CBD has been hyped as the next big thing to treat just about anything – from depression and anxiety to chronic pain and so much more. More recently, research has indicated that CBD can work as an effective treatment for various forms of arthritis.
Today, it is estimated that there are 350 million people suffering from arthritis all around the world. About 50 million of these people are American, which makes it the number one cause of disability in the country. This increasing number is showing no sign of slowing down, and it’s one of the most prevalent causes of chronic pain in adults. By the year 2040, there is expected to be 78 million (26%) adults in America who have been diagnosed to have arthritis by a physician.
There currently isn’t any known cure for arthritis, and for those who suffer from this condition, it’s a gradually degenerative process. It’s often tough for not only them but also those around them. To deal with the debilitating chronic pain, a lot of patients turn to opioid painkillers. While this is a short-term solution to manage the pain, ultimately, opioids usually end up causing addiction and fatalities due to abuse and misuse. Opioid use continues to spike in the United States, but medical professionals and patients are continuously looking for new pathways to manage pain and overall health. Cannabis, but more specifically, CBD, may be a powerful alternative to using opioids and help people to reclaim their wellness by taking a more natural approach.
Overview of Arthritis
While arthritis is a very common disease, it’s not well understood. In fact, it’s not a single disease, but rather a term used to define joint disease or joint pain. There are over 100 different kinds of arthritis and related conditions, and people of any sex, age, or race can develop this debilitating condition.
Arthritis is described as the inflammation of joints, and it can affect one or a few joints at the same time. The symptoms of arthritis usually develop gradually, but can sometimes appear suddenly. Typically the symptoms of arthritis include stiffness, pain, swelling, tenderness, warmth, and loss of range of movement of the joint. While arthritis could affect any joint in the body, it is more prevalent in the back, hips, knees, and neck.
The two most common forms of arthritis are:
- Rheumatoid arthritis (RA): This is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the joints, causing inflammation. RA usually affects the hands and feet and leads to stiff, swollen, and painful joints.
- Osteoarthritis (OA): This is a degenerative disease that affects the bones and joint cartridges, causing stiffness and pain. It often affects the knees, hips, and thumb joints.
Diagnosing arthritis often begins with a physician who will perform a physical exam, and may do imaging scans and blood tests to determine the type of arthritis. A rheumatologist (arthritis specialist) should be involved if the arthritis may be inflammatory or if the diagnosis is uncertain. Rheumatologists usually manage ongoing treatment for inflammatory arthritis, as well as gout, and other complicated cases.
How and Why CBD Could Help in the Treatment of Arthritis
You might or might not be aware of this, but throughout the body, there are a variety of cannabinoid receptors. These receptors are involved in an array of physiological processes such as memory, pain-sensation, and appetite. If these receptors didn’t exist in our bodies, we would be susceptible to a whole lot of different diseases. When CBD is first introduced into the body, the body’s natural forming chemicals are stimulated into responses that aid the body in various processes. One of these being the ability to cope with pain that is caused by arthritis.
There are two main types of receptors found throughout the body; CB1 and CB2. The CB1 receptors are mostly found in the brain, and the CB2 receptors are typically found in the immune system. CB2 receptors are also found at high levels in the joint tissues of those who suffer from arthritis. CBD can alleviate pain in the joints and reduce inflammation by activating the CB2 receptor pathways. CBD is notorious for its anti-inflammatory properties, and these same qualities can help those who suffer from severe joint pain by assisting the CB2 receptors to work in the affected areas.
CBD works to balance and nourish the body’s ECS (endocannabinoid system). The ECS is a group of endogenous cannabinoid receptors that are found in the brain, peripheral nervous system, and central nervous system. The CB1 and CB2 receptors that we mentioned above form part of the ECS. CBD is non-psychoactive, non-toxic, and safe, and works behind the scenes to address inflammation, anxiety, and depression. CBD won’t get you high (it’s non-psychoactive), but it will leave you feeling less anxious, reduce pain, and give you more ease of movement. It can be ideal for addressing the chronic pain that is caused by arthritis.
