Cannabis topicals might not sound like the most intuitive treatment for arthritis. However, recent research — and years of my own work as a nurse and massage therapist — show that the plant has much to offer people who are living with this condition.
Arthritis is a disorder of the joints in the body that causes painful inflammation. The neck, shoulders, hands, spinal column, hips, knees, and ankles are some of our most notable joints — and they’re all common sources of pain. Arthritis is neither age nor gender specific. The inflammation caused by arthritis results in joint stiffness, swelling, redness, and the area can often be warm to the touch. 100 types of arthritis have now been identified and over 300 million people worldwide are plagued daily by this type of pain.
Clinical research studies regarding cannabis topicals and arthritis are still in their infancy. Recent findings show cannabinoids exhibit anti-inflammatory effects by activating cannabinoid type 2 receptors (CB2.) These receptors are part of the endocannabinoid system. Our endocannabinoid systems’ primary goal is cellular homeostasis, or balance. Our bodies naturally produce chemicals called endocannabinoids (which are nearly identical to chemicals produced in the cannabis plant, called cannabinoids) in an effort to activate these receptors. When a cannabis topical is applied to an inflamed area where CB2 receptors are present, the cannabinoids stimulate an anti-inflammatory response.
This is the science behind using cannabis topicals to treat arthritis, but the anecdotal evidence can be just as compelling. Throughout my career, I’ve seen firsthand the ways in which they can transform people’s lives. I’ve also had to answer a lot of questions about how and why they work — here are some of the most common ones.
Frequently Asked Questions About Using Cannabis Topicals for Arthritis
What’s the first question most arthritis patients have about medicinal cannabis topicals?
To see the answer and more questions about cannabis and arthritis please see here: CannabisMD
I have been a nurse for almost 20 years, and this is the story of how cannabis saved my life.
In 2010, I fell seriously ill — for reasons that doctors were unable to understand, I began to experience excruciating pain, which hampered my mobility and caused intense mental distress. Their response was to prescribe a pill for every symptom I exhibited, and it didn’t take long for me to tire of the toll they were taking on me. Soon, I was barely surviving. I became so desperate that I was willing to move 2,000 miles from where I was born in hopes of finding something that would save my life. Today, I’m sharing this journey because I want people who are experiencing similar mental and physical pain to believe a better, healthier future is possible.
My Introduction to Prescription Drugs
I’d been in pain for a long, long time before I had my first surgery. This one was to remove my gallbladder. During the procedure, they found a large tumor on my liver that they deemed inoperable. It was an estrogen- and blood-filled mass, most likely caused by years of taking the birth control pill, which I’d used to regulate my intense menstrual cycle. Needless to say, this was an unexpected side effect.
A few weeks after the operation, I woke up and my entire body was puffy. The pain in my right side had only worsened, and the nausea was more unbearable than ever.
Reiki is a Japanese modality that made it’s way to the United States in the 1900s. Translated, rei- means universal life and -ki means energy. It’s a healing therapy using symbols to channel universal energy; a gentle force with little to no touch yet powerful results.
To be honest, everyone has the ability to conjure universal energy and I frequently did as an intuitive healer during massage sessions. Reiki training introduced tools to effectively channel that force with intention and focused attention. Reiki empowers us to heal ourselves and improve the physical, emotional and mental level.
After learning the history and my lineage to usuiReiki, I received the attunement which is a process where the Reiki Master opens channels in the hands and chakras to allow a direct connection to reiki energy. I concentrated on my heart and envisioned a lotus flower in it’s place opening like a time lapse video on repeat with each bloom receiving luminous magic. I was going to use this magic for an acute episode of low back pain that I assumed manifested as a practice tool. After a short session I noticed the pain intensified and then subsided to a subtle annoyance.
The tools I learned in Reiki II were three symbols aimed at healing the physical, spiritual, and distant body. The distance symbol is likened to prayer and healing can be sent across any distance as well as through time to previous or future events. For example in practice, using reiki on surgical scars or sending reiki to an upcoming travel engagement. I heard an anecdote in massage school about a therapist used distance healing and they astonishingly felt when the patient momentarily left the table and when they returned. This was across the country!
