Millions of people live with the symptoms of arthritis every day. Stiff joints, tenderness, and swelling can cause chronic pain and a lack of mobility. Currently, there is no known cure and this has led people to look for alternative treatments, like CBD oil.
CBD is growing in popularity and according to the Arthritis Foundation, it is now widely used among their members. But how effective is CBD oil for pain relief in arthritis?
What is CBD oil?
CBD oil is made from cannabidiol - an organic compound taken from the hemp plant. It's one of many compounds found in this species of cannabis plant.
Unlike tetrahydrocannabinol, known commonly as THC, CBD is considered a safer alternative - it doesn't have any psychoactive properties, and it is not addictive.
Cannabidiol is legally available to buy in the UK, and it's already used by thousands of people to treat anxiety, sleep disorders, skin conditions, and chronic pain, most notably caused by illnesses, like multiple sclerosis and arthritis.
The Arthritis Foundation has welcomed the possibility of a new treatment.
In its official position, the group acknowledged that 'there is no one single drug, supplement, or therapy that works for everyone' and having more options, makes it more likely that someone will find the right treatment for them.
Pain relief from arthritis
In July 2019, the Arthritis Foundation surveyed 2,600 people with arthritis and found there was significant use of, and interest in, CBD¹.
In fact, 79% said they were using it already, had used it previously, or were considering using it in the future. And pain relief was the most common reason given.
It is thought that cannabidiol has analgesic (pain relief) properties and may also be an anti-inflammatory. This could help reduce the pain caused by inflamed joints in people with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
A study published in December 2017 that looked at the effects of CBD in rats with osteoarthritis found that using cannabidiol reduced inflammation - a significant contributor to pain².
Of those surveyed by the Arthritis Foundation, 67% reported an improvement in their physical function. And more than 30% said it provided relief from stiffness and helped them to get moving in the morning.
This anecdotal evidence from people living with arthritis is a breakthrough for the CBD industry, which up to now has relied largely on animal studies.
Other benefits of CBD
CBD may also be able to help with other symptoms of arthritis, such as anxiety and disturbed sleep.
Anxiety and depression are common in people with arthritis, and in turn mental health problems can make it harder to manage the pain caused by arthritis.
CBD may hold the answer to alleviating the symptoms of anxiety and low mood. Of those surveyed by the Arthritis Foundation, 67% of people using CBD showed an improvement in their mental health and mood.
Additionally, cannabidiol may be able to improve the quality of sleep in people living with arthritis, which is critical not only for managing chronic pain, but for effectively treating anxiety and depression.
Of the people surveyed by the Arthritis Foundation, 71% reported an improvement in their ability to sleep after using CBD.
How does CBD work?
CBD works by interacting with the body's endocannabinoid system (ECS). This is a series of receptors that send messages to the brain. There are two types of receptors:
- CB1 receptors - found in the central nervous system, especially the brain
- CB2 receptors - located in the peripheral nervous system, such as immune cells
The ECS uses these receptors to keep the body's internal environment in check. You might see this referred to as homeostasis. It is responsible for regulating key functions, such as mood, appetite, fertility, and memory.
Phytocannabinoids - those taken from the cannabis plant - work specifically with the body's CB2 receptors. As these are closely related to the body's immune system, it is thought that cannabidiol may be able to reduce inflammation and pain.
Side effects and cautions
CBD is not intended to be a replacement for effective pain management strategies or used as an alternative to well-established arthritis medication. CBD is a complementary therapy, that is best used as part of a wider treatment plan.
Some people prefer it to conventional pain relievers such as nonsteroidal anti inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen, which can cause unpleasant side effects.
Cannabidiol is an organic compound, that is well tolerated by most people and has few reported side effects. Unlike medical marijuana, CBD does not contain any psychoactive chemicals, so it doesn't produce the 'high' sensation associated with cannabis.
CBD is considered safe for use by the World Health Organisation. Talk to your doctor before you start taking CBD for help introducing it into your current treatment plan.
How to use CBD oil for arthritis
When cannabidiol is extracted from the plant, it is usually added to a carrier agent like coconut or hemp oil. It can be taken in a variety of ways:
1. Topical CBD
Topical CBD products can be applied directly to the site of the problem, which is ideal for dealing with arthritis pain and stiffness caused by inflammation. We stock muscle rubs, joint gel, salves, and balms from the world's leading CBD manufactures.
Joint gel is our most popular product for the treatment of arthritis. It’s infused with CBD and a mix of anti-inflammatory botancials, like capsicum, to ease sore joints.
2. Drops or a spray
This is perhaps the most common way to take CBD oil. You can control the dose carefully using a pipette to drop the oil under your tongue (a capillary-rich area), where it can be quickly absorbed into your body.
3. Edible products
There are lots of CBD-infused edible products, that taste great. You can choose from gummies, chocolate, tea, coffee, and more. CBD edibles are easy to fit into your daily routine and are so discreet that no one will ever know.
If you're looking for something different, CBD is also available as an e-liquid for vaping.
The key takeaway
CBD oil is used by thousands of people living with arthritis to manage pain, anxiety and disturbed sleep. While research into the effects of CBD continues, anecdotal evidence from people using it, shows that it can work effectively to relieve pain.
Cannabidiol is best used as part of a wider treatment plan for arthritis, which might also include conventional medicine and help from a physical therapist.
If you are considering taking CBD to reduce inflammation and relieve pain, or perhaps to help you sleep or improve your mental health, then check with your doctor first. They will ensure there is no conflict with any other medicines you are taking.
- Arthritis Foundation [Online] Patients Tells Us About CBD Use [Updated 8/8/2019; Cited 15/8/2021] Available from: https://bit.ly/2UpgfNs
- Jennifer Freeman MD, Rheumatoid Arthritis Support Network [Online] Does CBD Oil Really Help Treat Arthritis Pain? [Updated 4/4/2020; Cited 15/08/2021] Available from: https://bit.ly/3jSwL14