CBD and Arthritis – What’s the evidence?

Updated: Sep 16, 2020

Arthritis is a relatively common condition which can cause swelling and pain at the joints. This leads to difficulty moving and chronic pain, affecting the quality of life. Typically, the joints affected are in the hand, wrists or knee.

The pain from arthritis can be severe and unrelenting, making it a particularly unpleasant condition. Often, there is stiffness, swelling and soreness at an inflamed joint, which can make life difficult for an arthritis patient.

Current treatments are based on the type of arthritis present, and also regularly involves prescription-strength painkillers.

CBD is a chemical extracted from the Cannabis Sativa plant, which appears to have incredible therapeutic benefits. From controlling anxiety to improving sleep quality, CBD has become renowned for its healing powers.

Scientists are beginning to think that the effects of CBD – such as managing chronic pain and reducing inflammation – mean that it could be applied as a treatment for arthritis. While arthritis remains incurable for now, the issues such as chronic pain, stress and sleep difficulties can be alleviated to an extent by CBD.

A deep dive into arthritis

There are a great number of types of arthritis, and the treatments for each type vary. It is important to know what type of arthritis you have before looking to treatment options.

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. This is due to the ‘wear and tear’ of life, as the cartilage which cushions your joints gradually wears away. The big joints such as the spine, hips and knees are often affected. Movement can become painful, and your bones can become slightly misshapen.

It is important to note that osteoarthritis is common in the elderly, but can be brought on faster by: obesity, certain medical conditions, and excessive training. There is rarely inflammation associated with osteoarthritis.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a very widespread form of the condition that has associated swelling, inflammation and joint damage. Unlike osteoarthritis, the pain can be more severe and symptoms have potential to start earlier and develop faster.

The immune system attacks itself as pain, swelling and stiffness in multiple joints may occur. As the disease is autoimmune, treatment can be complex and medication can have severe side effects.

Other types of arthritis

There are other forms of arthritis, such as psoriatic arthritis, gout and lupus. These diseases are rarer and can be inherited or due to genetic factors. Traditionally more complicated to manage and potentially more painful, they are worth researching.

Always speak to your doctor for the most accurate advice regarding your condition.

Pain getting in the way of life

Arthritis can cause severe pain. Often, this debilitating condition can cause mental stress and anguish, as well as the physical pain at the joints. Arthritis Research UK found that over half of women diagnosed with the condition feel they are a nuisance if they complain about their pain.

The research pointed out that many arthritis sufferers felt that their pain was being dismissed by healthcare professionals. A small percentage of those surveyed argued that medical staff did not truly understand arthritis.

A study by the Arthritis Foundation found that over 3 in 5 arthritis patients had difficulty falling asleep or woke up in the middle of the night. Sleep problems can have a major effect on quality of life – remediating sleep issues would greatly benefit a sufferer of arthritis.

Perhaps most damningly, a whopping 68% of men said that their condition was preventing them from living life as they pleased. It is clear that arthritis sufferers feel their needs aren’t being met.

Can CBD help manage arthritis?

CBD, or cannabidiol, is a relatively new therapy. Clinical trials are still taking place, and doctors cannot conclusively say whether CBD can be used to treat arthritis yet. However, animal trials and some human trials suggest that CBD can improve quality of life for patients.

As we have seen, arthritis is not simply ‘joint pain’. This illness encompasses symptoms such as chronic pain, inflammation and even sleeping difficulties due to pain. While few clinical trials have focused extensively on the link between CBD and arthritis, there is good proof that CBD can decrease pain and inflammation.

Reduce pain and inflammation: A 2015 study found that CBD applied to the skin could reduce inflammation and reduce pain also. This was an animal trial, where arthritis was induced in rats - the results are promising. Joint swelling was reduced and pain was made more manageable.

Human trials are not yet commonplace to investigate arthritis, however CBD is used frequently as an unofficial treatment by many. The Arthritis Foundation of America found that around a third of survey respondants use CBD for arthritic pain. While anecdotal evidence is interesting and may sway consumer opinion, the gold standard of medical information comes from clinical trials.

Improve sleep quality: A very recent study found that 25mg CBD capsules could result in better sleep (and lower anxiety!). Further reviews have suggested that sleep is deeper and more restful when CBD is supplemented. To learn more about the link between CBD and sleep, click here.

CBD can play a key role in managing chronic pain, which would be incredibly helpful to a long-suffering patient.

See our Research page to learn more about the therapeutic effects of CBD and how it may have a positive effect on quality of life for an arthritis patient.

What about conclusive arthritis human trials?

An exciting Danish study aims to test whether CBD can have an effect on arthritic pain. The experiment, over 12 weeks, will also attempt THC supplementation if the CBD is ineffective. The study is a double-blind randomised controlled trial, meaning that the results are likely to be accurate and reliable.

We look forward to the results of this study! More research and human trials are required to definitely prove whether CBD has an effect on arthritic pain.

How arthritis is currently treated

As arthritis is an umbrella term for many different causes of pain at the joints, the treatment is similarly varied. Arthritis is currently incurable, so most management focuses on reducing pain and improving mobility.

Physiotherapy to strengthen auxiliary muscles is an effective method of treating certain forms of arthritis. For example, strengthening the quadriceps can decrease the amount of pain by over 30%. This is often the first approach to managing the condition.

Pain relief is a common theme, with NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory) drugs a mainstay of treatment. NSAIDS include naproxen and ibuprofen. Diclofenac is popular in the treatment of osteoarthritis - spread as a cream or gel on the joint.

For rheumatoid arthritis - an autoimmune condition - drugs known as DMARDs (disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs) are incredibly effective at slowing the onset and severity of symptoms. Drugs such as methotrexate can prevent tissues from damage but come with dangerous side effects such as liver toxicity.

Surgery is an option to remove inflamed tissue or to realign joints. However, major medical procedures carry risks and are sometimes not necessary. However, a successful surgery can dramatically decrease discomfort and enable greater mobility.

With the exception of physiotherapy, these treatments often come with a trade-off or sacrifice due to the side-effects. Arthritis is not a death sentence, but it is evident that the condition requires careful management and can be tricky to deal with.

Something to think about…

Arthritis is not a condition to be taken lightly, and as such we recommend speaking to your doctor before attempting any kind of treatment. Anecdotal evidence and stories on the internet that suggest miracle cures for arthritis should be taken with a pinch of salt too!

However, it is difficult to overlook the benefits that CBD ingestion can bring to the table. While the achy joints may not be resolved, CBD supplementation has the potential to ease pain and boost mood. Scientific evidence backs these claims – perhaps one day cannabidiol-based treatments may be recommended for arthritic patients!

One day if the treatment is right it could be life getting in the way of pain!