CBD for the Elderly

Ready? Repeat after us - old age and pain DO NOT NEED TO go hand in hand. CBD has shown very promising results in several fields. When coupled with the wealth of facilities and treatment options available today there is no reason why pain, in its all its forms, should be allowed to accompany anyone - especially the elderly. 

Ready? Repeat after us - old age and pain DO NOT NEED TO go hand in hand. CBD has shown very promising results in several fields. When coupled with the wealth of facilities and treatment options available today there is no reason why pain, in its all its forms, should be allowed to accompany anyone - especially the elderly. 

In the middle of a game of charades as a member animatedly portrayed an older lady, he made sure he highlighted creaky, achy joints and sharp pains. Long after the game had concluded, the image resonated an acceptance that we all commonly have - old age and pain go hand in hand. It is often something that the Qurist grandmamas themselves have brushed off as “a part and parcel of life” but with the wealth of medical treatment, the improvement in technology, the radical amount of research, studies and the benefits of proper exercise - for the mind and the body - there is no reason why pain cannot be subtracted from the equation of our daily lives.

CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid system in our body. The system responsible for ensuring homeostasis- balance in our body. Since it has receptors all around our body, it can identify areas of concern and deterioration and specifically target them. Due to this mechanism, any form of oral intake of CBD ensures a comprehensive rehabilitation and rejuvenation of the body.

The Endo-cannabinoid system

 

Dealing With Pain 

Old age is known to be plagued by different kinds of pain suffered by the aging body. The pain is often chronic and persists for longer than three months. The Indian adults' population survey about chronic pain found a higher prevalence of chronic pain(19.3%*) as compared to other Asian pain prevalence studies. From the 71.2% that went to a doctor for their pain, only 4.8% of the people went to a specialist pain physician. CBD has shown extremely promising results in dealing with chronic and neuropathic pain. A scientific review stated that, “Although analgesia based on the World Health Organization’s pain ladder continues to be the mainstay of chronic pain management, aside from chronic cancer pain or end-of-life care, prolonged use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or opioids to manage chronic pain is rarely sustainable. As the endocannabinoid system is known to control pain at peripheral, spinal, and supraspinal levels, interest in medical use of CBD is growing”. Another review, in 2015 analyzed research on CBD usage for chronic pain, seven of the 11 studies included in the review demonstrated that CBD relieved pain.

One of the most common types of pain is joint pain - especially due to arthritis. Arthritis has been recognised in over 100 different forms, the most common being osteoarthritis and rheumatoid. Osteoarthritis develops as the cartilage becomes less elastic, it is furthered by the continuous wear and tear of the joint cartilage which ultimately results in affecting the ability to cushion the painful rubbing of bones with each other. Osteoarthritis is punctuated by morning stiffness, joint pain in the fingers, knees, hips and spine. Rheumatoid is an autoimmune disease that is characterized by sharp pain, swelling in joints of fingers, feet and wrists. It further contributes to joint pain and increased inflammation, in fact the pain and inflammation can be so severe that it becomes disabling and makes the body address the affliction as a deformity. Studies present that CBD suppresses inflammatory response and subsequently attenuates disease symptoms. CBD, the active component of hemp, and endogenous cannabinoids mediate their effects through activation of specific cannabinoid receptors known as CB1 and CB2.

Growing CBD

Conditions like carpal tunnel are also becoming increasingly visible with the aging populace since they delve into repetitive motion, often because of continuous typing or using machinery. In such a condition a nerve running from the arm to the palm gets pressed or squeezed. A recent 2017 study found that CBD showed propitious results in counteracting the hypersensitivity of cells surrounding nerves. 

Fibromyalgia is another condition that affects bones and muscles and inflicts pain all over the body. It is further accompanied by altered mood, fatigue and troubled sleep. It is also known to affect women more than men and gets more complicated as and when menopause hits. This is again a space where CBD has made great strides.  A 2011 study looked at 56 people with fibromyalgia, where the participants were primarily women. Members of the study comprised two groups : a group of 28 who weren’t cannabis users and another group of 28 participants who were cannabis users(CBD is an active ingredient in cannabis as well). About two hours after using cannabis, the cannabis users experienced benefits such as: reduced pain and stiffness, an increase in sleepiness and slightly higher mental health scores than the non-users. A more recent 2019 Israeli study, involved hundreds of people with fibromyalgia, observed over at least 6 months. 82 % of the participants were women. The study concluded that medical cannabis was a safe and effective treatment for fibromyalgia. At the beginning of the study, 52.5% of participants had described their pain level as high. At the 6-month follow-up, only 7.9 percent of those who responded had reported high levels of pain. A 2016 study suggested that a lack of endocannabinoids - chemical messengers for the Endocannabinoid System - may be at the root of chronic pain syndromes, including migraines and fibromyalgia. CBD does not bind to either CB1 or CB2 directly but instead helps in indirectly triggering the receptors' ability to bind to cannabinoids. CBD plays a big role in the ECS by not only improving the body’s natural levels of endocannabinoids but also by influencing other types of receptors. Hence, taking CBD may correct this deficiency, explaining the compound’s success in alleviating chronic pain. CBD studies also show that the compound helps deal with chronic pain that fibromyalgia poses as well as with other causes of neuropathic pain.

