Among the top reasons why people use CBD are chronic pain, aching joints, and arthritis. These are all symptoms that affect people with ankylosing spondylitis. So, how can the cannabinoid benefit this debilitating disorder?
Here’s our complete guide to CBD oil for ankylosing spondylitis. We’ll discuss how it works and how to use it for maximum effect. But first, here’s a brief overview of the condition.
What Is Ankylosing Spondylitis?
Ankylosing spondylitis is a condition involving inflammation of the spine. It can also cause inflammation of the joints (arthritis) and the points where ligaments and tendons connect to bone (enthesitis).
Unlike many inflammatory conditions, ankylosing spondylitis tends to affect young people. It usually becomes evident during the teenage years or early adulthood. It is more common in men than in women.
Ankylosing Spondylitis Symptoms
The symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis can range from mild to disabling. Some patients experience back pain that comes and goes and may even improve over time. However, for others, the disease follows a more progressive course.
In severe cases, ankylosing spondylitis can cause permanent spinal damage.
As the body tries to compensate, it generates new bone, causing the vertebrae to fuse. This leads to a loss of flexibility and mobility, known as ankylosis. It can also affect the ribs and cause breathing problems.
Other ankylosing spondylitis symptoms include:
- Painful, swollen joints
- Pain in the buttock area
- Eye inflammation (iritis)
- Increased risk of osteoporosis
- Increased risk of cardiovascular disease
People with ankylosing spondylitis also frequently suffer from sleep disturbances. This is primarily due to pain and difficulty getting comfortable at night.
What Causes Ankylosing Spondylitis?
Ankylosing spondylitis is associated with changes in a gene known as HLA-B. It is responsible for regulating the production of proteins in the immune system.
The genetic variation HLA-B27 exists in around 90% of ankylosing spondylitis patients. However, not everyone with this variation develops the disease. Some scientists believe that environmental factors can trigger the condition’s onset in susceptible people.
Ankylosing Spondylitis Treatment (Not CBD)
Physical activity tends to relieve ankylosing spondylitis pain. Therefore, physical therapy and exercise are among the most effective treatments. Massage and daily stretching can also help.
Patients who need additional pain-relief may find the following medications beneficial:
- Traditional painkillers, including opioids
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
- Tumor necrosis factor (TNF) inhibitors
- Disease-modifying drugs
- Corticosteroid injections
The problem with most of these medicines is that they can cause unpleasant side effects, especially with long-term use. Therefore, many patients are wondering whether natural remedies like CBD can help ankylosing spondylitis.
Does CBD Help Ankylosing Spondylitis?
There is currently no research on CBD for ankylosing spondylitis, specifically. However, a study is in the pipeline. It aims to test the efficacy of cannabinoids for ankylosing spondylitis and rheumatoid arthritis.
As the prospective researchers explain, these are two systemic inflammatory conditions. And one of the most significant ways that cannabinoids work is by reducing inflammation. They do this by interacting with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS has a regulatory function over many of our physiological processes, including the inflammatory response.
Inflammation is the immune system’s way of dealing with injuries or infections, and, in acute situations, it is highly beneficial.
However, sometimes the immune system can become overactive and generate inflammation for no apparent reason. This leads to a variety of painful conditions, including ankylosing spondylitis. It appears that this is where cannabinoids like THC and CBD can help. They dampen immune system activity and reduce inflammation and pain.
THC exerts its effects by binding directly with cannabinoid receptors in the ECS. However, CBD works slightly differently. It seems to enhance the activity of the body’s natural cannabinoid compounds to produce healing without intoxication. CBD also affects several receptors outside the ECS, adding to its overall effectiveness.
So, while CBD will not cure ankylosing spondylitis, it could provide symptomatic relief.
Research on CBD Oil for Inflammation and Pain
Although there are no existing studies on ankylosing spondylitis and CBD, plenty of research has been conducted on inflammation and pain.
