Managing Arthritis Pain with Cannabis and Holistic Methods
Tight, painful, or stiff joints can sometimes occur after we’ve strained our bodies with physical activity or after long stretches without exercise, but for approximately 50 million people, joint pain is not temporary and is not a result of these things. A group of people roughly 13 times the size of Los Angeles suffer from persistent and often very painful joint inflammation called Arthritis.
Although the term Arthritis is generally used to describe joint inflammation, the term is also used to describe around 200 conditions that affect joints, the tissues that surround the joint, and other connective tissue. It is a rheumatic condition. Rheumatism, or rheumatic disorder, is an umbrella term for conditions causing chronic, often intermittent pain affecting the joints and/or connective tissue. For those who suffer from arthritis, it can cause a range of symptoms beyond just joint pain and can impair their ability to perform everyday tasks.
Some of the most common forms of arthritis and joint pain are:
- Osteoarthritis– The most common, or “wear and tear”, form of arthritis is called Osteoarthritis. Joint pain and swelling are typically associated with a breakdown of cartilage in joints and can occur in almost any joint in the body.
- Rheumatoid Arthritis– (or RA) Like Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis is an autoimmune disease. It causes inflammation in the lining of the joints.
- Gout– In most cases, gout occurs in the big toe or another part of the foot, ankles, knees, elbows, wrists, or fingers. A buildup of uric acid crystals within the joint causes extreme joint pain at the site.
- Lupus– Lupus, an autoimmune disease, is a condition where the immune system attacks its tissues, causing inflammation, swelling, pain, and damage. Lupus symptoms include fatigue, joint pain, fever, and a lupus rash.
What some traditional medicine practitioners fail to acknowledge is the deeper connection between our body’s interworking systems along with our relationship with the outside world that contributes to blockages or can trigger flare-ups.
What are the possible underlying causes of rheumatoid conditions?
The most common factor in the most frequently experienced form of arthritis is obesity. The extra strain from excess weight on joints breaks down cartilage and causes swelling and inflammation around joints.
One thing often ignored by modern medicine is ancient medicinal practices. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), arthritis arises when the flow of Qi and Blood are blocked and prevented from passing through the body’s energy pathways. Qi (also called chi) has two main branches. There is the external portion of qi that makes up the air, water, and food that we take in. The other branch consists of the vital fluids and the energy itself that flows through our bodies. It is the imbalances and interruptions to these flowing forces that are responsible for most human ailments whether physical, mental, or emotional.
The causes of Autoimmune Arthritis (like RA) is still unknown despite decades of research. Most medical researchers agree that there are genetic and epigenetic factors (like chemicals, pollution, etc.) that could be an underlying cause. What is known are the mechanisms the disease uses to cause symptoms like pain and inflammation. The Cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) isoenzyme, is produced largely during inflammation and is responsible for the biosynthesis of prostaglandins and other mediators of inflammation as well as sensitizers to pain. Most drugs that treat arthritis suppress COX in the body.
Is it possible to prevent Arthritis with lifestyle changes?
Preventing arthritis is trickier than it sounds. As previously stated, there may be genetic factors that play a role in whether or not someone suffers from arthritis. However, some external factors have been determined to increase the likelihood of developing arthritis, or in the aggravation of symptoms.
Osteoarthritis – Maintaining a healthy weight is one of the most important things you can do to prevent Osteoarthritis. Eating a clean and balanced diet and exercising regularly are the top recommendations for preventative care when it comes to Osteoarthritis.
Rheumatoid arthritis – Those who smoke cigarettes, and especially those who have smoked for 20+ years, are at a much greater risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis. Not only can it cause rheumatoid arthritis, but it can make it worse, and can interfere with the effectiveness of medicine to treat it. Let’s be straightforward, along with a very lengthy list of reasons to avoid smoking, this is one of the top reasons.
Gout – If you have a family history of Gout, then focus on a clean diet should be your top priority. For men, in particular, limiting the intake of alcohol (especially beer), fats, and foods that are more likely to increase uric acid level in the body (like meat, sardines, bacon, mussels, and yeast) is vitally important.
Generally speaking, one of the top suggestions for preventing stiff, achy, arthritic joints is to practice Tai Chi or Qi Gong. Many new studies are being conducted on the effectiveness of utilizing Tai Chi for the prevention and reversal of arthritic joints. Tai Qi Quan and the Eight Brocade exercises provide the gentle motions and stretching needed to remove obstructions in energy flow through the body and can help to alleviate pain. Some patients also undergo Qi Gong massage therapy, which can further increase the flow of Qi and help reduce pain.
Another option for those suffering from the chronic pain of arthritis is to take a pain management class or pain rehabilitation program (PRP). Typically, treating symptoms for immediate pain reduction is the primary goal. PRPs go a step further than immediate pain reduction, aiming to restore function and improve the quality of life by teaching physical, emotional and mental coping skills to manage pain. Most PRPs opt to wean patients off of opioids.
