Treating Osteoarthritis: How CBD Can Help Manage Arthrosis

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease that affects a significant number of people around the world, particularly adults over the age of 40. In the United States alone, 32.5 million adults are affected by osteoarthritis. In Canada, between 4 million and 4.6 million adults suffer from osteoarthritis. Currently, in the UK, osteoarthritis affects around 9 million people. 

 

Left neglected, this chronic condition can lead to severe joint pain, which can have a severe negative impact on quality of life. In recent years—as more research and clinical trials have been conducted and study the medical benefits of cannabis-derived cannabidiol—CBD products have become a popular, more natural alternative to help in the treatment of osteoarthritis and alleviate osteoarthritis caused symptoms. Many recent publications can be found and read on PubMed on the topic. 

Definition of osteoarthritis (OA) 

You may have heard of the term arthritis more often. Arthritis is a broad term that describes inflammation occurring in joints. Osteoarthritis (OA) is a type of arthritis—the most common one—also called arthrosisdegenerative joint disease or joint degeneration. The disease is common, especially in older adults (aged 40+), and causes the progressive degradation or breakdown of the cartilage in joints, occurring most often in the hips, knees, and spine. 

 

Joints are located at the ends of bones, the part where two or more bones meet, allowing movement. The role of joint cartilage is to facilitate this movement without causing friction between bones, acting as a sort of cushion. When the cartilage layer of joints suffers degradation, this creates friction. It is that friction that causes the acute or chronic, dull pain described by patients suffering from osteoarthritis. 

 

All joints can be affected by osteoarthritis—from the smallest joints of hands and  fingers, to more tricky ones such as found in the spine. Spinal joint issues, such as osteoarthritis caused degeneration, occur most often in people aged 65+. 

 

Most commonly, the knee and hip joints are affected by osteoarthritis. This is due to the fact that these joints continuously bear the weight of the human body on a day-to-day basis, along with the spine, and experience the most impact during physician activity (like during sports) and tend to wear out the most. The shoulder, elbow or wrist joints are less commonly affected by osteoarthritis. 

Factors that can accelerate osteoarthritis 

Many factors can accelerate the deterioration of cartilage and spark osteoarthritis: 

  

  • Age: Generally, risks of developing osteoarthritis increase tenfold once you hit 40. 

  • Athleticism: Athletes competing at high-levels, or bodybuilders who usually lift excessively heavy loads on a regular basis, are at greater risk. The mechanical stress associated with intense exercise reinforced the risk of cartilage damage. This is even seen in adults much younger than 40 years old. 

  • Presence of joint disease: Other joint diseases, especially rheumatism, can lead to osteoarthritis. People with congenital cartilage fragility are at risk, as well as those who have suffered sprains or dislocations that were not properly treated.  

  • Heredity: Osteoarthritis is also a hereditary disease, whether caused by hereditary joint diseases (such as above) or genetically inherited joint or bone defects.

Signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis 

Osteoarthritis symptoms can vary from one patient to another and depending on the joint(s) affected. That said, the common thread of symptoms manifest as pain of varying severity and movement difficulties. 

 

The pain tends to diminish when the joints affected are at rest and worsens when moving. In the morning, the pain is usually less felt, but gets worse throughout the day as continued movements through the day’s activity will aggravate the joints. 

 

Osteoarthritic joints do not necessarily swell or appear red. The joints may become deformed over time, particularly in the case of joints in hands and knees. 

Main differences between osteoarthritis and arthritis 

Osteoarthritis, also known as arthrosis, is commonly confused with arthritis. Although arthritis is more of an umbrella term and osteoarthritis is a type of  arthritis, and both characterize pathologies related to the joints, they are not the same: 

 

  • Arthritis stems from infectious, immune and metabolic causes; 

  • Osteoarthritis is usually caused by aging and/or long term joint stress 

 

Interestingly, pain caused by arthritis tends to intensify at night. Pain from osteoarthritis, on the other hand, tends to subside at night—when the body is at rest.  

 

Additionally, areas affected by arthritis feel warm, caused by the inflammation in the joints, which is not always the case with osteoarthritis.  

Treatments for managing osteoarthritis 

Currently, there is no definite cure available for this degenerative joint disease. Only treatments to manage symptoms and lessen pain exist. 

