If you are one of 54 million adults in the United States living with joint pain, you know how painful and debilitating it can be. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the number of Americans who have joint pain, namely arthritis, will increase by 49% and affect more than 78 million people by 2040. In this study, an estimated 34 million people will limit their activities because of arthritis by 2040, an increase of 52%.
Treating and managing arthritis typically involves physical therapy and medications that may come with very negative side-effects, like stomach ulcers, elevated blood sugar, higher risk of infections, or even opioid addiction. That’s why many are already turning to CBD, or cannabidiol, the non-psychoactive component of the cannabis plant, to manage their symptoms with barely any side-effects.
CBD for joint pain at a glance
- Claim: CBD for joint pain could soon replace harmful medication in the treatment and maintenance of arthritis and its symptoms.
- What the studies show: Many trials on CBD for joint pain, or arthritis, done on animals found strong evidence that CBD lessened pain and improved arthritis symptoms. Minimal studies have been done on humans, however, one human clinical trial concluded that a mixture of CBD and THC improved symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.
- All the facts: Most of the studies done on CBD for joint pain have been done on animals and longer studies are needed to determine if CBD does in fact help improve joint pain symptoms in humans. One human clinical trial shows promising results, but it was not focused on CBD alone.
About joint pain
Arthritis, also known as joint pain, is a general term that encompasses over 100 diseases and conditions that affect the joints and the tissues that surround them, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Symptoms vary greatly but all involve stiffness and pain in and around one or more joints. The common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis, which affects the surrounding tissues of bones; rheumatoid arthritis, which involves a person’s own immune system; fibromyalgia, which affects the nervous system; and gout, which is caused by too much uric acid in the blood.
Arthritis treatments can include medications, therapies like physical therapy and education, and sometimes surgery. These can help a person manage arthritis symptoms, but some medications can cause negative side-effects like stomach pain and ulcers, elevated blood sugar, risk of infection, and weight gain. This is where CBD for joint pain can be incredibly helpful since it has minor (and relatively rare) side-effects like nausea, diarrhea, or fatigue.
How CBD can be used for joint pain?
CBD, or cannabidiol, the non-psychoactive component of the cannabis plant, has been used as medicine for centuries. Today, people are rediscovering the medicinal benefits of the plant and many scientific studies have confirmed CBD’s anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety, and anti-nausea properties. People are already using CBD to find relief from everything from PTSD to epilepsy to pain to depression. Recent research suggests CBD for joint pain could perhaps help improve symptoms and manage pain.
CBD is very effective in our bodies due to the endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid system is known to regulate physiological functions in mammals in the central and peripheral nervous systems and in peripheral organs. Much of the research on CBD is on how it relates and connects to this internal system.
Scientists found that CBD compounds attach to endocannabinoid receptors in our bodies, called CB1 and CB2, that regulate cell function in many tissue types in the brain, skin, and other organs. When CBD connects with these receptors, it works in the cells to regulate proper function, essentially “correcting” the cell.
One study published in the journal Pain was done on mice with osteoarthritis and found that CBD blocked joint pain and prevented pain and nerve damage when used as a prophylactic. The scientists injected a CBD solution directly into the mice’s arthritic joints throughout several days and measured joint blood flow, movement, and inflammation. They concluded that CBD may be safe and useful therapeutic for treating osteoarthritis joint neuropathic pain.
“The data presented here indicate that local administration of CBD blocked osteoarthritis pain,” wrote Philpott, O’Brien, and McDougall in their research. “Prophylactic CBD treatment prevented the later development of pain and nerve damage in these osteoarthritic joints.”
Most studies on CBD for joint pain have been done on animals. However, one study, the first ever controlled placebo clinical trial of cannabis-based medicine in rheumatoid arthritis on humans, found that a mix of CBD and THC improves arthritis symptoms like joint pain.
The scientists, who published their research in the journal Rheumatology in 2006, sought to discover the effects of a drug called Sativex, a mouth spray made of a mix of equal parts CBD and THC that is approved for human use for the treatment of multiple sclerosis in 25 countries outside the United States. Both THC, the psychoactive compound of cannabis, and CBD, have anti-inflammatory effects, while THC has analgesic properties that both modulate pain perception and reduce neuropathic pain.
The researchers concluded that out of the 58 people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis accepted into the trial, those who used the CBD-THC mouth spray saw a statistically significant improvements in pain on movement, pain at rest, and quality of sleep compared to the placebo group.
“A significant analgesic effect was observed, and disease activity was significantly suppressed following Sativex treatment,” Blake, Robson, Ho, Jubb, and McCabe wrote in their research. The scientists said despite the benefits with clinical relevance, there is a need for more detailed investigation to corroborate that CBD for joint pain could one day become a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis.
Concerns related to CBD for joint pain
Millions of people already use cannabis and CBD for many different illnesses, but with every drug there are side-effects. CBD is usually well-tolerated by the human body because it’s non-psychoactive and it doesn’t get you “high” like THC, another component found in cannabis that has psychoactive properties and can induce anxiety.
The more common side-effects of CBD are minor, like diarrhea, changes in appetite, and fatigue. In the clinical trial published in the journal Rheumatology in 2006, most of the adverse effects experienced by the subjects were mild or moderate, and there were no adverse withdrawals or serious adverse effects in the active treatment group. Specifically, 26% (eight people) experienced mild dizziness, 13% (four people) experienced dry mouth, and 10% (three people) experienced lightheadedness.
CBD can also interact with other medications, hence those who use a medication and CBD at the same time may be at risk of inhibition of hepatic drug metabolism, neurological adverse effects, and low blood pressure.
Another concern of CBD is that it’s not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, hence dosage may not be as accurate as stated in the labeling. There have been cases of CBD oil containing THC, which would give an intoxicating effect, instead of the non-psychotropic effect of CBD. It’s important to make sure your CBD is from a reputable source.
With more than 23 percent of Americans experiencing joint pain, researchers are desperately trying to find a more healthful solution to the treatment of arthritis other than harmful medications like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and opioids.
Research on CBD for joint pain is proving promising for different types of arthritis. Research has shown that CBD does help with lessening joint pain symptoms and even preventing worsening of symptoms prophylactically. However, more and longer studies on humans are needed to verify safety and proper dosage. The signs are promising that CBD will one day be used for joint pain as well.