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CBD for Arthritis: What we know and what we don’t

CBD for Arthritis

What is Arthritis?

“Arthritis” doesn’t describe one disease; rather, it is an informal, catch-all term to describe symptoms like stiffness, swelling and joint pain, or joint disease. Another common misconception is that it is “an old persons’ ” disease. Although many older people are diagnosed with it, people of all ages and genders, and even children, are susceptible to joint pain and disease characteristic of arthritis. The most common symptoms are swelling at the joints, stiffness, limited motion, and chronic pain, varying from mild to severe. Arthritis is debilitating as it can result in a limited ability to perform simple, daily tasks like prepare food or climb a flight of stairs, which raises the question of whether we can use CBD for arthritis and for conditions like arthritis–which are characterized by chronic inflammation and pain.

Using CBD for Arthritis: Can CBD manage chronic pain conditions?

There are a great many pain medications currently on the market. Many of the currently FDA-approved medications are effective but also come with side effects and their own health risks. Reading the warning labels of some of these medications can make your hair stand on end with the list of side effects you may encounter. Enter the new kid on the block: CBD and the question of whether it is effective to use CBD for arthritis and the management of chronic pain.

Using CBD for arthritic pain is more common than you might think, with a recent poll by The Arthritis Foundation indicating that as many as 79% of respondents indicated that they were currently using it, had used it in the past, or were considering using it. Of this group, around half (62%) used a liquid form of CBD, with the other half (55%) using a topical CBD ‘rub’ or balm to help with their pain symptoms. As we learn more and more about the beneficial effects of CBD its inclusion in treatment regimes for arthritis seems more and more welcome.

There is substantial evidence that cannabis is an effective treatment for chronic pain in adults
~ The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

CBD and Arthritis: What we do know.

To answer the question of whether CBD can help to manage chronic pain conditions, the evidence seems to indicate that it can and that there are some benefits to using it. In 2017, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine confirmed that “there is substantial evidence that cannabis is an effective treatment for chronic pain in adults,” providing a learned nod of approval for chronic pain sufferers to consider cannabinoids and CBD as part of their pain management regime. In addition, the same publication points to five different studies which align (4-1) in favor of the use of cannabis in pain management. We’ve listed a few of them in our references at the end of this article if you want to read further into these research findings.

CBD and Arthritis: What we don’t know.

However, it’s not all good news. This same publication was at pains to point out that, although the research was stacked in favor of cannabis use to treat chronic pain, more research was required into the efficacy of the myriad of cannabis-based products currently on the market and how each of these individual products managed pain. With this in mind, a helpful rule of thumb for someone who has arthritis would be to do some research into prospective cannabis-based products they may be considering for help with pain relief. Of particular concern would be findings around the efficacy and safety of each product.

Cannabis and CBD: Some background information.

As you probably already know, cannabis products can be split into two broad categories: Recreational and Medicinal. We need not be too concerned with the recreational products here other than to say they are characterized mainly by high levels of one particular cannabinoid: Tetrahydrocannabinol or THC for short. THC is the psychoactive chemical compound in marijuana that gets you “high,” think of it as the thing that puts all the F-U-N into the “recreational” part of Marijuana. THC is a strongly psychoactive, intoxicating compound and may not be the solution you are after if you are looking for a treatment to help with symptom relief from arthritis without feeling “fuzzy,” “high,” or “spacey.”

Medicinal Cannabis products are a little different however. These are usually high in cannabidiol (CBD), another compound found in the plant-primarily responsible for the pain reduction effect we see across the reported research. The remarkable thing about medicinal cannabis is that it usually has VERY LOW amounts of THC, as THC is not especially useful as a medicine per se.  