Medication 

Patients who opt to use medication (drugs) as a treatment for osteoarthritis are usually prescribed analgesic and anti-inflammatory medications. In more severe cases, where patients experience tremendous difficulty in movement, hyaluronic acid injections in the affected areas may be recommended. Hyaluronic acid is a substance that lubricates the joint and helps reduce friction between the bones, lessening pain and allowing for more movement. Unfortunately, the effects of hyaluronic acid dissipate over the months, so this is only a temporary solution as repeat injections are needed.  

Non-pharmaceutical solutions 

Reportedly effective non-pharmaceutical (or non-medical) methods include : 

 

  1. Applying heat or cold to the joint for pain relief;  
  2. Surgery as a radical recourse, especially if the patient's mobility is greatly reduced;  
  3. CBD products in various forms and concentrations. 

Rehabilitating the joints 

There exist treatments aimed at rehabilitating the affected joints through the help of specific physical activities and exercises on a regular basis. Supervised by a specialist, these programs not only allow the patients to maintain mobility, but also lose weight in order to relieve pressure on the joints. 

CBD to treat osteoarthritis 

All osteoarthritis treatments are aimed to relieve pain and restore mobility, but each have their pros and cons. Pharmaceuticals usually tend to have undesirable side effects on a person. This is one of the main reasons why research has been focusing to better study and understand CBD, one of the active cannabinoids found in cannabis, and its potential in aiding those suffering from osteoarthritis. CBD has many medical benefits and little to no side effects on the body. 

 

Unlike THC, another prevalent cannabis derived cannabinoid, CBD (cannabidiol) has no psychoactive effect. It is the psychoactive effects caused by THC that make a person consuming cannabis products feel intoxicated or “high”.  CBD does not cause such effects when taken in its pure, extracted form.  

 

Provided that they comply with strict standards (with little to no traces of THC), CBD products are legal in most of Europe, including countries like France, Switzerland and England.  

Relief from joint pain 

Numerous studies, clinical trials and PubMed publications have demonstrated CBD's positive interactions with the human body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is a complex cell-signaling system connected through cannabinoid receptors found in the central and peripheral nervous system, and throughout the immune system. Since the ECS plays an important role in pain management and pain signalling, CBD’s influence in helping the proper functioning of this system has many benefits, like contributing to pain reduction. 

 

CBD has also been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties, which can help minimize joint pain. So, while not completely a cure, CBD has been shown to help calm and soothe the symptoms caused by arthrosis and reduce pain—which can have a huge impact on people’s everyday quality of life.  

Used for dogs and other animal 

As published via PubMed, newer research has shown that CBD can help alleviate the symptoms of arthrosis in dogs too, not just humans. Veterinary research suggests that CBD products can indeed be used to help dogs—especially older dogs—with osteoarthritis by relieving pain, reducing inflammation, and improving mobility. 

 

The good news for pet owners is that medical cannabis-based CBD appears safe to use in healthy dogs and cats. However, it is important to note that adverse effects have been seen in both cats and dogs when using medical CBD treatments, including mild elevations in liver enzymes, so it is crucial that a person consults their veterinarian before they use CBD to treat their dogs or cats’ joint ailments. 

Ways to use CBD to help treat osteoarthritis 

CBD oil is one of the most recommended forms of medical CBD pain relief for osteoarthritis treatment use. CBD oil is also one of the most versatile forms of CBD, and is available as a broad spectrum or full spectrum oil. 

 

As with regular use of body creams or oils, a patient can apply CBD oil topically to the affected joint, lightly massage the area. Through the skin, CBD enters the bloodstream, allowing them to feel an effect almost instantaneously. 

 

CBD oil can also be consumed orally. Mixed in foods or liquids for ingestion, CBD oil is recommended to be consumed sublingually—meaning, placed under the tongue, waiting a few seconds before swallowing. The right CBD oil dose truly depends on the individual, so it is always best to consult a doctor or physician before taking it. Health professionals will be able to recommend and prescribe the right dose, which can consider many factors including a patient’s overall health and the severity of the disease or symptoms. 

 

The best approach for osteoarthritis is usually applying a combination of CBD products to complement other forms of treatment, like medications. Nevertheless, always be sure to ask your doctor for advice and guidance before combining CBD hemp products with any medication, to avoid creating bad interactions or undesirable side effects. 

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