Joint pain is an exceedingly prevalent condition and is often associated with arthritis. In the United States alone, an estimated 54 million people have arthritis, a figure that comprises 23% of the adult population. Approximately 15 million arthritis patients report severe joint pain relating to the condition. Also, up to half of arthritis patients experience persistent pain.
As always, the first treatment option is painkilling medication, which often includes dangerous and potentially addictive opioids. Given the opioid epidemic in America, it is crucial that we uncover an alternative means of treating joint pain and similar conditions. In this article, we look at the possible efficacy of marijuana for this purpose and outline five of the best strains for the job.
What Is Joint Pain?
Your joints are where your bones meet in the body and allow the bones to move. They include the shoulder, knee, elbow, and hip joints.
Joint pain relates to the pain/discomfort you feel in any of your body’s joints.
While it is a common complaint that usually doesn’t require a trip to the hospital, it could also arise due to an injury or medical condition such as arthritis, osteoarthritis (OA), or rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Causes and Symptoms of Joint Pain
One of the most common causes of joint pain is arthritis, mainly RA and OA. Other causes include:
- A bone or joint infection
- Infectious diseases such as influenza or mumps
Less severe symptoms of joint pain include:
- Redness or tenderness around the joint, or if the area is sore to the touch
- Pain lasting for more than three days
- Fever with no other signs of the flu
In the above instances, it is best if you see a doctor. However, if you experience one of the following symptoms, medical experts recommend going to the hospital:
- Pain after a severe injury
- Sudden swelling of the joint
- Severe joint pain
- The joint has become immobile
- The joint appears deformed
If you suspect joint pain after suffering from one of the above symptoms, it is necessary to book a doctor’s appointment so the physician can perform a physical exam. They will ask a list of questions about your pain to narrow down possible causes. The doctor may also call for a joint X-ray to see if the issue is caused by arthritis-related damage.
If the physician suspects a different cause, they might ask for a blood test to screen potential autoimmune disorders.
Conventional Medical Treatments for Joint Pain
If you have osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis and suffer from joint pain as a result, there is no treatment available to eliminate the joint pain of either chronic condition. You can manage the pain in the following ways:
- Staying physically active by performing regular moderate exercise
- Keeping your weight in check to reduce the stress on your joints
- Stretching before exercise to maintain a good range of motion in the joints
- NSAIDs or topical pain relievers to reduce swelling, pain, and inflammation.
- Applying an ice pack or frozen peas to the affected area for 15-20 minutes a few times daily
- Applying a heating pad or take a warm shower/bath to increase circulation and relax the muscles.
You can try using OTC drugs such as Aleve, Advil, Tylenol, and aspirin; or prescription medication such as codeine, hydrocodone, and oxycodone.
The risks associated with opioid painkillers are well known, so be wary when taking them.
In some cases, your doctor may inject the affected area with a steroid to provide relief.
Ultimately, working with a physical therapist is one of the best options as they can help you strengthen your muscles naturally. One further joint pain treatment option is medical marijuana.
Medical Marijuana and Joint Pain
To date, research into medical marijuana’s effects on joint pain typically relates to patients with arthritis. As you know, arthritis is caused by inflammation of the joint tissue, and weed is championed as an excellent anti-inflammatory agent. Researchers have noted that arthritis patients tend to have very high levels of CB1 receptors. Therefore, the cannabinoids in marijuana may trigger the activation of these receptors to reduce pain and inflammation.
A 2017 study by Miller and Miller, published in Clinical and Experimental Rheumatology, asked the question: “Is cannabis an effective treatment for joint pain?” The researchers looked at the existing evidence and concluded that “the use of cannabis should be taken seriously as a potential treatment of joint pain.” The study also noted that joint pain was the single biggest medical request for the use of weed.
A study by O’Brien and McDougall, published in the June 2018 edition of Current Opinion in Pharmacology, looked for scientific evidence of the efficacy of cannabinoids in the reduction of osteoarthritis pain. According to the research, the cannabinoids in medical marijuana helped to reduce specific types of inflammation that contribute to symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Meanwhile, a study by Lowin et al., published in the May 2019 edition of Current Opinion in Rheumatology, looked at marijuana in the treatment of RA. Although the researchers urged caution and recommended further study, the report suggested that the cannabinoids in cannabis could be a suitable treatment for RA.
At the 2019 Annual European Congress of Rheumatology in Spain, researchers asked a series of questions to just over 1,000 patients with arthritis. Overall, 37% of respondents admitted using medical marijuana, while 52% said they used CBD. Of those who used cannabis, an incredible 97% said it helped their symptoms. Among the CBD users, 93% said it was effective.
Although research is ongoing, positive anecdotal accounts mean that a myriad of joint pain sufferers is flocking towards medical marijuana as a potential treatment option. Let’s take a look at five of the best strains.
5 Best Marijuana Strains for Joint Pain
1 – Cannatonic
This is one of the most famous medical marijuana strains in the world. It is classified as a balanced hybrid and is a cross of G13 Haze and MK Ultra. It is a relatively unique strain insofar as it contains reasonable levels of THC and CBD. Generally, Cannatonic has up to 12% CBD against 7-15% THC.
