According to recent research from the Arthritis Research UK Pain Centre, synthetic chemical compounds similar to those found in cannabis have the potential to reduce both the pain and joint inflammation seen in osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis affects eight million people in the UK. The cartilage at the ends of bones wears away, causing joint pain and stiffness, and is a major cause of pain and disability.
Current treatment is limited to pain relief, exercise, physiotherapy and joint replacement. There are no drugs or therapies that slow its progression. Clearly, more effective treatment is urgently needed.
Cannabis contains a number of natural chemicals called cannabinoids, to which our brain responds in various ways. Cannabis and synthetically manufactured cannabinoid compounds have previously been shown to relieve pain in animal models of arthritis, but so far their use has been limited because of undesirable psychological side effects.
This new study shows that selectively targeting one of the molecules involved in the body's natural pain-sensing pathways can reduce pain in animal models of osteoarthritis, partly through actions in the spinal cord and brain. The compound used in this study is a synthetic cannabinoid molecule manufactured in a laboratory, not derived naturally from the cannabis plant.
Interestingly, this study showed for the first time that the amount of receptors for this synthetic molecule in the spinal cord was directly related to osteoarthritis severity, which means this drug target may have significant clinical relevance to osteoarthritis pain.
Cannabinoids are known to have anti-inflammatory effects. Indeed, this study shows that the synthetic molecule reduces inflammation in osteoarthritis. Thus, drugs targeted to this molecule’s receptor may have a dual beneficial effect for people with osteoarthritis by providing pain relief as well as reducing joint inflammation.
These findings are significant, as spinal and brain pain-signaling pathways are known to make a major contribution to pain associated with osteoarthritis.
Millions of people live daily with the severe pain caused by osteoarthritis, and better pain relief is urgently needed. This research suggests that there is potential to develop a synthetic drug to relieve both pain and inflammation in this condition by mimicking the behavior of cannabinoid receptors and without causing serious side effects.
If you regularly suffer from debilitating joint pain and inflammation, there are also natural supplements formulated with many powerful, proven pain and inflammation fighting ingredients to help improve joint flexibility and movement.