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Jun 17, 2021 4 min read

Can Cannabis Help Bursitis?

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by Philip Ghezelbash
Medically reviewed by Roni Sharon, MD
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Overview

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.

Cannabis side effects: fatigue, memory, appetite, reaction time, mood, paranoia, addiction

Disclaimer

The Cannigma content is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always consult with an experienced medical professional with a background in cannabis before beginning treatment.

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