What Is Arthritis?

Actually, that’s a very good question. It’s one that I wish I had asked a long time ago.

The term arthritis actually refers to more than 100 different types of arthritis and related conditions. The two most commonly diagnosed types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. While arthritis primarily involves joints, certain types can also affect major organs.

The damage to joints can be mild to wild. On the milder side are stiffness and soreness. On the wilder side, the cartilage can be completely destroyed and the bones of the joint damaged both by inflammation and by rubbing against each other.

There are a number of factors that go into arthritis, from family history to injury. Even infections can result in arthritis in joints. In my case, some things I was exposed to as a small child put me at a higher risk of inflammatory problems. Add to that my having done things like jumping out of planes, rappelling, and other activities and you get a good chance of developing arthritis. And bone spurs.

In my case, it would appear that something has caused my osteoarthritis to become very aggressive in my shoulders. So much so, I’m going to be asking the rheumatologist I’m seeing in January if that diagnosis needs to be refined.

The X-ray of my right shoulder shows that the cartilage is gone; the bone ends look like the lunar landscape (with some small bone spurs acting as mountains); and, a chunk of my humerus is missing. That missing piece is most likely the piece of bone seen trying to work it’s way down towards my chest. The left shoulder looks better, but not by a huge amount.

There are a number of treatment options for arthritis. For my “just” osteoarthritis, I’ve been taking a drug called Meloxicam for the past three years off and on, and it has helped with some of the inflammation and related issues. Looks like more may have been needed. In addition to my shoulders, I have symptoms starting in my back and neck.

In the experiment I am starting, my goal is to do all I can to help my body heal itself. The best outcome is that through what I do is to reverse the damage. The middle-case outcome is that I help as much as I can on the shoulders, and slow or stop progression elsewhere in the body. The worst-case outcome is that over the next six months I generate very expensive urine courtesy of the supplements and things continue as they are.

The odds are not good. In fact, I’ve been told that the odds of any one supplement working on my condition (and with my genotype, etc.) is less than ten percent. That said, if I don’t make the effort, I will never know if anything could work. There is also the fact that by taking multiple supplements, I run the risk of side effects. To help reduce that risk, I’m keeping my primary care physician aware of what I’m taking and will be requesting some extra blood tests to be sure I’m not causing problems rather than fixing them. In particular, I want to monitor the amount of calcium so that I don’t spike it.

Then again, I’ve beaten long odds a time or two before. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

CBD Oil, PTS, and More

As noted in a post below, I have been diagnosed with PTS and have suffered a number of pain issues for decades.  The two are most likely related (the topic for another post), but recently led to my exploring, and trying, CBD oil to see if it might help.  When you have five or so people from different parts of your life suggest it within the span of a few days, I took that as a sign that I needed to investigate it.

Before trying it, however, I did some due diligence and researched what CBD oil is, how it works, and what lay under all the popular articles.  It’s not that I don’t trust popular articles or even most medical journalism; but, that I know how the process works from the journalistic side.  Even in the best researched articles, there usually are word limits (a left-over from print days), focus issues (articles can be very tightly focused), and advocacy issues (advocacy journalism being something I recognize and loath).  The latter can and do leave out a lot of information that is needed in order to make an informed decision.

The problem with researching CBD oil lies in its ties to medical marijuana.  One aspect of the problem is that there is a lot of “information” out there that is clearly advocating for medical marijuana and legalization.  The second is a tendency to focus just on THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol).

The problem with the latter is that THC is just one component that makes up a range of cannaboids.  The fact is, the body produces a number of cannaboid compounds on its own, and they are essential components the neurological system of the body through two major receptors:  CB1 and CB2.  There is a possibility of yet more receptors, though none have (yet) been isolated.  These compounds produced by the body, known as endocannaboids, are part of what is now known to be the endocannabinoid system (EC system).  An article that discusses the basics on a general level can be found here.  A much shorter blurb can be found here.  A far more detailed account, with references, can be found here.

For those interested, the cannaboids created by the body are lipids (fatty) and appear to be produced “on demand” by the body rather than stored.  There are a number of issues that can prevent proper creation, including the lack of certain fats (Omega-3 being frequently mentioned) in the diet.  There are other issues that can effect production.  While many (most?) of these are in the brain, they are also located throughout the body and various organs.  Not only are they required for normal function, they also appear to play a (crucial?) role in mitigating out-of-control reactions (pain, autoimmune, etc.).

Indeed, there are studies showing that CBD oil can help with epilepsy and seizures (in fact, the FDA has approved a CBD treatment for severe forms of epilepsy); that it may have antipsychotic effects; that it may be effective against certain types of cancer; that it may be effective in treating a variety of anxiety disorders; that it is effective against Type-1 diabetes; that it is effective against inflammation, acute and chronic pain, and inflammatory and neuropathic pain; that it is effective in helping people quit smoking cigarettes; and that it may be effective in treating opioid and other addictions.  There are, of course, a host of other claims, most of which are awaiting formal study(ies).  On all, do your homework.

Now, for the bad news.  Since production is not regulated and there is no industry-wide agreement on labelling and other factors, not all CBD oils are the same.  In fact, right now, it is a bit of the Wild West in terms of how it is produced, from which parts of the plant it is produced, the levels of various compounds in each brand, and in terms of purity.  It is very much buyer beware!

That said, I found a couple that I was willing to try, and I chose one for my first effort.  It was around that time that a good friend of mine let me know that he was a distributor for a brand(HempWorx), and I checked it out.  I tried it, and will recommend it to you.  In fact, in the interest of fairness and transparency, I’m looking at becoming a distributor.

While it is anecdotal, my own experiences are that it:  reduced overall pain and inflammation, to the point I was able to start reducing my arthritis medicine; it did have an effect on some of the secondary effects of the PTS; and, it helped in some other ways as well.  While some effects became clear within a few days of starting it, it was not until the second or third week that the larger effects became apparent.

For a number of reasons, I’m using the no-THC version.  The max allowed by those states that do allow CBD oil to be purchased and used tends to be .3%, which will not make you high.  This does not mean, however, that you will not trip hot on a drug test.  Many tests simply look for cannaboids rather than THC.  So, if you serve or are otherwise subject to drug testing, check with your employer before use.  For that matter, you should check with your physician or other doctors before use.  Again, it’s part of your due diligence.  As is checking the laws of your state, or any other state or country to which you may travel.  The laws vary, are in flux, and you need to be sure of what you do.

Also, a thought to share is that you need to look at your diet.  Make sure you are getting enough of the right types of fat in forms your body can use.

If anyone else has any good studies to share (studies, not articles about same), please share.