Medical Marijuana and Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis affects over a million people per year in the US. Yet, we still don’t have a cure. With this, patients are left in pain, feeling helpless about solutions. But what about turning to medical marijuana for severe rheumatoid arthritis? Could this be helpful?
We understand that you probably have quite a few questions. Don’t worry: here, we’re covering them all. What is rheumatoid arthritis? What are the first signs of RA? Is CBD oil good for rheumatoid arthritis? What’s the relationship between medical marijuana and rheumatoid arthritis as a whole? Let’s delve in and surface all the relevant information on medical marijuana and rheumatoid arthritis.
What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Going with the simple definition of Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center, rheumatoid arthritis (RA), also referred to as a rheumatoid disease, is an autoimmune disorder that affects many joints, organs, and the whole body.
Basically, what happens is that the body’s immune system, which is supposed to defend the body, does the inverse and attacks the body tissues instead. In some instances, it can become very severe and attack internal organs. However, RA is mainly associated with joint pain and inflammation, resulting in joint deformity, bone erosion, or both after a long time.
What causes rheumatoid arthritis? While medical researchers are confident that this disorder is caused by the immune system attacking healthy body tissues, the reason this happens is yet to be known.
The medical assumption is that the immune system may erroneously send antibodies meant to fight bacteria. Instead, they send viruses to your joint linings. These antibodies end up attacking the healthy tissues around the joints and the synovium (thin layers of cells that cover the joints). Eventually, the joint becomes inflamed and sore, often sending out chemicals that harm cartilages, tendons, ligaments, and bones that surround the joint.
Doctors still don’t know exactly what triggers the immune system to do this. However, some speculations point fingers at age, gene, sex, and weight as potential causes.
Signs and Symptoms of RA
Various rheumatoid arthritis symptoms exist, but the main symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis include:
- Stiffness – RA patients may experience stiffness around their joints, especially in the mornings or after being inactive for a while.
- Back, muscle, or joint pain – RA patients are most likely to feel throbbing pain and aches on their joints. As with stiffness, this is most likely to be felt in the morning or after being inactive.
- Inflammation – the joints may become swollen, red, and warm. Some patients report their joints feeling hot. For some others, the swelling may become firm, forming rheumatoid nodules under the skin around the joint that has been affected.
These primary symptoms tend to demonstrate some of the first signs of RA. Apart from these symptoms, other initial signs may include fatigue, fever, anemia, loss of appetite, weight loss, sharp pins and needles, constant sweating, and in some cases, chest pain and dry eyes.
What Are the Treatment Options?
So far, there is no known rheumatoid arthritis treatment. However, you can slow down the progression of the disease through physiotherapy, lifestyle changes, supportive therapy, surgery, and drugs (disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs, DMARDs).
New biological treatments can also be offered as injections when DMARDs, often administered to RA patients, are not working.
These options tend to be more effective in slowing down the progress of arthritis if you detect the condition at an early stage. Otherwise, most treatments are often about helping patients live better with RA; that is where medical marijuana for RA comes in.
But, if we cannot treat RA, how does medical marijuana help rheumatoid arthritis?
How Does Medical Marijuana Help Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Most of the usefulness of medical marijuana to RA is tied to the therapeutic effects of cannabis. A study by Nature Reviews Rheumatology suggests that cannabinoids can affect the production of immune cells; hence, cannabinoids are possible immune modulators. Thus, it may help slow down the progression of RA — however, we still require more information.
Furthermore, the study suggests that the therapeutic effects of cannabinoids could be potent for a range of rheumatic diseases, RA included.
For RA patients with chronic pain, medical cannabis for rheumatoid arthritis comes as a relief. Most drugs such as opioids, serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) often come with many risks and are not so suitable for prolonged use.
Bear in mind that there is no confirmed treatment for RA. These drugs often only help to relieve pains. And patients often find it difficult to continue with these drugs for the rest of their lives. Cannabis, on the other hand, is a better long-term pain relief treatment option for RA. However, we simply need more concrete data to draw accurate conclusions.
Best Strain for Arthritis Pain
As an RA patient looking to get some relief from rheumatoid arthritis chronic pain, your best bet lies in CBD-dominant strains. Naturally, CBD is packed with anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, and antioxidant properties – making it more suitable for relieving arthritis pains. Below is a list of some commonly sought strains with high CBD content that patients have confirmed to be the best strain for arthritis pain.
- Canna Tsu
Some notable THC-dominant strains to consider for RA include Green Crack, Warlock, Girl Scout Cookies, and Pink Kush.
Make sure to discuss your conditions and the reservations you may have with your doctor when seeking medical marijuana treatment for rheumatoid arthritis. This will help your doctor prescribe the rheumatoid arthritis cannabis strain that may be most suitable for you.