In the end, reiki energy flows where it needs to go. Similar to plant medicine, reiki quiets the mind and strengthens the connection between ourselves and the energy to create harmony. It’s is offered as a complementary therapy in hospitals and easily integrates with massage.
If you have never known someone with cerebral palsy than the symptoms these patients suffer from may be foreign to you. As a Nurse our founder, Jordan had taken care of several patients with this disease. So her exposure to this crippling condition had been very thorough. For those unfamiliar with cerebral palsy, according to the Mayo Clinic “it is a disorder of movement, muscle tone or posture that is caused by damage that occurs to the immature, developing brain, most often before birth.” Being presented with a patient with CP for cannabis massage was informative, emotional, and absolutely amazing.
Signs and symptoms can vary greatly. Movement and coordination problems associated with cerebral palsy may include:
Variations in muscle tone, such as being either too stiff or too floppy
Favoring one side of the body, such as reaching with only one hand or dragging a leg while crawling
Difficulty walking, such as walking on toes, a crouched gait, a scissors-like gait with knees crossing, a wide gait or an asymmetrical gait
Excessive drooling or problems with swallowing
Difficulty with sucking or eating
Delays in speech development or difficulty speaking
Difficulty with precise motions, such as picking up a crayon or spoon
Stiff muscles and exaggerated reflexes (spasticity)
Stiff muscles with normal reflexes (rigidity)
Lack of muscle coordination (ataxia)
Tremors or involuntary movements
Slow, writhing movements (athetosis)
Delays in reaching motor skills milestones, such as pushing up on arms, sitting up alone or crawling
Some patients can walk, some cannot. As a nurse assisting with this condition it is very different when presented with it as a Massage Therapist. One of the most amazing things about Primal Therapeutics, cannabis massage is that we have been presented with patients with many types of conditions. Many people present with conditions we have never worked on and cerebral palsy was one of those conditions new to Cannabis Massage.
The stiffness that these patients experience in their muscles is intense. When you work with cerebral palsy patients all you want to do is help them because their condition leaves a mark etched in your mind. To help relax their muscles and provide them with some type of relief from constant spasms is a goal and desire for the caregivers of all CP patients. These patients often complain of pain in their hips, lower backs, necks and legs. All areas that can be easily massaged and topical cannabinoids can be applied.
The Healing Session
Many of these patients also suffer from seizure disorders and many are in wheelchairs making the ability to be massaged more difficult, but not impossible. The patient we were presented was still able to ambulate with the use of a walker. After the countless, almost miracles that we have seen when performing cannabis massage we were very intrigued what the results would be with cerebral palsy. A common characteristic of cerebral palsy is the arms become contracted and pull into the body. The patient we saw had that characteristic making lying face down on the massage table somewhat difficult but we were able to accompany her disability and provide her comfort.
Once the massage began the tight feeling was palpable. Her pain could be felt through her muscles. Cannabis massage has the ability to bring blood to the surface and so it did. The massage began to relax those tight muscles. As the treatment continued down the back and arms and into the hips you could feel the muscles begin to relax. Overall relaxation was achieved and more focused work began. The arms were first. What happened next was nothing short of a miracle. We watched her arm go from being tightly tucked under her body to slowly but surely hang loose from her body, off the table. The patient picked her head up several times to look at her own arm. In that moment, Jordan realized the feeling she felt was not just something she could feel. The patient could feel it too!
Tears began to flow, both from Jordan and the patient. It was a moment that neither expected and yet both could have only wished for. The effectiveness of cannabis massage with cerebral palsy was unreal. The benefits were countless. The patient reported feeling more relaxed and with more mobility than she had ever felt in her life. When the massage was done she mentioned that it felt stronger around her joints. As she stood with the assistance of her walker, she said she had never stood up that straight in her whole life. She cried with joy that she could feel results throughout her entire body.
The topical application of cannabinoids via cannabis massage was effective beyond our hopes for cerebral palsy and the tetany our patient had in her upper body. Topical cannabis has been effective in 100% of the cases we have touched. In all conditions that we see, we use the topical application of cannabinoids and symptoms are decreased if not completely removed. It is important to note we use THC and CBD. We educate our patients on the importance of the entourage effect and that the more cannabinoids are present the more therapeutic the effect will be. Topicals are something a caregiver can purchase and apply. Make sure you always know the source of your products. Remembering the skin is the largest organ and you want to only give it things that can be easily processed. Look for organic products like the ones we make for our patients, Primal Healing.
