What is arthritis?

The term ‘arthritis’ literally means inflammation of the joints, and it is the main cause of disability in those over fifty-five years of age in the industrialized west.  The word arthritis does not just refer a single condition, however, but is an umbrella term covering more than 100 illnesses in which the musculoskeletal system is affected.  The most well known of these illnesses, and indeed the most common, is osteoarthritis, which is a natural consequence of aging.  Other forms of arthritic condition, such as rheumatoid arthritis, can affect people at any age.  I suffer from two forms of arthritis: something called Behcet’s Disease, which is quite rare, and spondylitis, which is very common. These illnesses have fueled my interest in marijuana as a medication.

What are the symptoms of arthritis?

The symptoms of arthritis depend on which type of the condition you have but varying degrees of pain are common to all types of the disease. Other common symptoms include fever, fatigue, eye problems and blindness.

Common Arthritis Medications

Some of the medications used to treat arthritis are not only ineffective, they are dangerous too.

First off we have NSAIDs, a group of pain killers; their full name is non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.  These drugs reduce inflammation as well as pain levels; however, although they don’t contain steroids, which are commonly used for severe arthritis, they are so acidic that they can cause stomach ulceration if taken over long periods of time.  Some common NSAIDs are: Voltaren (diclofenac); Arthrotec (diclofenac/misoprostol); Advil (ibuprofen); and Naprosyn (Naproxen).  All of these drugs are classified as gastrointestinal-toxins.

Next we have DMARDs, short for disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs, which apart from steroids are the medical industry’s ‘big guys’ in the fight against arthritis.  DMARDs  do not relieve pain or fever but, over a fairly long period of time (up to 8 months), slow down the progress of arthritic disease. They can have serious side effects, up to and including death.  One of the most common DMARDs is methotrexate, which is the one I take.  It can cause: mouth sores; rash; diarrhea; blood count abnormalities; cirrhosis of liver; persistent cough; shortness of breath; hair loss; sensitivity to the sun.  Methotrexate (Rheumatrex), along with cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan) and azathioprine (Imuran), is a cytoxin; that is, it kills cells – good ones as well as bad.

Cannabis for Arthritis

Marijuana has been used for the treatment of musculo-skeletal pain, such as that experienced by arthritis sufferers, since the 18th century.  More recently evidence from recent research suggests that cannabis-based therapies are effective in the treatment of arthritis and the other rheumatic and degenerative hip, joint and connective tissue disorders. Not only is marijuana an effective painkiller though, it has also been shown to have powerful effects on the immune system and to be anti-inflammatory.  That is, you get two for the price of one – cannabis used medicinally would eliminate the need for both the DMARD and the NSAID, without the unwanted side effects that those two groups of drugs have.

Cannabis also reduces intra-ocular pressure, that is, pressure within the eyeball.  This means that not only is marijuana useful for the pain, inflammation, dodgy immune system, and nausea that go hand-in-hand with arthritis, it can help with the eye problems too.

Even if you find that you have to take the prescribed pharmaceuticals, it is an unpleasant fact that they can make you feel extremely nauseous.  Cannabis is a powerful anti-emetic, so even if it is not the only medication you use to control your arthritis, it is a useful adjunct.

Read more about medical marijuana and arthritis in this brochure from Americans for Safe Access.

Find out if it is legal to use medical marijuana for your condition where you live

Learn how to get a medical marijuana card in legal states


Author Dianne Morgan

More posts by Dianne Morgan

Join the discussion 17 Comments

  • Rico says:

    …so, at sixty, waking up sore as heck…my hands right now are killing me…I should get off NSAIDS and start smoking? Let me know. I live in Jamaica!!! The best is there. How much should I smoke a day? Let me know. Everybody smokes here and weed is easily available.

  • Stacy says:

    I was diagnosed with rheumitoid arthritis at 23yrs old.

    I have only “suffered” from my condition during extended periods of marijuana-lessness. I had recently been on a “base-line” pain management regimen of Morphine Sulfate for nearly three years. At times I would get additional prescriptions of vicodin for “break-thru” pain. It was all too tempting to over-medicate and improperly use these legally prescribed drugs.

    Not only does the marijuana help with the physical pain, up to and including the barely-able-to-move pain, but it allowed me and helped me to change the way I felt about the affliction and how I dealt with the mental aspects of long term pain endurance.

    Due to the self medication with marijuana (and ceasing the Morphine Sulfate, the hellish withdrawal alleviated by marijuana, ativan and immodium) I feel better at nearly 43 than I have in 12 years. I have been able to take up walking, swimming and other forms of movement that I could not begin to undertake previously.
    It is barbaric to deny this treatment to anyone who might improve their quality of life with it.

  • Rajan says:

    Arthritis Treatment Overview

    We use this title because not all arthritis treatment is, shall we say, enjoyable. If you suffer from the painful effects of this debilitating condition though, very little can seem worse. The pain is often so severe that the simplest movements can cause anguish and even tears. But, there are treatments to help arthritis.

    Can they cure it? That is still to be seen, but many have shown to be effective in fighting off the pain. First, there are many different types of arthritis. The causes of each will help to determine the treatment. But, here, we will talk mainly of the treatment options available and then those that are quite possibly the best at treating rheumatoid arthritis.

    The symptoms of any arthritis start with pain. There is pain in the joints in a way that limits the amount of movement a person has. Now, remember, as well, that arthritis can strike any individual, not necessarily just older people. So, if a child stops using a limb complaining of pain, a doctor should be seen. On top of this, if symptoms of pain are accompanied with fever a doctor should be seen immediately as this can be a sign of a deadlier arthritis known as septic arthritis. In all cases, arthritis is an inflammation in the joints. The problem in rheumatoid arthritis is that, in trying to deal with the inflammation, the immune system ends up attacking the cartilage in the joints. The end result is pain and lessened use of the effected joint.