Since CBD has an effect on the immune system, it’s useful for managing autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis. A study, done by Dr. Sheng-Ming Dai of China’s Second Military Medical University and published in the journal Rheumatology, discovered that CB2 receptors could be found in unusually high levels in the joint tissue of those who suffer from arthritis. Since CBD fights joint inflammation by activating the pathways of CB2 receptors, CBD is an effective anti-inflammatory that can relieve stiffness and pain that causes arthritis.
Medical Findings: Effects of Cannabinoids and CBD on Arthritis
The first controlled trial done to evaluate the use of cannabis-based medicine to treat rheumatoid arthritis (RA) specifically, was conducted in 2006. After five weeks, researchers concluded that a cannabis-based medicine known as Sativex helped to reduce inflammation and significantly improved pain. Patients also reported improved sleep, and for the most part, the side effects were mild.
Most studies on CBD and arthritis have been conducted on rodents, including one that was published in the 2017 journal Pain which suggested that CBD may help to relieve the joint pain experienced with osteoarthritis. Another study reported in a 2016 issue of Arthritis Care and Research found that CBD could improve sleep, relieve pain, and better the quality of life in those patients who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis (RA). However, the sample size for the study was very small, making the results mostly insignificant.
Certain preliminary research has suggested that CBD may help specifically with arthritis pain. In animal studies, which could translate to humans, CBD relieved arthritic inflammation and pain. Here’s an overview of some of these animal studies:
- A 2011 study concluded that CBD helps to reduce inflammatory pain in rats by means of affecting the way that pain receptors typically respond to stimuli.
- A 2016 study came to the conclusion that applying CBD topically has the potential to relieve inflammation and pain associated with arthritis.
More recently, in August 2018, the Bridgefield group (cannabis-research firm) surveyed 2,400 users from HelloMD which is a cannabis information site. The findings displayed widespread satisfaction among regular users of CBD, with 42% of those surveyed stating that they had given up pharmaceutical drugs in favor of CBD. More than a quarter of those surveyed reported that they used CBD in some form to treat arthritis, which makes it one of the top conditions found during the study.
While all of this research is incredibly promising, the existing studies have been very small. A lot more studies, especially done on larger numbers of human participants, are still necessary to fully understand how CBD works to treat the symptoms of arthritis.
Medical Benefits of Using CBD to Treat Arthritis
Using CBD to treat arthritis not only helps with inflammation and pain due to its interaction with the two cannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2, but its effects also seem to play a part in slowing down or at the very least preserving the joint damage that occurs in rheumatoid arthritis. This could prove to be a very beneficial treatment since the side effects of RA include fever and fatigue.
The most significant benefit of using CBD is pain relief. However, CBD can also be beneficial in the treatment of inflammation, and anxiety and depression which can occur as a result of arthritis.
How to Take CBD for Arthritis
There are quite a few different ways to treat the chronic pain that is caused by arthritis with CBD. But as with any medication, there should be some consideration before one form of treatment is chosen over another. Each method will provide a different kind of relief and comes with its own set of pros and cons. The best options for treating arthritis are thought to be tinctures and topicals.
Topical salves are a great way to relieve irritated muscles and pain in swollen joints. After the topical is applied, it’s absorbed into the skin and deep into the joint tissue where CBD interacts with the receptors of the ECS to provide relief. The CBD begins taking effect almost immediately after being applied to the affected area – expect relief within a few minutes of application. The effects will usually last for a few hours. Topicals are especially useful for those who want to cover a broad area of their body.
CBD oils come in the form of both liquid (tinctures) and capsules. You can consume the capsules by mouth – as you would any other pill, or add your CBD tincture to food or water. If you don’t mind the taste of the tincture, you can simply use a dropper to place a few drops under your tongue. You can also mix your CBD tincture with your favorite lotion and apply it directly to your skin.
You should work together with your doctor to determine the best dosage for you. Some products may contain as little as 2.5 mg of CBD per dose, while others could contain more than 1,000 mg. It’s advised to start with a small dose and see how your body reacts to it. If you don’t notice any significant side effects, you can slowly increase the dosage.
Final Thoughts on CBD for Arthritis
So far, studies that have looked into benefits of CBD for treating people who suffer from arthritis are promising. However, there certainly is a need for more human studies to fully understand the effects. But, the fact remains, a significant number of people who suffer from arthritis have found relief thanks to CBD.