Bursitis is a common condition but can cannabis offer any relief? We take a look at the research and whether it might be an effective remedy. Research shows cannabis may help reduce bursitis symptoms such as pain and inflammation, but no clinical research has been published yet
Cannabis for Bursitis Relief [How Does It Work?]
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More and more people are using cannabis and CBD to relieve painful, inflammatory conditions like bursitis. But how do these products work, and are they as effective as some people claim?
Here’s all you need to know about cannabis for bursitis, including how to use it for optimal relief.
What Is Bursitis?
Bursitis is an inflammatory condition that affects a small, fluid-filled sac known as the bursa. The bursa acts as a cushion for bones, muscles, and tendons, protecting them from pressure and friction as they move.
The bursa can become inflamed when under continual stress, for example, as a result of repetitive motions. This inflammation leads to a variety of uncomfortable symptoms in the area.
The primary symptoms of bursitis are pain and swelling around the muscles and bones. These symptoms usually occur close to joints, and are most common in the:
Bursitis usually only occurs in one joint at a time. However, in some cases, it may affect multiple joints.
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What Causes Bursitis?
As we mentioned, bursitis occurs when the bursa becomes inflamed due to repetitive movements or prolonged pressure. Therefore, it is most common in people who have occupations or hobbies that involve repeated motions, like athletes, gardeners, or musicians.
Furthermore, some groups of people have a higher risk of developing bursitis than others. They include:
- Older people
- People with gout
- People with thyroid disorders
Sometimes, bursitis can be the result of an infection. In this case, its symptoms are likely to come on more rapidly than other forms of bursitis.
The best way to relieve bursitis is to rest the painful area by stopping any aggravating activities. Using a splint or brace during exercise or everyday activities may help.
While the area is healing, individuals can perform gentle stretching and strengthening exercises. However, they should be cautious not to overdo it and make their bursitis worse.
It may also be beneficial to keep the area elevated and use compression garments such as elasticated bandages. Icing could reduce the pain and swelling of acute bursitis but offers little relief in the long-term.
The most common medications for bursitis are anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen. However, these drugs can cause side effects, especially over long periods.
In severe cases, doctors might recommend more drastic treatments like corticosteroid injections or surgery. If an infection is present, a course of antibiotics may be necessary.
But how about natural remedies like cannabis and CBD oil? They have become increasingly popular in recent years, but are they effective for bursitis?
How Does Cannabis for Bursitis Work?
There is currently no research available on cannabis for bursitis, specifically. However, there is plenty of evidence regarding the plant’s anti-inflammatory effects.
Cannabis contains a variety of different compounds that have potential anti-inflammatory properties. They include cannabinoids, like THC and CBD, terpenes, and flavonoids.
Most of the research to date has focused on cannabinoids. These compounds interact with the body’s in-built endocannabinoid system (ECS) and significantly influence various biological processes.
The ECS comprises a series of cell receptors (CB1 and CB2) and chemicals called endocannabinoids.
Cannabinoid receptors exist throughout the body. However, CB2 receptors are especially widespread in the immune system, which plays a critical role in regulating inflammation.
Via these receptors, cannabinoids like THC and CBD can influence the ECS to reduce inflammation in conditions like bursitis. However, they work in very different ways. Let’s take a closer look.
THC or CBD for Bursitis?
Research suggests that THC exerts its anti-inflammatory effects by binding with cannabinoid receptors directly.
It appears to reduce the activity of pro-inflammatory chemicals called cytokines and chemokines. However, studies are inconclusive, and some suggest that THC could have pro-inflammatory effects in certain circumstances.
Furthermore, THC is the compound responsible for cannabis’ intoxicating effects and may not be suitable for everyone. Firstly, THC-containing cannabis is only legal in 33 states for medicinal use and 11 states for recreational use. Therefore, not everyone has access to this compound.
THC can also cause side effects, such as drowsiness, confusion, and reduced coordination. Therefore, anyone who needs to drive or operate machinery may prefer to try CBD. The same goes for people who simply do not want to feel high.
