Osteoarthritis (or osteoarthritis) is the most common form of arthritis, a term used to describe more than 100 diseases of the joints and surrounding tissues (such as rheumatoid arthritis). In fact, it is the most common musculoskeletal disorder, as most people will develop it as they age.
This degenerative disease involves damage to the cartilage that protects the ends of bones, preventing them from rubbing against each other at the joints. This wear and tear make the bones vulnerable, causing pain, swelling, and stiffness. But osteoarthritis can also affect tendons, ligaments, and the synovial membrane (a kind of pocket that holds the synovial fluid that acts as a “lubricant” for the joints). The parts of the body that are most sensitive to osteoarthritis are the hands, knees, hips, and spine, whose movements are hindered by increasingly disabling stiffness.
While age is a key risk factor, this does not mean that young people are not affected by osteoarthritis. Young people are increasingly affected by osteoarthritis. Traumatic injuries and obesity are other important risk factors that are not specific to the elderly, far from it. The more joints are strained, the greater the risk of developing osteoarthritis at any age.
Medicinal cannabis as a remedy
Faced with this chronic disease, doctors are helpless and can only offer patients analgesics and anti-inflammatory drugs to relieve their suffering. Despite their undeniable effectiveness, these treatments have particularly undesirable side effects: opioids are addictive, while non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can cause ulcers, gastric acidity, and liver disorders.
Medicinal cannabis uses two complementary active ingredients to treat the main symptoms of osteoarthritis, inflammation, and pain: THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol).
- CBD inhibits the mediators of inflammation that cause redness, swelling, and stiffness, while at the same time soothing muscle spasms.
- THC relieves pain. With disease progression and the intra-articular space shrinks, neuropathic pain increases. THC interacts with the brain receptors that regulate pain perception, including neuropathic pain, which is not inflammatory but nerve pain that radiates to whole areas of the body.
- THC also acts as a sedative that allows the patient to find sleep despite sometimes very intense pain. It also allows the patient to remain asleep even when movement causes pain that would otherwise wake the patient up.
Scientifically proven effectiveness
One of the most recent studies to demonstrate the analgesic capabilities of cannabinoids in osteoarthritis – published in Current Opinion in Pharmacology under the title Cannabis and Joints: Scientific Evidence for the Alleviation of Osteoarthritis Pain by Cannabinoids – highlights the dissatisfaction generated by conventional drugs in almost 60% of patients, dissatisfaction caused by side effects considered too disabling. According to the study, this is precisely where the value of cannabis resides as a remedy capable of alleviating suffering without causing side effects.
Patients treated with medicinal cannabis have more freedom of movement and less pain, and suffer fewer limitations in their daily lives than others. Particularly, since cannabis does not only act as a pain reliever: stimulating the immune system, it also helps to repair cartilage damage caused by osteoarthritis. In addition to relieving chronic pain, it also reduces fatigue and slows the progression of the disease.
How to use medicinal cannabis for osteoarthritis?
The combination of the main active ingredients in cannabis will prove to be particularly effective, especially if you opt for a broad-spectrum product. The cannabis market is full of flowers and oils with balanced proportions of THC and CBD (1:1) that provide all the benefits mentioned above. This high CBD content is necessary since it helps reduce the psychotropic effects caused by THC, such as euphoria or paranoia. To determine which dose of THC and CBD is best for you, talk directly to your doctor or a specialist.
Patients who are reluctant to smoke cannabis may benefit from CBD oils or creams that already prove to be effective in treating osteoarthritis. Cannabinoids in cannabis are not soluble in water, but they are soluble in fat and organic solvents. Applied as an ointment in this way, they easily penetrate the skin, which has abundant endocannabinoid receptors with which they interact to relieve pain.