Do you know one in four people in the U.S. suffers from arthritis? The stats are equally staggering in the U.K. where more than 10 million people struggle with the debilitating condition.
Arthritis, or inflammation of the joints, is an autoimmune disease that is more common than we think. It can affect anyone from any race or sex at any age. It is a broad term that includes over a hundred types of joint disorders such as gout, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. etc. [More on it later]
Arthritis causes intense pain and discomfort and can greatly impact the day-to-day mobility of the patient. It leads to a vicious cycle of lethargic existence making the most basic routine tasks like getting out of bed, dressing up, combing hair, squatting, and walking a huge challenge.
Arthritis is typically managed with traditional pharmaceuticals such as anti-inflammatory drugs, opioids, steroids and DMARDs which, as you can guess, are not devoid of side effects, some of which can be serious such as shortness of breath, vision problems, and allergic skin reactions etc.
Yet, arthritis is an irreversible and lifelong condition that greatly hampers your quality of life. The question is; are pharmaceutical drugs failing us? Can alternative therapy such as CBD salvage the day and ebb away the intense pain that makes walking and doing chores a big challenge?
In this article we are going to discuss the most significant treatment options available nowadays as well as analyze whether cannabidiol (CBD) products can be a better or safer alternative for the patients.
However, we need to first understand arthritis and everything related to it.
How Common is Arthritis?
Arthritis can affect anyone – even children – but it is more common in women. A 2017 report by CDC’s Division of Population Health working on the Arthritis Program mentioned that women (26%) suffered from doctor-diagnosed arthritis more than men (19%).
Regarding the arthritis-induced mobility limitation, again women (44%) are affected more than men (38%) which means added cost-of-living in the form of care facilities for women. This translates into an undue socio-economic burden in an already gender-imbalanced society and gives rise to quick fixes like excessive opioid usage.
Also, women’s bodies are constantly fluctuating due to hormonal imbalances during menstrual cycles, pregnancy, breastfeeding, and menopause. According to research, this makes women more susceptible to autoimmune and musculoskeletal complications, for example, there is a 7:1 ratio of women suffering from fibromyalgia and twice as likely to be affected by rheumatoid arthritis than men. With Lupus, there is a nine times greater chance for a woman being vulnerable to the painful condition affecting all major organs of the body than a man.
As for the comparative difference between women’s and men’s pain perception, a 2003 study suggested that the drug dosage parameters indicate a stark variance among them. The researchers found that to control post-surgical pain, women needed 30% more morphine than men for effective pain management. This makes the dependence on prescribed opioids even more critical for women who are pregnant or breastfeed their babies.
Types of Arthritis
Among the innumerable types of arthritis, some of the most common ones are as follows:
Osteoarthritis is one of the most prevalent types of joint inflammation affecting a large part of the world population. It is mostly age- or stress-related deterioration of cartilage over the joints and affects feet, hips, knees, and spine mostly since these joints bear most of the bodyweight stress. The wear-and-tear of cartilage diminishes our body’s natural shock absorption capacity and creates painful friction around joints.
2. Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis is basically an autoimmune disease that gets triggered after an infection inflames the body’s joints. One in five people with rheumatoid arthritis develops lumps over their joint areas specifically jaws, hands, wrists, elbows, ankles, and heels. It is usually more severe than osteoarthritis and affects multiple joints simultaneously.
3. Psoriatic Arthritis
This arthritic condition develops from psoriasis which is a skin inflammation disease and about 10% to 30% of people with psoriasis fall victim to psoriatic arthritis. It can start from childhood into middle age in the form of discolored and swollen skin and joints, specifically in fingers, toes, and knees.
The main cause of gout is an excessive buildup of uric acid crystals in the joints with the intensity of a single attack persisting for days at length. Gout indicates a malfunction of kidneys not being able to deal with the excessive uric acid produced by the body. It could also be due to an unhealthy, fatty, and high-protein diet.
Lupus is also an autoimmune disease triggered by an infection inflaming not just the joints but the whole body. It is more common in women than men and usually reveals itself during the childbearing age (15-44). Lupus is a very invasive condition affecting any number of organs from joints to white blood cells, manifesting itself as rashes, headaches, mouth sores, hair loss, chest pains, and fatigue.
Fibromyalgia is an inflammation of muscles, ligaments, and tendons around bones and causes sharp pain in the body. This increases the body’s general sensitivity to pain and makes it difficult to relax the body by interfering with the sleep cycle and mental functions like concentration and memory. Fibromyalgia is 7 times more common in women than men and gets triggered by both physical and emotional trauma like giving birth, going through a breakup, or the loss of a loved one.
Am I at Risk for Arthritis?
You need to be watchful of certain lifestyle choices and behaviors to assess what risk factors you are vulnerable to, which ones you may avoid by changing such behavior, and which ones you just cannot but need to be careful about. To make informed choices, look at the table below:
Risk Factors of Arthritis Development
|Hazardous job environments|
Keeping a balanced diet, an active lifestyle, a physically safe environment, and taking your doctor’s advice in case of a joint-related injury can greatly help you steer clear of arthritis development. As for genetic susceptibility and aging body, one can only plan to manage the havoc created by arthritis in a resilient manner.
Traditional Therapy for Arthritis – A Blessing or a Curse?