The implications for cannabis and cerebral palsy don’t stop at the topical use of cannabinoids or via cannabis massage now you can find information about cerebral palsy and medical marijuana on most sites that discuss the disorder. We found really great information at the Cerebral Palsy Guidance website. Please visit their site to learn more how to help the cerebral palsy patient in your life with plant medicine.
Our founder was recently named in the 100 People You Should Know in the Hemp Connoisseur magazine. They chose 20 categories and five people in each category. Jordan was chosen for Wellness. Her fellow wellness category individuals include a very dear friend and colleague of hers, Rachael Carlevale of Ganjasana, plant medicine yoga. Jordan and Rachel work on retreats and education furthering opportunities often and she feels honored to join her friend on this list.
JORDAN PERSON –
Jordan Person came to Colorado in 2010 as a medical marijuana refugee. Utilizing cannabis and other holistic therapies saved her life. She saw the health benefits of cannabis first hand on her own journey back to health and wanted to help educate the masses on what she learned. She found a way to combine her years in the medical field with her years spent working with medical marijuana, and Cannabis Infused Massage Therapy was created. All the topicals that Primal Therapeutics uses are made in-house. Person took classes in herbalism and created the recipe with her patients in mind using all organic ingredients in her creations. In 2017, Jordan began teaching Cannabis Massage 101 and Topicals Making 101 in an effort to provide anyone interested with the knowledge they would need to perform this trending modality. Therapists around the world are taking this course. Person is an advocate and an activist for the plant, proudly serving as executive director of Denver NORML.
Moving to Colorado eight years I was on a journey to health but at the time I was willing to accept death as long as it was more pain free than the life I was living. When you feel that way, you are no longer living. You are surviving at best. I wanted to thrive. My will to survive and choices are the reason I am here today. I receive so many questions from patients and students so I thought I would write my journey out in an effort to help anyone and everyone on their own journey back to health.
My pain started in my right side, just under my rib cage. Being a Nurse I of course made several attempts to self diagnose. I ignored the pain for a year. I blamed it on a million different things. I tried to treat myself for a few various conditions and even created a psychosomatic and psychological response to the pain in an effort to drown it out. It provided temporary relief but eventually I found myself on five pharmaceutical drugs for competing symptoms. The primary issue was that none of them were helping. The pain would come and go with no warning. It would take over my entire body with nausea and sharp stabbing pains to my right rib cage.
Finally I decided enough self diagnosing was enough and I began seeking testing. I just wanted my health back. To spare you the gory details just know they looked everywhere. In and out of every orifice they could. It was as though each place they sought something they found something they weren’t even looking for. None of the results explained the increasing pain in my right side. Eventually one test showed that my gallbladder was no long functioning and they decided it must have been the cause of my pain and that it needed to be removed. I was scheduled for surgery the following week.
The surgery began successful until they discovered the reason the gallbladder had stopped functioning. I had a massive blood filled tumor sitting on my liver bisecting the hepatic vein and artery. They took a biopsy and assumed I would be dead in a month. The biopsy results showed otherwise, thank god. The tumor was benign. It was not cancer. Instead it was a blood and estrogen filled mass called a Focal Nodular Hyperplasia most likely caused by the birth control pill. The surgeon explained that due to its location on my liver the tumor was inoperable.
By the time I received this diagnosis the pain in my right side was absolutely unbearable and coming in waves every day. The only thing that was providing me any relief was cannabis. I was smoking before and after every single activity I was capable of and by this time which was no more than doing laundry. I had stopped work for the surgery but I was getting worse instead of better. I began using cannabis candies that I had illegally sent to me and they began providing more relief than any of the now thirteen pharmaceuticals I had prescribed.
I woke up a few weeks post op in extreme pain and felt as if I was dying. My skin was so puffy my rings that were normally loose and spun around my fingers were now so stuck in position I could not take them off. My skin was a yellowish grey and the energy and will to live were quickly leaving my body. My Mother lived in Colorado. I knew that they had a medical marijuana program and I wondered if I could qualify for a card because of the pain I was in and my new surgical record. I called her out of desperation and explained how I felt. She told me if I really felt that way that I should board the next flight and leave everything behind.