According to Jeannie Sperry, Ph.D., co-chair of addictions, transplant and pain at Mayo School of Medicine in Rochester, Minnesota, the best PRPs tend to be associated with academic medical centers, such as those at the Mayo Clinic, Cleveland Clinic, and Johns Hopkins.
In a study on the long-term effectiveness of a comprehensive PMP, researchers found that interdisciplinary treatments from PRP’s are effective in targeting multiple domains affected by the pain condition such as pain severity, emotional distress, interference of pain on function, perceived control of pain, treatment helpfulness, and the number of hours resting.
Can CBD products be helpful for arthritis?
It’s been well documented that CBD is a helpful anti-inflammatory cannabinoid. In one study, CBD successfully blocked Osteoarthritis (OA) pain. Prophylactic CBD treatment prevented the later development of pain and nerve damage in these OA joints. These findings suggest that CBD may be a safe and useful therapeutic option for treating OA joint neuropathic pain.
CBD is a natural NSAID that can help reduce the damage and inflammation caused by the wear and tear on the joints, helping to stave off the effects of osteoarthritis. Wander CBD Oil is a responsibly sourced all-purpose CBD oil. According to Wander, they use the highest quality ingredients with no additives like VG (vegetable glycerin), PG (Propylene Glycol) or PEG (Polyethylene glycol) that are common in oil-based supplements.
Papa & Barkley CBD Hemp Pain Balm is made from all-natural ingredients grown on Colorado farms. This artisanal blend includes beeswax, a naturally occurring antibacterial that retains moisture to keep skin hydrated, plus essential oils. Extracts from eucalyptus, tea tree, peppermint, and lavender plants offer this salve a subtly herbaceous scent. Once the targeted topical product is applied, an activated warmth is followed by a cooling sensation. If stronger effects are desired, more salve can be applied for additional relief.
Can cannabis products be helpful for arthritis?
Research published in Therapeutics and Clinical Risk Management indicates that cannabinoids have been helpful with easing chronic pain and has strong anti-inflammatory properties.
Papa & Barkley 30:1 CBD:THC capsules are a convenient way to stay on top of a preventative dose routine. A precise single-dose capsule provides relief for your entire body thanks to cannabinoid-rich oil. These capsules are great to stop pain and inflammation before it starts.
The Papa & Barkley’s releaf patches are great for directly targeting pain in specific areas like joints affected by arthritis. With a CBD-only option, a 1:1, 1:3, and 3:1 option you can tailor your dose and ratio to your needs. These slow-release patches stick to skin, offering pain relief through transdermal delivery of full-spectrum cannabinoids for up to 12 hours of relief.
What types of foods, herbs, or supplements can help with arthritis pain?
Fish – Because certain types of fish are packed with inflammation-fighting omega-3 fatty acids, experts recommend at least 3 to 4 ounces of fish, twice a week. Omega-3-rich fish include salmon, tuna, mackerel, and herring.
Extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, and safflower oils have all been shown to contain cholesterol-lowering properties. Not only that, but extra virgin olive oil is loaded with heart-healthy fats, as well as oleocanthal, which has properties similar to non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs. Compared to olive oil, walnut oil has 10 times the omega-3s.
Thunder God Vine (Triptergium wilfordii Hook F) – May help rheumatoid arthritis (RA) by reducing inflammation and swelling, working with the immune system’s response to arthritis. Typically, Methotrexate (MTX) is utilized in the treatment of patients with RA and in several other forms of inflammatory arthritis and autoimmune disease. One study showed the extract from the Thunder God Vine was slightly more effective than MTX alone, and when combined doubled the effectiveness of the treatment. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that this herb has been shown to decrease fertility, so if getting pregnant with your partner is a goal, this may not be the best option.
Frankincense -This herb has been used in traditional Chinese medicine and eastern medicine for centuries to treat pain and inflammation. Frankincense comes from the plant Boswellia sacra and is also known as olibanum, from old Hebrew. One way the herb works well for arthritis is by suppressing leukotrienes that attack healthy joints in Rheumatoid Arthritis.
Turmeric – In her book “Do You Really Need That Pill” Jennifer Jacobs, M.D. describes how this yellow spice has been used for centuries to treat arthritis. She explains “…the active ingredient curcumin is an anti-inflammatory similar to COX-2 inhibitors such as Celebrex.” She continues in her book citing studies that show after 6 weeks of treatment, arthritic patients showed the same amount of improvement as those taking 800mg of ibuprofen daily.
Although arthritis may not be preventable for everyone, holistic measures have been found to be very helpful with reducing inflammation and boosting the immune system’s response to inflammation. If you have painful or stiff joints, it may be time to speak with a holistic doctor to learn more about how you can attack your pain head-on.
By Bri Smith
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