Marijuana Forms for RA
At this point, if you have not been using cannabis for rheumatoid arthritis, you are probably considering it now. And one of the questions in your mind may be, “how do you use medical marijuana for rheumatoid arthritis treatment?” There are various medicinal forms of marijuana that you may choose from to relieve yourself of chronic pain.
Multiple studies in the medical field have explicitly focused on CBD oil as a method of CBD intake to relieve chronic pain. This is because CBD is known to interact directly with the systemic receptors that induce inflammation and pain in the body. Hence, a need to drift away from THC and place more focus on CBD.
Because various studies indicate that CBD oil alleviates chronic neuropathic pain, manufacturers began crafting CBD oil for arthritis that could help provide more direct relief without the associated risks of consuming other medical marijuana forms.
You can apply CBD topicals for arthritis pain directly to the arthritis-afflicted area, as well. CBD topicals may be in the form of creams, ointments, gels, sprays, or transdermal patches. Generally, people find it easier to use CBD topicals than CBD oils, but both present profound benefits for those with RA.
Vaping marijuana provides an immediate relieving effect, often within two to four minutes after inhalation. The vaporizer heats the cannabis, and you inhale the vapor. Lucky for you, the smoke is almost odorless and compared to smoking, vaping has less harsh effects on the lungs.
Edibles are tasty snacks and treats that companies infuse with varying amounts of cannabis. When you consume them, edibles demonstrate long-lasting effects — potentially up to seven or eight hours.
While these edibles are delicious and provide a more appealing way to consume, the problem lies in dosing. Dosages may not be consistent, and there’s a chance you can eat more than you intended. It’s best to always start with a super low dose of an edible first and wait about two hours before consuming more.
Capsules and pills
If you are looking for a consistent dosage, then medical cannabis pills may be the right choice for you. They are pricey, but their effects can last up to eight hours. You enjoy these products just as you would any other capsule or pill — with just a swig of water! They’re easy to consume, potent, and don’t offer residual plant-like flavors.
These refer to various topical cannabis ointments, which RA patients may apply at a targeted area to get immediate pain relief. You cannot get high at all with topicals, as the cannabinoids don’t pass through the blood-brain barrier.
Do keep in mind that with cannabis topicals, you’ll likely have to reapply the formula several times a day.
These are transdermal adhesive patches with cannabinoids as part of the content. When you place it on the skin, it releases cannabis medication, which gets absorbed into the bloodstream and distributed to all aspects of the body. While transdermal patches may not be so effective for severe arthritis pains, they are suitable for whole-body relief of pains, and the effects also last for a long time.
Smoking or inhalation is often the go-to option for cannabis consumption because of easy access, cheap cost, and onset time. RA patients may get immediate relief from chronic pains when they smoke medical marijuana, as the cannabinoids get to work straight away. However, there may be many more risks with smoking than every other form of cannabis intake because of the potential damage to the lungs.
Risks of Marijuana for Arthritis Patients
As with most substances, there are risks associated with using medical marijuana for arthritis pain relief. Doctors always advise RA patients to speak with them before opting for a medical marijuana product and always make their purchase from state-authorized dispensaries. This way, you have access to only the highest-quality product options possible.
Still, let’s take a look at some risks of marijuana for arthritis patients.
- Risk of cardiovascular issues from smoking or vaping
- Lung or throat irritations from smoking or vaping
- Though unlikely, patients may experience mild effects of fatigue, diarrhea, appetite loss, and weight loss when using CBD oils.
Is Medical Marijuana an Effective Treatment?
Indications and patients’ testimonies show that medical marijuana is an effective treatment for rheumatoid arthritis. Medical marijuana has a high safety profile and incredible versatility that suits the needs of patients with various tastes and tolerance.
Even in the absence of science, rheumatoid arthritis patients benefit from the potent pain-relieving effects of medical marijuana. And from a Forbes interview of Dr. Benjamin Caplan (Founder, CED Foundation and Clinic), the clinic alone has treated thousands of arthritis patients using various cannabinoid formulations.
The critical thing to note is that cannabis works differently for different patients. Hence, you must make time to find what is most suitable for you. Most arthritis patients often opt for cannabis oil as a better form of treatment.
Does Rheumatoid Arthritis Qualify for Medical Marijuana?
Yes. Although state laws and guidelines differ on what conditions qualify for medical marijuana, arthritis and chronic pain are common conditions that consistently appear in all the state laws determining what conditions qualify for medical marijuana.
How to Get a Medical Card for RA
Through services like Elevate Holistics‘, getting your medical marijuana card for rheumatoid arthritis is easier than ever before.
We understand that patients are already going through a lot and don’t need more worries or stress. Therefore, we made the process easier for patients by providing all the necessary services online — both doctor consultations and medical card applications — in three quick and easy steps. And all of it happens from the comfort of your home and at a fraction of the fees you would have paid other service providers.
Interested? Contact us now to learn more about getting your medical card and enjoy the benefits of medical marijuana for rheumatoid arthritis.
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