CBD affects the ECS in a very different way. Rather than binding with cannabinoid receptors directly, it enhances the activity of our natural endocannabinoids. It appears to inhibit the enzyme that breaks down these chemicals, meaning they stay active in the body for longer.
Furthermore, CBD seems to influence other receptors outside of the ECS. They include TRPV, PPAR-gamma, and GPR55 receptors.
All of these receptors play a role in reducing inflammation and relieving pain. Therefore, even for those with legal access to THC, products containing a generous amount of CBD may be more beneficial.
Moreover, because CBD does not bind with cannabinoid receptors directly, it provides anti-inflammatory effects without intoxication. For this reason, it is far more widely available than cannabis containing THC. It also produces very few side effects, and most people tolerate it well.
Using CBD for Bursitis
To get the most out of CBD for bursitis, there are several things to consider.
Firstly, there are many different consumption methods. Oils and edibles are popular choices, and concentrates provide a potent dose of cannabinoids for those in severe pain. However, possibly one of the most effective ways to use cannabis for bursitis is a topical application.
Creams, balms, and sprays allow consumers to apply cannabinoids directly to painful areas for more targeted relief. Studies on rats suggest that this method could reduce swelling and pain within just four days.
Next, it is essential to choose a high-quality product with lab reports to confirm its cannabinoid content. It may be most beneficial to select a full-spectrum cream that contains a range of other cannabinoids and terpenes as well as CBD.
Experts believe these ingredients work synergistically to enhance one another’s effects in addition to providing their own anti-inflammatory effects.
Finally, look at what else is in the cream. Many manufacturers include extra active ingredients with soothing or anti-inflammatory effects. However, consumers may wish to steer clear of long ingredient lists with lots of unnecessary additives.
To find out more, see our Best CBD Creams Review.
Cannabis for Bursitis Relief: Final Thoughts
There is currently no research specifically on cannabis for bursitis. However, there is evidence that cannabinoids, especially CBD, have anti-inflammatory effects. Therefore, they may provide some individuals with relief.
Remember to consult a physician before using cannabis or CBD oil for bursitis relief, especially if taking any other medication. They will ensure that these remedies are both suitable and safe.
Can Cannabis Help Bursitis?
Cannabis treatment has been shown to be effective for treating symptoms related to bursitis such as pain. That being said, clinical research investigating cannabis as a treatment specifically for bursitis has not yet been published.
CB1 and CB2 receptors are part of the endocannabinoid system with which cannabis interacts and plays a key role in regulating pain and inflammatory processes.
Cannabis-based medicines such as Nabilone and Sativex have been shown to decrease pain associated with conditions such as osteoarthritis , rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia . Because these conditions share similarities with bursitis, it is possible cannabis may also help to relieve pain caused by bursitis.
Cannabis has been shown to help reduce pain associated with other conditions such as chronic back/neck pain , migraines , and menstrual pain .
Though cannabis was found effective in the treatment of pain in these studies, it’s important to stress that there are no clinical trials regarding cannabis for pain in bursitis.
Furthermore, there are many types of cannabis strains, which all have specific chemical profiles. Although there are many studies about cannabis, scientists are yet to confirm whether certain strains are more effective for specific diseases.
Medical research on bursitis and cannabis
The last decade of cannabis research has established that cannabis reduces chronic pain. Researchers are yet to publish findings on how cannabis affects bursitis, but as shown below, data does show that cannabis can reduce pain in conditions such as fibromyalgia which are moderately related to bursitis.
- One study examined the results of 28 researchers looking at cannabis and chronic pain. Their findings concluded that “there was moderate-quality evidence to support the use of cannabinoids for the treatment of chronic pain.” The studies this review examined did have limitations such as small sample sizes. It’s also important to recognize that these studies didn’t specifically look at bursitis.
- The results of one 2006 randomized controlled trial found that Sativex (CBD and THC combined) decreased pain caused by rheumatoid arthritis. In the trial, 31 patients were given the Sativex treatment, and the remaining 27 participants were given a placebo. After five weeks, the patients taking Sativex experienced improved pain on movement. Other factors affecting well-being such as sleep also improved.