Making Changes to Deal With the Pain

It is true that when pain walks in, it somehow manages to encroach on and affect every aspect of our lives. In fact, Raymond Gaeta, MD, director of pain management services at Stanford Hospital & Clinic at Stanford University once said, “Pain is not only the experience of hurting; it affects how you handle your life, your livelihood, your interactions with family and friends". Incorporating certain lifestyle changes, activities and precautions can help rescue you, or even better prevent you from pain. 

Anxiety and stress are recognized as major contributors for the development and maintenance of chronic pain. It’s important to counteract the increase in anxiety, often increasing as you get older, with activities that are meditative in nature. Indulging in practices like meditation, yoga and the like help soothe the mind and the body.

It is equally important to partake in activities that - well, activities that just make you happy. Participate in things that you give you joy be it going back to a hobby you cherished, rekindling a friendship, or exploring new activities that you had always wanted to try. Aging can often trigger depression arising from a host of possible situations. It’s crucial that you take care of your mental health as much as you do of your physical health. Speaking of which, no matter the age physical activity is a must.

The intensity of the physical activity is purely subjective and varies from person to person. Here it becomes crucial that you really listen to your body and not cross the line and push your body to exhaustion or undue pain. Physical activity stimulates the release of chemicals called endorphins which trigger a positive feeling in the body and even reduce the perception of pain by interacting with receptors in the brain. Taking a walk, by yourself or with your special someone(s) can be an enriching experience. To prevent the body from undue stress be cautious of your movements especially with weight. It is not uncommon to injure yourself while lifting things that are very heavy or tripping over a surface due to absent mindedness. Prevent your body from these by reaching for help - if there’s a heavy piece of furniture that needs moving, remember to ask someone to give you a hand or if you’re navigating a tricky walking path, take physical support like holding onto a rail when descending a stairwell or if you’ve strained or sprained a part of your body remember RICE - rest, ice, compression and elevation - as a go-to practice before you reach your doctor. Heat or cold therapy applications do depend on the location, however remember to not apply heat/cold compress to a joint for more than 20 minutes.

Aerobic activity promises to deliver great results for the body. Harvard Health states, “Aerobic exercise is key for your head, just as it is for your heart. You may not agree at first; indeed, the first steps are the hardest, and in the beginning, exercise will be more work than fun. But as you get into shape, you'll begin to tolerate exercise, then enjoy it, and finally depend on it. Regular aerobic exercise will bring remarkable changes to your body, your metabolism, your heart, and your spirits. It has a unique capacity to exhilarate and relax, to provide stimulation and calm, to counter depression and dissipate stress.”. Aerobic activities include walking, jogging, riding a bicycle, dancing, swimming, water aerobics and aerobics exercise. Remember to start your journey slowly and take up the intensity based on how your body responds.

In case your body shows signs of inflammation - seek medical help. CBD has made great strides in dealing with inflammation, backed by many available studies which have even tested CBD for being novel anti-inflammatory drugs. Joint pain and neuropathic pain can also be alleviated by introducing CBD to your body. Furthermore, CBD has been found to effectively reduce pain, improve sleep, and diminish refractory pain in patients with fibromyalgia, migraine, irritable bowel syndrome, and similar conditions involving chronic pain. Since CBD is involved in affecting serotonin receptors, it plays a role in pain perception, maintaining body temperature and reducing inflammation. As with any drug, it is best to start your CBD journey with a low dosage and observe the body’s reaction. If you’re taking a host of prescription medicines, it is also advisable to consult your general physician on introducing CBD into the mix. In case your healthcare provider is not greatly aware of CBD, try the grapefruit test - CBD reacts chemically in a very similar fashion to grapefruit. Enquire how grapefruit juice would react with your medicines and you should be good to go.

Remember to set routines that help relax your body. Insomnia is another condition that seems to affect the elderly quite dearly. Set up a nighttime routine that works for you. CBD is known among other things, to help relax the body which studies have found has been a great help in dealing with insomnia, sleep apnea and similar conditions. Anxiety also prevents the body from getting the right amount and quality of rest that it deserves. CBD helps in relieving anxiety and promotes a sense of well-being. According to recent studies, CBD also: helps ease symptoms of depression and even prevent symptoms of psychosis.

CBD has been found to effectively reduce pain, improve sleep, and diminish refractory pain in patients with fibromyalgia, migraine, irritable bowel syndrome, and similar conditions involving chronic pain. CBD has of late garnered some attention owing to its medicinal and overall health benefits. A Remedy review found that a whopping 89% of seniors surveyed would recommend trying CBD to a friend. CBD can be taken in many forms but the review also found that 54.4% of seniors actually preferred to take CBD directly in the form of drops. Furthermore, Forbes highlighted that 51% of seniors who tried CBD reported an improved quality of life.

There is no one way of dealing with the different forms of pain that come our way as we age - but it is important to effectively address it so that we can prevent it from affecting different avenues of our life.

Mallika Lahiry is a designer and a writer. She has had a long yet convoluted relationship with both the spoken and written word (that could rival a Shakespearean play, no lie) and has received accreditations for her efforts. You’ll often find her with her nose in a book, knee-deep in digging up facts, or drawing up her plans for her next passion project.
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