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Most medical cannabis patients have experienced the profound relief that medical cannabis can provide for pain in general. But did you know that there is ample evidence that shows how medical cannabis can help with the inflammation and pain associated with arthritis in particular? Learn how cannabis works for this common yet debilitating condition, which strains are best, and how you can use cannabis legally for arthritis in Utah.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control, close to a quarter of all American adults have some form of arthritis. It is actually the leading cause of work-related disability for over 58 million people. (1)
The conventional “solution” for the swelling, redness, joint pain and lack of mobility that accompanies arthritis are pharmaceutical drugs, including over-the-counter NSAIDs like Advil as well as corticosteroid medications, DMARDs (Disease-Modifying Antirheumatic Drugs), and surgery. Unfortunately, these options come at a cost in terms of harmful side effects. Topical creams known as “counterirritants” can also provide some relief, but only temporarily. (2)
There is another solution that is providing relief for millions with fewer side effects. This is medical cannabis. A 2013 study conducted by the Information Commissioner of Canada found that 65% of medical cannabis users in that country use cannabis specifically for severe arthritis. (3) In Australia and the UK, close to 33 percent of medical cannabis users take it to treat the pain and discomfort associated with the condition.
The anecdotal evidence is clear when it comes to cannabis and arthritis, but how does cannabis work in the body to affect the condition? The answer lies in how medical cannabis interacts within the endocannabinoid system to affect mechanisms of pain and inflammation.
The endocannabinoid system is a subtle system that acts as a “balancer” for all other systems in the body. In fact, cannabinoid receptor sites can be found just about everywhere—in the gut, in the eyes, in the lungs, and in the liver, as well as in the immune system and the endocrine system. The endocannabinoid system is also intricately connected to the nervous system and the brain, two systems that can be considered “grand central station” for pain sensation.
“The primary function of the endocannabinoid system in humans is to maintain homeostasis, which includes regulation of pain and inflammation,” writes the authors of a 2020 comprehensive review published in the Journal of Cannabis Research. (4)
In regard to the inflammation that inevitably accompanies arthritis, a 2009 investigation conducted by researchers at the University of South Carolina considered cannabinoids as a “new class of anti-inflammatory agents” because of what they are able to do to reduce inflammatory markers and how they are able to regulate the immune system amongst those with autoimmune disease. This is particularly relevant for rheumatoid arthritis, which is an autoimmune condition.
The particular kind of pain associated with arthritis can be peripheral (affecting the limbs), nociceptive (relating to damaged tissues), neurological, or musculoskeletal in nature (or more than one). The University of South Caroline researchers speculated that the way that cannabis affects the brain, and the nervous system is why so many people use it to help them with arthritis pain. Other evidence over the years has also found that low-dose vaped medical cannabis especially can be particularly effective in helping with neuropathic pain. (5)
Severe interactions between medical cannabis and pharmaceutical drugs, in general, are rare. To date, there have been no studies that have specifically looked at interactions between medical cannabis and pharmaceuticals that are typically prescribed for arthritis pain and swelling.
That being said, there have been some studies that have concluded that caution should be taken when consuming cannabis and pharmaceuticals at the same time. This is because many pharmaceuticals, such as methotrexate (a common drug for arthritis), can utilize the same enzymatic mechanisms for metabolization as cannabis does once they enter the system. This means that using medical cannabis or straight CBD at the same time as a pharmaceutical drug may inhibit the effectiveness of the drug, the medical cannabis, or both. It may also prolong the effect of either the drug or the cannabis. In addition, if you use pharmaceutical drugs and medical cannabis at the same time, both will be utilizing the liver for metabolizing, which can put a dangerous strain on this vital organ.
It is important to discuss any medication you are currently taking for arthritis with your primary doctor as well as with a WholesomeCo pharmacist before you begin any medical cannabis protocol.
There is no doubt that cannabis can help with many kinds of pain. In fact, a recent study at Ben-Gurion University in Negev, Israel found that medical cannabis can be very effective at managing different kinds of pain in both men and women. After six months of use, 85% of trial participants surveyed said that they felt their condition was improved because of cannabis. (6)
The obvious next question, then, is, “Which cannabis strains are best for arthritis pain specifically?”
The answer, of course, ultimately depends on your unique body as well as the experience that you wish to have when using cannabis for pain. Both THC and CBD can help with pain, as can other cannabinoids And remember that the effectiveness of medical cannabis is not all about THC and CBD. Each strain of cannabis also contains a slightly different mixture of terpenes, which contribute to the overall effect. The good news is that most all terpenes, as well as most all cannabinoids, can help to bring inflammation down.
Here are a few strains that are favorites with some of customers for helping with arthritis-related pain:
In addition, consider strains and products, such as Boojum’s Hibiscus Lime 1:1 THC:CBG Gummies, which contain the cannabinoid CBG. A first-of-its-kind survey study on the effectiveness of CBG-predominant cannabis was conducted by researchers at the Washington State University and the University of California, San Diego in 2021. They found that 73% of those surveyed reported their pain was “very much improved” with CBG. CBG is often called the “mother of all cannabinoids” since it is the precursor for CBD and other cannabinoids. It can be very effective for chronic pain as well as for depression, anxiety, and insomnia. (7)
As we stated above, it is a good rule to make sure that you get a strain that contains a balanced amount of THC and CBD when using medical cannabis for arthritis pain.
You can also utilize products and brands that have a stated ratio of THC and CBD on their packaging, so you can more easily and precisely monitor your dosage. Keep in mind that for products which say “standard unit” on the packaging, this usually means between 2.5 -5 mg THC. Be sure to find out the specific “standard unit” for your brand before you consume.
In general, there isn’t really a set recommendation for the specific dosage amount for arthritis pain. Instead, we recommend that you go “low and slow” and to aim to discover your “Minimum Effective Dose,” or MED. This is the minimum amount you can take to get the results that you desire.
Arthritis itself is not a Qualifying Condition for medical cannabis use under the UMCA (Utah Medical Cannabis Act) of 2018. However, pain is. According to the law, pain in any form that lasts longer than two weeks despite conventional treatment may qualify for medical cannabis use if a qualified medical provider approves it. Many people have been able to manage their arthritis pain legally using medical cannabis in this way.
In addition, medical cannabis used for arthritis-specific pain can be administered in a variety of ways. The methods of consumption for medical cannabis in Utah are:
Be sure to discuss the method of consumption that may be best for you with your WholesomeCo professional pharmacist during your FREE “Cannabis Curious” consult!
Choosing the right products and strains for you when you are experiencing arthritis pain and swelling day after day can be overwhelming. The good news is that you do not have to go through the process alone. Helping you zero in on the perfect initial strain, dosage, and brand for you is exactly what our team of professional pharmacists are here for. They will guide you to the best product for you based on the experience you want to have with medical cannabis, including reducing arthritis pain.
Be sure to schedule a FREE “Cannabis Curious” consult today to speak with one of our helpful, professional PhD-level pharmacists. Appointment requests are usually answered within 24 hours.