One such study appeared in the European Journal of Pain in 2016. Its authors investigated the effects of transdermal CBD on rats with inflammation due to arthritis. They massaged CBD gel into the rats’ skin for four days. At the end of this timeframe, the rats showed reductions in joint swelling and pain.
The study also showed that CBD reduced the activity of pro-inflammatory chemicals, including TNF-alpha. The authors concluded:
“…transdermal administration of CBD has long-lasting therapeutic effects without psychoactive side-effects. Thus, [the] use of topical CBD has potential as [an] effective treatment of arthritic symptomatology.”
A more recent 2019 study for Postgraduate Medicine found that CBD also benefits humans living with chronic pain. It included 97 participants with painful conditions who had been using opioids for at least one year.
After taking full-spectrum CBD hemp extract for eight weeks, 53% of the participants either reduced or stopped their opioid use. Moreover, an impressive 94% of the participants said that their quality of life had improved. One significant aspect of this was better sleep.
How to Use CBD for Ankylosing Spondylitis
There are many different CBD products, and choosing the best one for ankylosing spondylitis can be challenging. The primary consideration is whether to use CBD orally, by inhalation, or as a topical cream. Each option has pros and cons.
Oral CBD products include oils, capsules, and edibles. Consumers take them by mouth, and the cannabinoid passes through their digestive system into the bloodstream. The main advantage of this is that CBD can influence the whole body, making it ideal for systemic symptoms.
The downside of oral CBD consumption is that it has a low bioavailability rate. This means that much of the active ingredient is lost in the metabolization process.
According to a WHO report, the body can utilize as little as 6% of oral CBD products. That can lead to significant waste, especially considering the cost of high-quality CBD.
Inhalation offers a higher bioavailability rate. This consumption method includes vaping or smoking high-CBD hemp flower. Inhalation also provides almost instant effects, making it popular among those living with painful conditions.
The obvious disadvantage is that smoking is bad for the lungs. It is also pro-inflammatory and could exacerbate ankylosing spondylitis symptoms. Most experts consider vaping a safer option, but the long-term effects are still unclear.
Finally, topical creams and balms provide targeted relief in a specific area. They allow CBD to absorb through the skin rather than the digestive tract, making them popular among people with aches and pains. These products may also contain other anti-inflammatory ingredients to provide another level of relief.
The main drawback is that CBD topicals are only effective in a specific area. Therefore, they may not be the best for ankylosing spondylitis patients with pain in multiple joints. Of course, it is possible to apply these products to more than one area, but this can become expensive.
Full-Spectrum vs. CBD Isolate
A further consideration for anyone wishing to try CBD oil for ankylosing spondylitis is whether to choose full-spectrum CBD or an isolate. The former contains a range of cannabinoids and terpenes, while the latter contains almost pure CBD.
Many experts consider full-spectrum CBD products superior.
They believe that the various active compounds in cannabis and hemp work together synergistically. This phenomenon is widely known as the entourage effect.
Furthermore, other cannabinoids such as CBG and CBC have anti-inflammatory and painkilling effects. So do various terpenes. Therefore, full-spectrum CBD allows consumers to benefit from therapeutic properties beyond CBD alone.
However, full-spectrum products do contain trace levels of THC. Although it is not enough to cause intoxication, it may cause some people concern. In this case, CBD isolate may be the solution.
Another compromise is broad-spectrum CBD, which is essentially full-spectrum minus the THC. These products are more difficult to come by, but they are steadily becoming available from an increasing number of manufacturers.
When buying any kind of CBD for ankylosing spondylitis, choose a company that provides third-party lab reports. They tell potential customers precisely how much of each cannabinoid their products contain and indicate a reliable brand.
CBD Oil for Ankylosing Spondylitis: Final Thoughts
There is no research currently available on CBD oil for ankylosing spondylitis. However, there is evidence of its anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties. This could be enough to inspire those looking for natural alternatives to prescription painkillers to try it.
While CBD is safe for most people, we advise anyone trying it for the first time to consult a physician first. They will ensure that CBD is a suitable treatment, whether for ankylosing spondylitis or any other condition.