Research, Treatment

Research Explores How Cannabis Can Help Those With Rheumatic Disease

March 12, 2021 03:30 pm ET
Research Explores How Cannabis Can Help Those With Rheumatic Disease

Rheumatic diseases are impacting the quality of life for those suffering from any of the conditions. Unfortunately, many of those individuals have struggled to find effective relief as most of them are suffering from chronic pain and subsequent sleep disturbance, mood swings, and overall impairment in health.  The good news is that cannabis can be exactly what you need to improve your quality of life while alleviating symptoms of the condition and lifting up your emotional disposition. 

What is Rheumatic Disease?

The Mayo Clinic explains that rheumatic diseases are autoimmune and inflammatory conditions that cause your immune system to attack its own joints, muscles, bone, and organs. Rheumatic disorders are often referred to as musculoskeletal diseases and encompass many types of arthritis. Treatment of rheumatic disease is often done by a rheumatologist and includes treatment such as pharmaceutical medications, regular exercise, a healthy diet, stress management, and rest.

Rheumatic diseases can cause damage to other vital organs such as the lungs, heart, nervous system, kidneys, skin, and eyes. These disorders can severely reduce the quality of life for the individuals suffering from it, so much so that they struggle with daily living tasks such as bathing and getting dressed. 

Examples of Common Rheumatic Disorders:

  • Osteoarthritis: This rheumatic disorder is different from most other rheumatic disorders due to the fact that it stems from damage to cartilage instead of immune system issues. Damage to the cartilage causes joints to hurt and harder to move. This condition typically affects the knees, hips, lower back, neck, fingers, and feet.
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis: This rheumatic disorder occurs when the immune system attacks its own tissues, which then causes joint pain, swelling, and stiffness.
  • Lupus: This rheumatic disorder is an autoimmune disease that affects many organs in the body and may be accompanied by rashes and hair loss.
  • Spondylarthropathies: This rheumatic disorder usually starts as lower back pain and involves the sacroiliac joints, which are the joints where the spine attaches to the pelvis.
  • Sjogren’s Syndrome: This rheumatic disorder causes many parts of the body to dry out such as the eyes and mouth.
  • Gout: This rheumatic disorder is caused by a buildup of uric acid crystals in the joint but most of the time affects the big toes or other parts of the foot.
  • Scleroderma: This rheumatic disorder is characterized by hard skin and can either be localized (affecting one part of the body) or systemic (affecting many parts of the body).
  • Infectious Arthritis: This rheumatic disorder is arthritis caused by an infection in the joint.
  • Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis: This rheumatic disorder is a common form of arthritis found in children and is caused by the child’s immune system mistaking tissue as a foreigner and then attacking it leading to inflammation in joints and organs.
  • Polymyalgia Rheumatica: This rheumatic disorder is an inflammatory condition which most commonly affects older adults.

These rheumatic disorders share the common symptoms of joint pain, loss of motion as well as inflammation which includes swelling, stiffness, redness and radiating warmth in the affected area. Depending on the parts of the body which are affected, the symptoms can make it hard to walk, grip objects, dress, comb your hair, get dressed, brush teeth, sit, etc. 

How Can Cannabis Help Rheumatic Diseases?

A study was conducted in order to understand using cannabis for rheumatic diseases. The study found that 2900 patients out of 10 873 were already self-medicating with cannabis due to the fact that their prescribed therapies were not effective, often leaving them with remaining pain. The same study concluded by saying that those consuming cannabis reported significant improvement in pain but that the problem with patients self-medicating with cannabis is that the product is unregulated. 

Another study accessing the pros and cons of using cannabis for rheumatic disorders states that the cannabinoids found in cannabis can be useful for rheumatic disorders due to two reasons: cannabinoids are anti-inflammatory and cannabinoids have immunomodulatory properties.  The study highlights the effectiveness of cannabis for alleviating pain but balanced the “pros” out by stating that societal safety concerns about cannabis should “always be borne in mind” as it will “probably not be addressed by clinic studies”.

Additionally, Gonen and the team decided to look at cannabis as a treatment for rheumatic diseases since “current pharmacological interventions for chronic pain are not always useful or safe enough for long-term use”. Chronic pain is a flagship symptom of rheumatic diseases and alleviating that alone will already significantly improve the lives of patients with any rheumatic disease. The research concluded by stating that,

“The use of cannabis and cannabinoids for pain relief in rheumatic diseases shows great potential and could be a source of hope for those suffering from chronic pain associated with those conditions”. 

Cannabis Provides the Following Benefits:

  • Alleviates pain.
  • Anti-inflammatory which is significant in joints.
  • Immunomodulatory (which means to modify immune system response or functioning by increasing or decreasing the production of antibodies, for example).
  • Improves mobility due to reducing pain and inflammation. 
  • Improving the quality of life by improving mobility, reducing pain as well as reducing inflammation. 

As usual, all three of the studies concluded by stating that more research is necessary but that cannabis shows promising potential and that its efficacy is supported by many anecdotal evidence and reports. Even if cannabis can’t treat rheumatic diseases, it can eliminate the need for harmful pharmaceutical options with adverse side-effects while offering a solution for long-term alleviation of pain and inflammation. If you have any experience with using cannabis for rheumatic disease, share your experience with us in the comment section below. 

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