Arthritis Awareness Month

Joints and joints: Arthritis and cannabis

When the human body is working as expected it’s easy to take for granted how complex it is. Simple movements are not-so-simple when we understand all that goes into the process. Nerves fire, muscles pull and cartilage keeps things smooth – unless you have arthritis. Arthritis is the inflammation of a joint that leads a host of negative things. The cause of arthritis may vary from auto-immune to injury or infection, but the symptoms are well-known.

Joint pain is frequently seen with arthritis, but other classes of pain can occur. The place where our bones meet is full of nerves. Many nerve bundles travel across these joint articulations and can be stressed or damaged if the joint space is narrowed with arthritis. The most common symptoms can include joint pain, shooting pain to the extremities, weakness and even muscle spasms.

The location with the most joint articulations is the spine. Vertebrae are stacked on top of each other and cushioned by intervertebral discs made of cartilage. Our spines are prone to osteoarthritis as we age. These discs wear down and lead to loss of mobility, pain and nerve involvement. Our lumbar spine which corresponds to our lower back is at risk for osteoarthritis because of lordosis, the natural curvature of the lower back. This area is put at further risk with increased hours spent sitting, or unsafe movements like improper lifting. Nerve pain shooting down the leg because of degradation or damage to the disc can lead to debilitating pain and even immobility without surgical intervention.

Typically, THC in cannabis is ideal for nerve pain. The area of our brains responsible for the perception of pain is covered with receptors for THC. Cannabis use can reduce how we feel nerve pain at a neurological level. THC provides an intoxicating high, which restricts certain people from using it throughout the day. Those who are able to be under the influence of THC should seek out a product with low THC levels and then increase the amount and frequency of use until the pain issues are resolved.

The hands are similarly prone to arthritis, but rather rheumatoid arthritis instead of osteoarthritis. The immune system can cause swelling and stiffness when the small joints of the hands and fingers are attacked. The joints become larger, lose mobility and can become deformed and drift toward the fifth digit. This movement of the fingers is known as ulnar deviation and is often seen in the hands and fingers of the elderly.  Typically, rheumatoid arthritis of the hands leads to morning stiffness that can be relieved with motion and use, but the problems return daily. CBD, an active ingredient in cannabis, is ideal in these cases as it decreases inflammation systemically by inhibiting our inflammatory pathways. CBD is non-intoxicating and can be used throughout the day to provide relief and restoration of mobility. CBD can be used in dried-flower or ingestible oil form. Each form of CBD has its advantages. Those seeking immediate relief should gravitate toward the inhaled form, while those requiring relief throughout the day will prefer the longer duration of action with an ingested oil.

Joints and joints have a storied relationship going back many years. Seniors have been on the forefront of cannabis advocacy for arthritis when cannabis legalization was still in its infancy. While cannabis is seen as a last resort in many cases, the evidence of the effects is there to provide support, relief, and hope for people suffering with arthritis.

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