    In order to stop this process, arthritis treatments can be anything from surgery to medications. There are some good notes about medications, but in the end, they can not resolve the entire problem, only mask the pain for a while. Surgery is invasive and costly. Physical treatment is available and has shown good progress in helping some patients. There are also herbal remedies that have shown good signs of helping as well. There is one product that we would like to mention in a little more detail. What is so unique about this product, though, is that it is a natural treatment that can be taken.

    In the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis in particular, collagen type II can be just as good as a cure to some individuals. This natural substance is actually a main component of cartilage itself. But, no injections are needed because this is an oral treatment. You will take a pill, in other words. There are many reasons why this medication works including the fact that it has an absorption rate of 70 to 90 percent. This means more of it is used and fewer doses are needed. There are other reasons why it works so well.

    For instance, the immune system has a component of cells in the intestine called the GALT. This is where proteins are recognized as food or “friend” and therefore not treated as allergies or sensitivities by the digestive system. When collagen type II is ingested, the GALT recognizes this amino acid as a friendly protein. This action switches off the immune system’s attack on collagen elsewhere in the body as in arthritic joints. Instead of the immune system fighting the inflammation and destroying the remaining good material, the Galt simply tells it to stop. And, probably the most important aspect of this natural arthritis treatment is that it can also help to rebuild the damaged and destroyed cartilage. The combination of these two factors can help to restore a normal way of life.

    For more information visit: http://www.jointadvance.com/?aid=354941

  • 420ugminer says:

    I have been an underground miner for almost 7yrs now. Recently I hurt my back at work and was rushed to the hospital.

    They said that I ripped tendons in my lower back and should heal within a couple of months. I had a similar accident almost a year ago and thought I was all healed up. I started to have chest pains like a heart attack. After an ekg, chest x rays and blood tests, the results came back that I have rhuematoid disease. So off to a rhuematoligist I went. After more tests the verdict came back that I have Ankylosing Spondalitis.

    I can’t go back to my life anymore due to high impact job. I have been using marijuana to relieve my pain and suffering for months now. I am tired of feeling like a criminal for self medicating myself (I live in idaho). It is dumb that doctors have no problem giving me a huge bottle of heroin and im the criminal. Is that what we are teaching our children, that heroin is less harmful than marijauna. We need to open our eyes and mind and do what is right. Legalize it in all states and every card is valid in every state.

  • Vangy says:

    Eating Cannabis in baked goods at bedtime helps me with Ankylosing Spondylitis. It helps me with sleeping, overactive bladder, constipation, pain and stiffness (especially when I wake up) and keeps my asthma attacks to a minimum. I am very grateful that I found out about this wonderful plant and stopped believing all the negative hype about it.

  • magnus says:

    i have been smoking marijuana illegal for 5 years.

    i quitted a year ago i have rheumatoid arthritis . back then i dident even cear for my disease i was happy and had almost no pain sometime nothing at all i forgot i had a sickness .

    i didn’t know about medical marijuana for people with rheumatoid arthritis but affter quiting using the marijuana i feelt strong pain lack of mod etc. i pray for marijuana to become leagal to the world affter seeing how good this drug is for people like me

  • Jo says:

    I have suffered from osteo and rheumatoid arthritis for a very long time. I am 36 years old and have suffered for years.

    I have tried taking pills and smoking pot to relieve my pain and I will say the pot helps out a lot better. The mornings are very hard for me because of the morning stiffness when I took pills it would take at least 5 hours to move without grimacing. Smoking though is different it takes me about 15 minutes or less to get moving and without grimacing.

    I work and have a husband and children to take care of. When I hurt I can not do that. There are times I will not smoke for weeks or month or two because of the whole not legal thing but the pain becomes too much to handle. Alcohol has caused so much pain for family memebers who are alcoholics or may have lost a family due to drunk driving or a drunk driver I have.

    How can they legalize that when it has killed. Pot has not killed and when someone has done someting stupid while high they werent just smoking pot but taking a stronger drug. I prefer not to drink, I do not like the feeling alcohol gives me then if you drink to much you gotta deal with a hangover its a lose lose situation.

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  • Isom Pope says:

    As a medical marijuana patient with leukemia, congestive heart failure, coronary artery disease, degenerative disc disease, and orthopedic arthritis, I would answer yes to all the above questions. I am dying and my medical team knows that marijuana relieves so many symptoms that it actually lessens the dosages of pain killers I have to take. Smoke it, vaporize it, eat it, no matter, just get it in your system. It will help.

  • will says:

    are you relating to the spray form ? and is it available in the u.k?

  • Dave says:

    I don’t smoke either,the best alternative to smoking is to buy a Vaporiser,it means you inhale vapour instead of smoke,it also means you don’t have to mix with tobacco.the best Vaporiser is the volcano,although there is a very cheap alternative called the iolite,it is also portable,you can buy either on ebay,be careful there are a load of crap Vaporisers around!
    be careful with anti inflammatory medication,they destroy your stomach!
    you can also make cannabutter(Google it),& cook with it!

  • arielle Scheiningerr says:

    I have spondylosis and my back and legs are very painful and keep me from sleeping. Will medical marijana help me and since I don’t smoke, how much would I take and how would I ingest it?

  • Dave says:

    I have Ankylosing Spondylitis too! After years of Anti inflammatory drugs my stomach & bowels are in pieces,I am going to invest in a Vaporiser & see how I get on!I need relief from pain whether it is legal or not!

  • Andy Murray says:

    It is very difficult to take the pills, vicodin in this case we are gaining control of our body, we must remain very careful and not fall and hang on to drugs, always remember to look at this couple and for our future. I read findrxonline certainly are very addictive and so we need to know control.

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