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What is Arthritis?

Contrary to widespread belief, arthritis is not a single disease. the term is used colloquially to describe more than one hundred conditions that cause pain, swelling or stuffness of the joints.

Joints are complex mechanisms made up of bones, muscles, tendons, cartillage, synovial fluid and the encompassing synoviuum capsule. Arthritic conditions can affect one or a combination of these components and make life difficult for those suffering from its malaise.

Symptoms can vary from week to week, or even day to day. They can be exacerbated by certain foods as well as environmental factors.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for these chronic conditions, however it is possible to effectively manage arthritic conditions through lifestyle changes and medication. Successful management of these arthritic conditions is therefore crucial for enhancing patients’ quality of lfie and overall wellbeing.

The most common types of arthritis in New Zealand and what causes them.

While there are over a hundred different joint conditions, described by the term “arthritis,” there are a few common types. According to the CDC there are six common types of arthritis.

These include osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, hout, fibromyalgia, lupus and childhood arthritis. it is often difficult to diagnose what has caused any specific arthritic condition however there are several factors that can increase the risk of each type of arthritis.

These include genetics, autoimmune diseases, obesity or deterioration of the surrounding muscle or other joint component.
What is Osteo-arthritis?
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease. Often referred to as “wear and tear,” it is generally observed in older populations and is the most common arthritic type globally. Women over fifty are most at risk, race, genetics and body mass can however play an influential role in a patient’s predisposition to this condition. Osteoarthritis is most common in the back, knees, hips and fingers. Symptoms will often get worse towards the end of the day.

Simply put, osteoarthritis is caused by inflammation of the joint. According to the Mayo Clinic osteoarthritis is caused by the gradual deterioration of the cartilage surrounding a joint. This leaves the bones unprotected and unable to glide smoothly, which causes them to rub against each other. As a result of this, inflammation and changes to the bones occur and they may lose their shape, thicken at the ends or even develop painful bony spurs. If not managed correctly osteoarthritis can be extremely painful, leading to a significant loss of mobility and autonomy for those suffering from this disease.
What is Gout Arthritis?
Gout arthritis, commonly referred to as gout, is caused by hyperuricemia – a condition brought on when there is too much uric acid present within the blood. The excess uric acid leads to urate crystals to accumulate around the joint leading to intense pain. It can affect anyone and is characterised by sudden attacks of severe pain, inflammation and redness in one or more joints. Usually first observed in the big toe, it can spread to other joints such as the knee, elbow, fingers and wrist if left untreated. Damage to the kidneys will also occur without proper medical treatment.

Most observed in men, gout has been historically referred to as the “king’s disease”, because of the influential role that diet plays. Foods with elevated levels of purine such as red meat and shellfish, as well as those with high levels of fructose and alcohol, can lead to excessive amounts of uric acid within the body. Weight and genetics, certain medications and medical conditions can also be mitigating factors.
What is Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation, pain and swelling in the joints. It is a debilitating condition where the body’s immune system attacks its own tissue, namely the synovium, attacking multiple joints at once. In severe cases, Rheumatoid arthritis can also attack other organs in the body such as the eyes, heart and lungs.

The synovium produces synovial fluid which allows joints to glide smoothly and function properly. When this system does not function properly inflammation, pain and swelling will occur around the joints. Symptoms can vary greatly and become exacerbated by certain foods or environmental factors. In general, patients may experience aching, stiffness, pain, and inflammation in multiple joints. It is common for joints on both sides of the body to be affected at the same time. Those suffering from rheumatoid arthritis may also experience fatigue, weight loss, weakness, and fatigue.

The specific causes of the autoimmune response which causes rheumatoid arthritis are unknown, however certain factors may increase a person’s risk of developing it. These include age, gender, genetics, smoking, obesity, and history of live births in women. The risk increases as you age, and women are found to be more susceptible to this disease.
How prevalent is it?
Arthritis affects more than 350 million globally, with 1 in 4 people in the US suffering from one of its many conditions. According to Arthritis NZ, arthritis affects more than 670,000 New Zealanders, with osteoarthritis affecting up to 10% of the population. It is the leading cause of disability in the country and can affect people of all ages and it is most pervasive in those over 40.

Despite being the second most generic form of arthritis in New Zealand, gout is more prevalent in New Zealand than anywhere else in the world. Due to genetic factors, Māori and Pacific Islanders are more likely to suffer from this disease.

Rheumatoid arthritis affects about 40,000 people in New Zealand and is more commonly observed in women than men. Anyone may be at risk; however, it often develops between the ages of 25 and 50.

What the research shows about Arthritis

Globally there is a long history of anecdotal evidence which shows that medicinal cannabis is beneficial in alleviating symptoms of arthritis. There have also been numerous scientific and clinical studies which show promising evidence for using medicinal cannabis to treat arthritic pain.

A recent study conducted by The Imperial College of London confirmed that CBD can alleviate symptoms of arthritis such as inflammation and pain. A 2020 article published in the Harvard Medical School Journal also discusses how CBD may be effective in treating arthritic symptoms stating there is “substantial evidence that cannabis is an effective treatment for chronic pain in adults.” This should come as no surprise, as CBD has been shown to be effective in managing chronic pain and inflammation. See our section on “Arthritis” for further reading.

The Arthritis Society is another leading advocate for research into the use of cannabis for medical purposes. The question now should be how medicinal cannabis can supplement your specific arthritis treatment programme.

Talk to CannaPlus+ today

At CannaPlus+, we’re committed to bringing the highest level of medical care to provide comprehensive treatment plans, with patient care at the centre of every action we take.

Medicinal Cannabis may be an alternative or adjunct medication for managing some ailments.

In the first instance, it’s important to research what the alternatives are and to talk to a health care professional. 

How CannaPlus+ can help – if you would like to book a consultation with one of our Doctors to see if Medicinal Cannabis may be appropriate for you. Our dedicated team of doctors will see if you are eligible for a script and create your plan in based on your health goals. Click here to find out more and book a consultation.