and show the need for more detailed investigation in this indication.