As there is enough CBD to counteract the psychoactive effects of the THC, the high you experience with Cannatonic is on the mild side. Admittedly, the experience doesn’t last as long as with more potent strains, but you’ll enjoy every minute of it. Users report feeling optimistic and happy, as elation and euphoria take the place of anxiety.
The combination of THC and CBD makes Cannatonic a great healing strain; at least according to its legion of fans. It is widely recommended for the treatment of migraines, muscle spasms, and of course, joint pain. Advocates suggest that this strain significantly reduces inflammation and helps you complete your daily tasks without feeling the need to sit down.
2 – Gorilla Glue #4
Better known as GG#4, this strain is a multi-award winner, including the High Times Jamaican World Cup. It is another balanced hybrid that’s a cross of Sour Dubb, Chem’s Sister, and Chocolate Diesel. Unlike Cannatonic, GG4 is extremely potent with a THC content of 25%+, and minimal CBD.
As a consequence, it is NOT a strain for beginners. Gorilla Glue #4 is known for its sticky buds which become glued to your fingers. Another reason for the strain’s name is its propensity to keep you glued to the couch. It begins with a dense cerebral high, followed by intense body relaxation.
Its extreme potency means you can use it to handle a variety of ailments. As far as joint pain is concerned, it helps relax the body to the point where you find it difficult to feel anything, let alone the pain in your joints. Once you use enough Gorilla Glue #4, you will find it hard to stay awake; a real boon for anyone who struggles to sleep due to their intense pain.
3 – Harmonia
This is an indica-dominant hybrid with moderate levels of THC and CBD, yet it is heralded as an effective method of treating joint pain. Harmonia is a cross of Sweet Tooth, Juicy Fruit, LA Confidential, and Pure Kush. It was bred by The Farm and was initially called Gumpi. Its THC content is 6% while its CBD level is 11%.
You may feel a tad disappointed after the first toke or two because there appears to be no effect. However, you will feel a slight pressure in the temples after a while as a subtle euphoric sensation takes hold. Within an hour or so, the high gradually makes its way down the body and soothes your muscles.
While you won’t experience a potent psychoactive high, you’ll be surprised at how effective Harmonia is when treating joint pain. The body buzz will give you a feeling of tranquility as the strain works to reduce inflammation. As a bonus, you may find that Harmonia helps quell any anxious feelings you have.
4 – Harlequin
This is a legendary healing strain and is arguably the ‘go-to’ option for anyone seeking medical marijuana that doesn’t induce a severe psychoactive effect. It is a sativa-dominant hybrid that’s a cross of Thai and Swiss Sativas, a Nepali Indica, and Colombian Gold. With a CBD content of up to 15% against a THC level of 7-15%, Harlequin won’t send your mind into the stratosphere, but it could make you feel a whole lot better.
Harlequin, known for its relaxing properties, potentially enables your mind to feel calm. Users report a sudden feeling of happiness. Best of all, this strain provides you with energy so you can use it early in the day, and spend the afternoon in a blanket of bliss. It is an excellent social strain, and may also increase your creativity and productivity levels.
The extremely high CBD level in Harlequin ensures it remains a favorite in the medical marijuana community. As well as treating migraines, headaches, and muscle spasms, it is widely used by individuals with joint pain. Harlequin is a potent anti-inflammatory agent, which helps explain its positive effect on joint pain. It is also a reliable option if you have depression and need a ‘pick me up.’
5 – Anesthesia
The effects of this strain are clear in the name! Anesthesia was created by a breeder named Whazzup and is an indica-dominant hybrid. It is a cross of Afghani Skunk and Herojuana and is often classified as one of the best pain-relieving strains on the market. Anesthesia contains up to 22% THC and around 1.9% CBD.
Once you use Anesthesia, get ready for a fast-acting high that offers sedative effects. It is an excellent option at the end of a long day at work when your joints are acting up. We don’t recommend using it during the morning or afternoon; unless, of course, you want to go to bed early!
As Anesthesia helps to numb the entire body, joint pain patients will enjoy the sensation. This strain helps treat cramps, muscle spasms, chronic pain, and even migraines. We recommend having a few snacks to hand because Anesthesia brings on a severe case of the munchies, and the last thing you want is to have to get up while you’re almost zonked out!
Final Thoughts on Marijuana for Joint Pain
If you live with joint pain, it is challenging to enjoy life as every waking moment is marked with crippling pain. While there are painkillers on the market, they are often addictive and do little to treat the underlying cause.
Research into marijuana’s effects on joint pain is ongoing, but the existing literature suggests the herb can potentially help.
Indeed, hundreds of thousands of arthritis patients in need of a non-opioid painkiller aren’t waiting for more studies! At present, joint pain is one of the main reasons why Americans use medical cannabis. Check out the five strains above to see if one (or more) of them can provide the pain relief you are so desperately seeking.