Cannabis & the Skeletal System
The skeletal system is the rigid internal framework that supports the rest of the human body.
The skeletal system is the rigid internal framework that supports the rest of the human body. It anchors our muscles, holds and protects our internal organs, and produces blood cells in the bone marrow. While it hasn’t gained much attention in human studies involving cannabis, there have been a few discoveries that have shown cannabis may actually aid in healing bone fractures, reduce bone pain, and possibly slow the progression of osteoporosis.
Our bones start out more like softer, flexible cartilage while we’re developing babies in the womb. Progressively, these structures will grow and gain strength by hardening through a process called ossification. The marrow, specifically inside the long bones, produces many, many new blood cells on a daily basis – so if any pathology evolves in the skeletal system it can impact our blood and effect a change in our immune defense. This gives us good reason to take a closer look at how cannabis effects this system, just like any other medication prescribed to a patient.
The most notable effect of cannabis on the skeletal system has been its ability to reduce pain and inflammation in patients suffering from arthritis. Animal studies have confirmed that cannabinoids, primarily CBD, act as an analgesic or pain-reliever, and patients have confirmed that both ingesting the plant as well as using it as a topical preparation can relieve the symptoms of arthritis. A covering on our bones called the periosteum is packed with nerves, and when the cartilage padding in a joint is gone, bones rub against one another due to osteoarthritis which is painful. The pain may become chronic and unbearable. Instead of using opioids, which can be addictive, many patients have been turning to cannabis as an alternative.
A study done by researchers in Israel found that CBD stimulates an enzyme that helps speed the healing of bone fractures, it helps to fuse bone tissue back together faster by increasing collagen crosslinking. This is good news for anyone who suffers one or more fractures as healing time may be reduced by using cannabis, bones seem to gain their strength back quicker. Unfortunately, CBD oil isn’t yet a prescription medication studied and approved for this purpose.
Normal bone metabolism is a process by which the body facilitates new bone growth and rids the skeleton of old bone material. As we grow through childhood and into puberty, our bones get larger and produce far more new material which allows them to elongate and harden. But once we reach adulthood, our bones no longer need to grow in size, so we may become susceptible to bone loss or osteoporosis if the rate of bone tissue loss is greater than the creation of new bone used to replace it. It’s been found that CBD can inhibit an enzyme responsible for controlling bone metabolism, preventing the breakdown of bone material, which may make CBD a viable solution for those suffering from diseases associated with bone loss.
While cannabis might seem promising to individuals suffering from arthritis, bone fractures, and even osteoporosis, it can cause slight bone weakness in children and teens. This is again because of its impact on bone metabolism which is still not fully understood. When old bone tissue isn’t broken down, there are no signals produced for the body to create more, and thus younger individuals may develop weak bones if using cannabis. More studies are needed to fully understand the impact of cannabis on bone tissue, but it certainly looks as if it may become a useful treatment option for some skeletal ailments in the future.