So that’s what I did. I left my relationship, dog, car, clothing, and possessions. None of those things mattered, only life mattered. I had not lived with my Mom since I was six years old so making the move was complicated on so many levels. One of the first conversations I had with my Mom she told me she would pay for my food, which was to be mostly raw and organic vegetarian, my pharmaceuticals and doctors appointments but that she would not help pay for my cannabis. The weed is why I moved. She didn’t get it, and that was okay. I did what I had to. I sold jewelry, applied for government assistance and did massages when my body would allow.
I applied for my medical marijuana card the first week I lived in Colorado. My first time into a medical dispensary in 2010 was a dream full of legal marijuana products come true. I began ingesting cannabis in every form I could. I ate it, drank it, smoked it, and rubbed it on my scars. I quickly understood what this plant was capable of. One at a time I began taking myself off the pharmaceuticals I had been prescribed. This is not something I recommend anyone to do. I utilized my years as a Nurse and intuition to make that very personal decision. That decision would end up changing my life forever.
About two weeks into living in Colorado I ended up in the emergency room. The pain that had been stabbing my ribs for over a year came so strong one night that I ended up in the emergency room. The source of the excruciating pain and nausea was discovered. I had a 9mm kidney stone obstructing my kidney and I was septic. When they went to perform the surgery for removal they discovered I had a congenital anomaly of having two ureters on my kidney instead of one. The tests showed the stone was stuck in a Y type connection at the top of the ureter just as it branched off the kidney. Instead of being able to remove the stone the doctor had to place two stents in my kidney in hopes the stone would pick one and move out naturally.
It didn’t. After weeks of having these stents poke my back I had another surgery to remove them and the stone. As soon as I woke up the pain was gone. I instantly knew that the source of my pain the whole time had been my kidney and never my gallbladder or my liver. I thought that was the end of pain and the start to a whole new version of me. Sadly, I was mistaken.
I had been working for a physician in Canon City, Colorado briefly when pain began to take over my body once again. This time it was an exacerbation of conditions I had been diagnosed with years prior. Polycystic ovaries were a treacherous part of my life for years. They would send me to the hospital often. Each time leaving with the same diagnosis and conclusion, a cyst having burst in my fallopian tubes. The doctor I worked for wanted to help me so badly but my options for treatment were limited. I took the birth control pill from age 14-24 and my body could no longer receive that type of excess estrogen due to the tumor on my liver. I tried a patch of progesterone and it made me ill so they had no choice, I had no choice.
Signing over my rights to have children was and is one of the hardest moments in my journey. I was barely 30 and in the state of Colorado you have to sign a statement stating you are fully aware of what you are doing. It was the last thing I wanted to do. There was this whole part of my life I saw myself being a Mom. I was so sick the decision was necessary. I just wanted to live a life without pain. One full of health. A life where I could thrive, not just survive.
When I woke up from my total abdominal hysterectomy I was in a severe hot flash. I remember shouting loudly that “I needed a fan.” One was brought to me. I was in surgical menopause from the time I opened my eyes. I experienced this endless wave of heat that came from my core and nothing cooled me down. Due to the tumor on my liver taking Estrogen supplements was out of the question. I remember being in the hospital and telling the nurse I was having a hard time urinating and they assured me this was a normal part of the process.
I was discharged after four days and was back in the E.R. days later. The nausea I was experiencing was unbearable. They had me on more pharmaceuticals then should ever be needed for a post-op patient. All along telling me that all the symptoms I was experiencing were considered “normal.” I had never felt more crazy in my life. No one believed what I was feeling. I had lost total control of my health. The people I was closest to thought I was lying for attention, if you can even imagine. This insanity went on for four weeks after the hysterectomy until the day of the four week follow up appointment. The morning of that appointment I began experiencing the same pain I had suffered from for years prior, stabbing under my right rib cage. This sensation made me feel even crazier because I knew there was no way possible that I had another kidney stone.
