Should You Try CBD for Arthritis Pain?

Dr. Andrew Colucci

Doctor of Medicine (M.D. cum laude) from Boston University School of Medicine in 2012 - Dr. Colucci is currently a radiologist in MA

Apr 6, 20202 min read

Approximately 54 million adults in the United States are currently living with doctor-diagnosed arthritis according to the Arthritis Foundation. [1] Unfortunately, by the year 2040, that number is expected to increase dramatically, rising to roughly 78 million in total.

The Arthritis Foundation further states that, though there are more than 100 different types of arthritis known today, osteoarthritis is the most common. Additionally, arthritis patients are predominantly female (25 percent versus 18 percent male), especially when it comes to certain types, such as rheumatoid arthritis.

Arthritis symptoms include joints that are swollen, stiff, red, or warm to the touch. Chronic pain is also characteristic with this inflammatory condition. All of these can make it difficult to engage in regular daily activities, which is why some arthritis patients are beginning to ask whether CBD oil help with their arthritis.

CBD stands for cannabidiol, just one of many cannabinoids found within the cannabis plant. The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) explains that, when these cannabinoids interact with our body’s cannabinoid receptors, they imitate the endocannabinoids we naturally produce within the endocannabinoid system. [2]

The UCLA adds that, while endocannabinoids were only discovered in the 1990s, the endocannabinoid system appears to impact a number of our biological processes. These include how we process pain, our mood, our ability to sleep, and our immune system function – all processes that many arthritis patients report as being negatively impacted by this disease.

CBD has been linked to a variety of health benefits, with arthritic pain management being one. In fact, one study published in the Journal of Headache and Pain involving more than 2,000 participants reported that “chronic pain was the most common reason for cannabis use.” [3]

For instance, in a 2016 animal study, researchers applied a topical CBD gel to rats that were exhibiting typical symptoms of arthritis, which included inflammation and pain. Yet, after just four days of treatment, these animals had reduced swelling and showed signs of lessened pain. Thus, researchers concluded that “topical CBD application has therapeutic potential for relief of arthritis pain-related behaviours and inflammation without evident side-effects.” [4]

Additional pieces of scientific evidence have linked CBD products with their anti-inflammatory properties, as well as being an anti-microbial. That makes them helpful with regard to not only the treatment of arthritis pain, but also for the treatment of a variety of conditions including autoimmune diseases, multiple sclerosis, cancer, and diabetes. [5]

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has even approved the first drug containing CBD. It is Epidiolex and it was designed for patients with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome or Dravet syndrome, two rare forms of hard-to-treat epilepsy. [6]

One concern that many arthritis patients have is whether the use of CBD products like CBD oil will make them high. The answer is no, and here is why.

The one cannabinoid that is most commonly associated with medical marijuana is tetrahydrocannabinol or THC. THC has psychoactive properties, which is why it creates a high effect when used.

However, for CBD derived from hemp plants to be legal under the Farm Bill of 2018, it cannot contain more than 0.3 percent THC. This is much different than CBD that is extracted from the marijuana plant—often referred to as medical cannabis—which can have as much as 35 percent THC. [7]

If you’re interested in using CBD oil to help ease your joint pain, there are many treatment options from which to choose. For instance, some people report experiencing relief from vaping their CBD, whereas others prefer taking CBD gummies. Still more options include lotions and CBD oil tinctures.

When it comes to pain relief, we recommend taking a tincture sublingually, which means under the tongue. This enables the CBD oil to enter your blood stream faster, which improves its pain-relieving effects. Taking the CBD oil this way also prevents the CBD from being metabolized by the stomach, which can occur when consuming it via other oral options.

Some CBD users might experience side effects when taking this cannabinoid, such as dry mouth, diarrhea, and drowsiness. Though the Mayo Clinic indicates that this cannabinoid is “often well-tolerated.” [8]

That said, CBD does have some potential drug interactions, like with certain blood thinners, according to the Mayo Clinic. So, it’s always best to consult with your physician before taking any type of CBD product to ensure that it won’t negatively impact any medications you’re currently taking.

View Sources Last Edited: April 6, 2020

[1] “Arthritis Facts.” Arthritis Foundation. Accessed Nov 21, 2019.

[2] “Human Endocannabinoid System.” UCLA Health. Accessed Nov 21, 2019.

[3] “Patterns of Medicinal Cannabis Use, Strain Analysis, and Substitution Effect Among Patients with Migraine, Headache, Arthritis, and Chronic Pain in a Medicinal Cannabis Cohort.” Journal of Headache and Pain. May 24, 2018; 19(37).

[4] “Transdermal Cannabidiol Reduces Inflammation and Pain-Related Behaviours in a Rat Model of Arthritis.” European Journal of Pain. Jul 2016; 20(6): 936-948.

[5] “Cannabidiol (CBD) Prevents Palmitic Acid-Induced Drop in Mitochondrial Membrane Potential.” Pharmacology & Pharmacy. Sep 2019; 10(9).

[6] “FDA Approves First Drug Comprised of an Active Ingredient Derived from Marijuana to Treat Rare, Severe Forms of Epilepsy.” Jun 25, 2018.

[7] “Hemp vs Marijuana: Are Hemp and Marijuana the Same?” Ministry of Hemp. Oct 2019.

[8] “What Are the Benefits of CBD – And Is It Safe to Use?” Mayo Clinic. Dec 20, 2018.