Over the last few decades, we have seen what havoc the opioid crisis has created in the lives of patients suffering from immense pain due to arthritis. At best, these painkillers provide short-term relief from the agony, but the downside makes one dependent on them by gradually increasing the dosage. This gives rise to an addictive pattern of self-medication, where the efficacy of the drug goes down the longer you take it for pain management. According to the National Survey of Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) research, more than two million Americans who take prescribed painkillers are prone to substance disorder every year.
Other routes within the traditional therapy include slowing down treatments for the deterioration of joints like surgery and physiotherapy, but no surefire way to cure or control the condition completely.
The added dependency on tranquilizing opioids has a huge impact on the quality of life and self-esteem of the patient since the pain does not let the body survive in a normal productive mode.
So what is the effective way out of this numbing survival?
Is CBD the Answer to Arthritis Woes?
To cope with an arthritis-attributable disability, pain, costs, and diminishing quality of life, alternative medicines like CBD renew hope in millions.
A CBD is basically cannabis plant-based oil which is naturally therapeutic and has been in use for centuries. Interestingly, the first recorded medical use of CBD dates back to 2727 BC during the reign of Chinese emperor Sheng Neng who used it for multiple diseases including gout!
Instead of submitting to chronic pain as a bitter reality of life for arthritic patients, CBD products have given them an effective alternative for pain management. In fact, CBD helps greatly with the peripheral conditions originating from arthritis like anxiety, insomnia, mood swings, depression, fatigue, and lack of motivation to go on in life.
The best feature, according to the World Health Organization’s 2018 Cannabidiol Critical Review, is zero case reports of abuse or dependence potential of pure CBD products. The medicinal properties of CBD sometimes get eclipsed by the oft-confused THC which is the psychoactive component of the cannabis plant. But CBD itself has 0% THC therefore does not induce the notorious ‘high’ associated with the plant. In fact, CBD is known for its calming and pain relief properties especially for chronic conditions like arthritis.
The Wide Variety of CBD products Brings Hope to Millions
After the prolonged prohibition during much of the twentieth century under the Federal laws in the US, medical trials in the effective pain management properties of CBD and hemp have given rise to a booming pharmaceutical CBD industry. Since more and more states are now legalizing CBD and hemp, further research has given rise to a diverse range of consumer products specifically targeted at safe and beneficial therapeutic applications for arthritis.
The following table can help you decide which CBD products can work best with the intensity and frequency of chronic pain you suffer from, along with helpful potency to guide you better.
|Freeze Roll-On||500 and 1500||· The user-friendly roll-on design helps to carry the CBD gel anywhere, especially while traveling for long hours.
· It provides instant relief for soreness and muscle stiffness caused by musculoskeletal inflammation.
· The cooling effects of added ingredients like menthol, peppermint, or camphor can help soothe redness in skin rashes as well as swollen tissues.
|Pain Cream||500||· The topical cream works wonders for aching muscles, joint pain, injury-induced discomfort, and neck or backaches.
· Best for massaging in circular motions on the target area with hands.
|Soft Gels||1500||· These orally administered CBD capsules help interact with the body’s natural endocannabinoid system to alleviate pain perception and reduces inflammation.
· Helps with insomnia, anxiety, and other peripheral conditions of arthritis.
|Full Spectrum Tincture||500 and 1000||· This is among the purest CBD products and is completely vegan and gluten-free.
· The full spectrum tincture provides an ‘entourage effect’ modulating the best of overall psychoactive effects of the cannabis plant without causing any hallucinations.
· It has versatile usability and can be effectively used in cooking, massaging, or taken orally for relaxation, sleep regularity, and anxiety-reduction.
|Body Lotion||500||· Best for daily topical use for skin conditions like eczema, rashes, and inflammation of tissues.
· It is also effective against aging signs like wrinkles and discoloration.
· Excellent for deep tissue massage for quick absorption and healing properties without leaving any residue.
To Sum it Up
CBD has been consistently effective in providing pre-clinical evidence for many medical conditions where it has proved its neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety, anti-epileptic, hypoxia-ischemia, anxiolytic, antipsychotic, analgesic, anti-asthmatic, and anti-tumor properties. No wonder, soon it would be hailed as a ‘wonder drug’ with no potential for abuse and/or dependency unlike most of the prescribed opioids.
You can find enough demonstrable evidence on how ‘miraculous’ CBD has been with chronic pain management specifically arthritis-related pain. Although it still awaits the US Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) approval, there are several books, documentaries, blogs, research studies, and personal experiences shared by practitioners and satisfied users alike who swear by the therapeutic properties of CBD.
Still, it is always recommended to discuss any new treatment plan with your physician to assess any individual vulnerability, potential drug cross-over, or physiological flare-up. Before deciding which CBD product can help you best with your particular condition, you need to educate yourself on your particular pain type, frequency, intensity, and potency requirement to better strategize in the long run. Since CBD interacts with the body’s natural endocannabinoid system, it may work differently for different people depending upon their drug sensitivity and pain perception.
What’s even better is the sheer variety of consumer products available be it CBD oil, powder, creams, gels, capsules, or oral sprays to be applied topically or taken orally for different types of arthritis conditions. There is even an entire range of beauty products now available for climate-conscious consumers for its ‘green’ sourcing. With the risks now tilting towards traditional pain management therapies, CBD comes out as a natural and safe alternative with no long-term side effects. So what are you waiting for?
Author: Saira Zulfiqar
Author Bio: Saira is a pharmacist and a CBD-enthusiast who works full time as CBD | addiction | drug expert. She has authored multiple e-books on health and wellness. In her free time, Saira likes to read, bake and travel.