- In 2008, a randomized controlled trial was set up to examine how Nabilone (a THC-based drug) helped with fibromyalgia symptoms in 40 patients. Patients either received Nabilone or a placebo over four weeks. These patients were evaluated for measurements of pain. After the four week trial, researchers noted significant decreases in pain measurements in the group given Nabilone.
- The results of a randomized controlled trial showed that cannabis was effective for neuropathic pain. Participants were administered 25 mg of cannabis with 9.4% THC via inhalation three times daily for five days and significant reductions in pain were examined compared to placebo.
Sativex (1:1 THC:CBD) and Nabilone (which mimics THC) appear to work well for pain management in rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia, respectively. Smoked cannabis also seems to help reduce neuropathic pain. Unfortunately, we don’t have clinical trials looking at bursitis specifically, although the general results on cannabis and pain seem promising.
CBD and bursitis
While there is limited research on CBD and bursitis, some evidence shows that CBD may reduce pain and inflammation in conditions including fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis. Since CBD reduces pain and inflammation caused by multiple conditions, there is potential for it to also help bursitis.
- A 2018 review confirmed that CBD was effective for relieving neuropathic pain, cancer pain, and fibromyalgia pain.
- In a 2017 study , researchers looked at how CBD affects joint degeneration and inflammation. Researchers induced osteoarthritis in rats. CBD was then administered and the effects were examined. CBD was found to prevent further pain development and nerve damage in joints.
- One 2015 study on rats showed that CBD gel helped to decrease joint inflammation and pain without causing adverse effects.
- One 2008 review concluded that CBD helps reduce chronic pain symptoms and also improves sleep without adverse effects
- In a 2011 study , researchers examined how CBD affects the response of pain receptors. The results of the study showed that CBD decreased inflammatory pain in rat models.
It’s clear CBD has pain-relieving properties. What isn’t clear is whether CBD is just as effective for relieving bursitis pain.
How cannabis works on bursitis
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) exists in all vertebrates and helps regulate crucial functions such as sleep, pain, and appetite. The human body produces its own cannabinoids, which modulate and activate its various functions, but as its name suggests, the endocannabinoid system can also be modulated and activated by cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. Because the entire system was only discovered in the past 30 years, scientists still have much to learn about the myriad ways cannabis affects the human body.
The endocannabinoid system regulates pain and inflammation, which are two key symptoms of bursitis. CB1 and CB2 receptors are the primary receptors of the endocannabinoid system and are distributed throughout different areas of the body. Both CB1 and CB2 receptors can be influenced by cannabis.
CB1 receptors are abundant in the nervous system and in the brain. CB1 receptors are found in regions of the peripheral and central nervous system where pain signaling is modulated. Therefore, activation of CB1 receptors may play a role in pain perception.
CB2 receptors are expressed when there is active inflammation, primarily on immune cells, in lower concentrations in the brain, and are also present on bone and connective tissue cells . When activated, CB2 receptors in mouse models of inflammation have been shown to decrease numerous inflammatory markers.
Bursitis causes pain and inflammation. The ECS its receptors regulate these bodily functions. Therefore altering the endocannabinoid system and its receptors may help reduce these negative symptoms in bursitis.
Potential side effects of cannabis use
Cannabis side effects can occur for certain people. Cannabis-based medicine containing THC can cause short term impaired memory, fatigue as well as changes to appetite and mood. The likelihood of side effects occurring depends on a multitude of factors such as the method of administration, dose, and the individual.
More severe side effects such as addiction , cognitive deficits and exacerbated symptoms of mental health conditions are also possible, primarily in predisposed populations.
All in all, cannabis is safe for most people when used as a pain reliever, especially considering the harmful nature of alternative pain-relievers such as opioids. Cannabis has never been directly attributed to one death. That said, be sure to speak to your doctor before using cannabis to ease bursitis symptoms.