Good quality medicinal cannabis products are usually derived not from Marijuana plants (high in THC) but from hemp plants–a version of the same Cannabis Sativa (Marijuana) plant which has been selectively bred to be low in THC (less than 0.3%) and is also suitable for making fibers for clothing, ropes, and textiles. Hemp has always been a beneficial and staple crop of the United States and indeed the world at large. Even George and Martha Washington farmed Hemp at Mount Vernon, along with flax and a myriad of other crops (which is a decent celebrity endorsement of Hemp, if ever there was one).

When it comes to safety in using CBD for arthritis, our advice would be to start at your doctor or healthcare practitioner’s office. Your doctor is uniquely placed to help you to understand the best course of action in managing the symptoms of pain associated with arthritis and your particular medical history. Once your healthcare practitioner has given you the go-ahead, you may want to look into different products that could be of use. Each comes with its own set of benefits and trade-offs, and it is good to be mindful of the effects of each one. You should also be aware that, as of this writing, no CBD oil products have been approved by the FDA.

For example, when looking into CBD for arthritis, you might consider some of the benefits of a CBD tincture like Soulsome. Soulsome is a cold-pressed CBD oil, which means that the essential cannabinoid oils were extracted from the raw hemp plant in a mechanical press–in exactly the same way that they make extra virgin olive oil. This extraction method ensures that no chemicals are used in the extraction process so that you won’t expose yourself to any harmful toxins or chemical residues from the CBD oil extraction. Soulsome’s CBD oil is pure CBD.

Another group of terms you are likely to encounter in your research are “Full-spectrum,” “Broad-spectrum,” and “CBD Isolate.” We’ve created an in-depth article explaining what these terms mean, which you can link to above. Soulsome CBD oil is a full-spectrum CBD oil that utilizes all of the available cannabinoids in the plant, which seem to have a more substantial, more beneficial effect for the user when these cannabinoids work in unison. More research is needed on this phenomenon, dubbed the “Entourage Effect,” but the anecdotal evidence seems to support it to some degree. This additional efficacy may be something worth considering in your research into which CBD product you settle on when researching CBD for arthritis and its chronic pain management.

Arthritis and CBD Treatments: The future

For now, we know that cannabis has proved useful in the management of chronic pain conditions. Of the cannabis preparations, CBD preparations seem to be the most useful in terms of managing pain without the additional “fuzziness” or psychoactive effects that come with high levels of THC. Although the CBD field is still in its infancy, and much more research is required to prove many of the benefits of CBD conclusively, we have a good starting point with chronic pain conditions like arthritis and using CBD for arthritic pain management. What remains to be seen now is how far science will take us in understanding the management of arthritis and the role that CBD oil has to play in this in the future.

Further reading

  1. Whiting PF, Wolff RF, Deshpande S, Di Nisio M, Duffy S, Hernandez AV, Keurentjes JC, Lang S, Misso K, Ryder S, Schmidlkofer S, Westwood M, Kleijnen J. Cannabinoids for medical use: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of the American Medical Association. 2015;313(24):2456–2473. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26103030/ on 07/22/2021
  2. Ilgen MA, Bohnert K, Kleinberg F, Jannausch M, Bohnert AS, Walton M, Blow FC. Characteristics of adults seeking medical marijuana certification. Drug and Alcohol Dependence. 2013;132(3):654–659. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23683791 on 07/22/2021
  3. Boehnke KF, Litinas E, Clauw DJ. Medical cannabis use is associated with decreased opiate medication use in a retrospective cross-sectional survey of patients with chronic pain. Journal of Pain. 2016;17(6):739–744. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27001005 on 07/22/2021.
  4. Bradford AC, Bradford WD. Medical marijuana laws reduce prescription medication use in Medicare part D. Health Affairs. 2016;35(7):1230–1236. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27385238 on 07/22/2021.
  5. Benyamin R, Trescot AM, Datta S, Buenaventura R, Adlaka R, Sehgal N, Glaser SE, Vallejo R. Opioid complications and side effects. Pain Physician. 2008 Mar;11(2 Suppl):S105-20. PMID: 18443635. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18443635/ on 07/22/2021

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