Cannabis is effective for treating pain and inflammation — two indicators of tennis elbow (tendinitis in the elbow). Clinical research specifically looking at cannabis and tennis elbow hasn’t been published.
Although research hasn’t been published on the association between cannabis use and tennis elbow or any other form of tendinitis, we do have studies showing cannabis helps to reduce pain in conditions that are associated with tendinitis such as fibromyalgia.
Cannabis has been shown to help decrease pain and inflammation in several conditions including fibromyalgia, chronic back/neck pain, migraines, menstrual pain, and osteoarthritis.
Furthermore, there are many cannabis strains with different chemical profiles. Scientists are yet to confirm whether certain strains help specific diseases more so than others.
Medical Research on Tennis Elbow and Cannabis
Many studies have verified the pain-relieving properties of cannabis in conditions with symptoms that cross-over with tennis elbow such as osteoarthritis. No research to date has specifically examined cannabis and tennis elbow.
- One study analyzed the results of 28 studies on cannabis and chronic pain. The researchers concluded that “there was moderate-quality evidence to support the use of cannabinoids for the treatment of chronic pain.” It’s important to note that these studies weren’t specifically looking at tendinitis and some had small sample sizes.
- Tendinitis is a common symptom of fibromyalgia and can cause pain in the disorder. A randomized controlled trial published in 2008 looked at how Nabilone (a THC-based drug) affected 40 patients with fibromyalgia. These patients were either given Nabilone or a placebo over four weeks and were assessed for pain. After four weeks of treatment, the placebo group experienced no significant improvements. On the other hand, the Nabilone group reported significant decreases in pain measurements.
- A 2006 randomized controlled trial examined how Sativex (a CBD and THC mixture) affected symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Out of 58 eligible patients, 31 were randomized and given Sativex while the remaining 27 were assigned a placebo. After five weeks, patients who were given Sativex experienced decreased pain on movement and rest. Their sleep quality also improved.
Overall there is evidence supporting cannabis use for pain in joint conditions such as osteoarthritis (which is often associated with tendinitis). Regardless of these findings, without a randomized controlled trial on cannabis and tennis elbow, we can only assume cannabis will help.
CBD and Tennis Elbow
Clinical studies show that CBD helps to reduce chronic pain. Studies also show that CBD can help with joint pain specifically, which may indicate the potential of cannabis to reduce pain caused by tennis elbow.
- In a 2017 study the effects of CBD on osteoarthritis were evaluated. Researchers induced osteoarthritis in rats and then gave the rats CBD to see whether it reduces pain and prevents future joint issue problems. The researchers found that CBD reduced acute joint inflammation, prevented the development of joint pain, future development of pain, and nerve damage in the osteoarthritic joints.
- In a 2018 review, researchers looked at how CBD affects chronic pain. Various studies were pooled and analyzed that focused on how CBD affects cancer pain, neuropathic pain, and fibromyalgia pain. Several of these conditions such as fibromyalgia are associated with joint-related pain. CBD was shown to help reduce pain on average and wasn’t associated with side effects.
- In a 2015 rat model study, researchers administered topical CBD in rats to see whether this would help reduce joint pain and inflammation. The results showed that CBD helped reduce these symptoms and was not associated with any adverse effects.
Several studies show that CBD can reduce pain and inflammation caused by fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis. These conditions are characterized by joint pain, and so it is possible that CBD may also help reduce the joint pain caused by tennis elbow. To confirm this potential benefit, the results from clinical trials on CBD and tennis elbow will need to be published.
How Cannabis Works on Tennis Elbow
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 ECS modulates two key symptoms of tennis elbow — pain and inflammation. The cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2 play an important role in modulating pain and inflammatory processes. Two important differences between these receptors are how they are distributed throughout the body, as well as the internal processes they affect.
CB2 receptors are expressed on immune cells when there is inflammation. CB2 receptors are also found in smaller concentrations in the brain as well as bone and connective tissue cells. CB2 activation by endocannabinoids in mouse models of inflammation have shown that the CB2 receptor can decrease markers of inflammation.
CB1 receptors are densely concentrated in the nervous system and several regions in the brain. More specifically, CB1 receptors can be found in regions of the peripheral and central nervous system where pain signaling is controlled. This placement of CB1 receptors means that activation of these receptors can help to directly affect how pain is perceived and therefore can improve or worsen pain caused by different conditions.
Because the endocannabinoid system regulates pain, modulating the endocannabinoid system via the use of cannabis may help reduce pain caused by tennis elbow.
Potential side effects of cannabis use
Cannabis is a well-tolerated treatment for pain and inflammation. CBD is especially well-tolerated and has little to no side effects for most people as it isn’t intoxicating.
Short-term side effects of cannabis may include impaired memory, perceptual changes, increased appetite, changes to mood, and increased anxiety. CBD has minimal side effects but can cause stomach discomfort, tiredness, and negative interactions with certain medications.
Long-term side effects of cannabis use are contingent on the individual, and the extent of their use. Chronic cannabis use when started at a young age is directly linked to cognitive deficits later in life, while occasional cannabis use as an adult in moderate doses doesn’t tend to be associated with adverse effects.
People with serious mental health conditions such as schizophrenia and severe depression should avoid using cannabis without medical clearance as it can exacerbate or prematurely trigger symptoms.
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