I was sent for emergency surgery for a Nephrostomy tube several hours after that follow up appointment. At some point during the hysterectomy the doctor sutured my ureter down causing a total occlusion and urine had been unable to flow to my bladder from my kidney for four weeks. I was close to septic once again. I was on antibiotic therapies for months. Due to the severity of the situation I sought out the same Urologist that saved my life the first time. Under her recommendation I had to wear this tube draining urine to a bag strapped to my thigh for 6 1/2 months. It was such a hot summer in Colorado. I was unable to wear shorts or anything above the knee or my spicket would stick out.
During that time major depression took over my body along with the tubes and increasing number of scars. I went down to 98 lbs. I no longer knew what health was. There was no amount of cannabis or pharmaceutical treatment that touched what I felt. I questioned my journey to health. I wondered if it would ever exist. I read a lot, I took online classes in spiritualism and healing from the inside, I sought the love of my friends and family from a distance. I was never more alone then during that time. It was a journey I had to suffer alone. I was too much for anyone to process including myself.
The non-refluxing urethral transplant was done and I woke up on a Dilaudid pump. By this juncture I had received so many medications my tolerance was so far surpassed my size the nurses and doctors would triple check my orders. During the surgery they moved my ureter to a new location on my bladder and moved my bladder up and over in an effort to accommodate the new ureters location. They inserted a stent that was to keep this new ureter patent, or open and flowing. The surgeon said the stent would be present for six weeks and I would come back in for the removal. After 7 days in the hospital post-op I was still no better. I could not keep food down or anything for that matter.
I am discharged from the hospital and my step dad drives me over 60 miles back home to the mountains only to be driven back less than six hours later. I was admitted for another six days. In the middle of the night my Surgeon appeared and informed me we would need to remove the stent. The stent that needed to be in place for six weeks and she wanted to remove it after less than two. It was awful in so many ways. As I write this I remember so many little details but I will spare you the goriest parts. Long story short, the doctor saved my life once again. I was discharged the next morning.
As I layed in bed healing from yet another major surgery the depression began to lessen and the amount of cannabis continued to increase. I began to have these ephinoies that the magnitude of things that were happening to me had to have a bigger purpose. I would think to myself, “there is no way there’s not a purpose for this, how could all of these things happen and not have some gigantic purpose, I am still alive after all of this, there just has to be a reason.” My personal journey from sickness to health was so long yet so quick I just wanted to be well and move on with my life.
Believing that I was well on my road to recovery and that I could begin putting a cycle of surgeries behind me, I moved to Denver, full of hope. I was staying with a friend for only a few weeks when I received a phone call from the Porter Hospital. I was called in for some repeat tests for the tumor on my liver. Although it was benign and I gave up soy and any artificial means of estrogen the tumor continued to grow in size. I had seen two other hepatologists previously and was told due to the location the tumor was inoperable. That was until the day I met the angel of a surgeon Dr. Thomas Heffron.
I was scheduled for surgery on December 12, 2012. The operation was done laparoscopically and took 7.5 hours. From the moment I woke up, I felt different. The tumor and a chunk of my liver were removed and while I was still in the hospital recovering my liver began to regenerate like a starfish. This recovery was different than the others. My body felt as if it was repairing faster. As soon as I was discharged I came off of every pharmaceutical and used cannabis only. I used it for any pain or discomfort I experienced as well as using topicals on my incisions. My journey to health was finally beginning! I was starting to feel better than I ever had before.
Eight weeks post-op I attempted to go back to working as a Massage Therapist. I felt so incredible and had spent 2.5 years not working and having surgeries. Alas it was far too soon for me to go back to doing that type of strenuous bodywork and I ended up taking a few steps back. Allowing myself more time to heal proved very fruitful. I continued researching cannabis as medicine and I began making various preparations of plant medicine. I ended up being offered a job at a medical marijuana dispensary and dove in face first to the life of the cannabis industry.
My journey to health led to me to plant medicine. It made me the person I am today and the healer I am today. I wanted to share my journey with anyone that it may inspire to never give up on your own voyage. If I would not have stayed resilient I would not be here today. I read, researched and insisted on tests and treatments even when they didn’t want to perform them. I was relentless in the pursuit of my health. I never gave up no matter how much I wanted to. I now look back on those years and I am able to see them as a bump in the road of life. I am a survivor. I am a starfish.
Tribute to Life for the 5 year anniversary of my liver resection. Starfish Mandala with THC molecules