What Can CBD Oil Do to Reduce Joint Pain?

  • While studies are limited in regards to the effect of cannabidiol (CBD) oil on joint pain, researchers have identified a clear relationship between the two.
  • CBD may address comorbid conditions related to chronic pain, including anxiety and sleep disorders.
  • CBD appears to inhibit or activate key compounds which influence the endocannabinoid system (ECS), including anandamide, which is associated with pain reduction.
  • Many patients report using CBD oil to relieve symptoms of joint pain and animal models have shown positive effects, especially in relation to arthritis, however, more scientific research is needed.

Joint pain affects millions of people around the world and is associated with a wide range of conditions and ailments. Some of the most common reasons for joint pain are due to musculoskeletal conditions and inflammatory diseases, yet few studies have identified public priorities in relation to joint pain research. 

Currently, treatment typically consists of drug therapy, including the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and weak opioids. Other non-pharmacologic treatment plans include cognitive behavioral therapy, stress management, and patient education in self-management programs. 

Based on the ways in which CBD oil impacts key brain receptors, it shows promise for those seeking an alternative treatment option in the hopes to reduce pain and inflammation. It may also address conditions related to chronic pain, including anxiety and sleep disorders. 

Plants all over the world have evolved thousands of their own chemicals that just by coincidence are useful in treating human illnesses,” Said Dr. Paula Williams, a physician at Apollo Cannabis Clinics, a medical cannabis care center in the Toronto area. “It turns out that the nervous system has neural pathways that use the body’s own cannabinoid receptors. Cannabinoids interact with the CB1 and CB2 receptors in various ways to increase natural pain relief. These are not the same as opioid receptors, which is one reason why cannabis does not tend to be addicting when used for pain relief.”

Research Overview 

There are many kinds of joint pain, but one of the most common sources of pain is arthritis,” said Adie Rae, Ph.D., a subject matter expert for Weedmaps who has extensively studied the endocannabinoid system. “Both rheumatoid and osteoarthritis patients report using topical CBD oil to manage their symptoms. The true efficacy of these products has not been studied in clinical trials, but in animal models of arthritis, topical CBD effectively reduces pain and inflammation.”

While studies are limited in regards to the effect of CBD oil on joint pain, researchers have identified a clear relationship between the two. Scientists believe that the non-intoxicating cannabinoid CBD does very little to the endocannabinoid system (ECS) compared with THC. 

While studies are limited, researchers have identified a relationship between CBD and joint pain. (Photo by Gina Coleman/Weedmaps)

Instead, CBD appears to inhibit or activate key compounds which influence the ECS, including anandamide. This compound is associated with pain reduction, and CBD helps reduce absorption. As levels increase in one’s bloodstream, the amount of pain that individuals feel may lesson. This means that CBD may help the body use the ECS more effectively. 

In animal studies, CBD has been shown to reduce inflammation and relieve joint pain without inducing significant side effects. However, human studies are limited, and the results are mixed. More comprehensive studies are required.

I’ve been prescribing medical cannabis to patients in my pain practice, hundreds of them, for about 10 years,” Williams said. “Before we had the sophisticated, quality controlled and analyzed forms of cannabis that we have today in Canada, patients had to get permission from Health Canada to access medical cannabis. They often had their own, possibly less reputable sources. These patients had experienced pain and then, miraculously, relief of pain with this fascinating, enticing, natural and multi-talented little plant.”

The Studies 

A 2016 study, published in the European Journal of Pain, examined the efficacy of topical CBD in rats. It was found that the application of CBD significantly reduced joint swelling, as well as limb posture scores as a rating of pain. It was concluded that topical CBD offers therapeutic potential for pain-related inflammation and behaviors associated with arthritis.          

Another study, published in the Lippincott, Williams, and Wilkins journal Pain, focused on CBD pain prevention in relation to rat osteoarthritis. At this time, chronic pain is a major concern among patients, as there are few viable treatment options available. While pharmaceuticals are the most common form of therapy, their efficacy declines across time and they also increase one’s risk of experiencing significant side effects. 

Upon studying osteoarthritis rats, it was found that CBD blocked joint pain in a dose-dependent manner. In addition, prophylactic CBD administration prevented the future development of nerve damage and associated pain in the osteoarthritis joints. The researchers concluded that CBD may be a safe treatment option in mammals, targeting pain while blocking the inflammatory responses that drive disease progression. 

Patient Perspectives

Billy Evans, 34, has been using CBD oil, as well as CBD creams and salves, in order to address his joint pain and muscle spasms. “I currently live in the United States and am in need of a shoulder replacement,” Evans told Weedmaps News. “Upon using CBD oil, I was able to get off of three different muscle relaxers, as well as some of my pain medications.”

Kayleigh Shanna, 31, is both a patient and industry expert, working as a cannabis sommelier, consultant, and master grower. “I originally began taking CBD oil in order to better treat my symptoms of depression and anxiety,” Shanna said. “However, I also suffered from pain and sleep disturbances as a direct result of my mood disorder, both of which significantly improved after I began taking CBD oil daily.”

People use CBD Oil and CBD creams and salves to ease joint pain. (Photo by Gina Coleman/Weedmaps)

Brendon James, 30, first became a medical patient in 2010 following a major car crash. After severely damaging his foot’s subtalar joint, he was living in constant pain. “I was given everything from pain medications to nerve suppressants and opioids, but the side effects made me seek alternatives,” James said. 

He continued, “Today, I have been taking high-CBD strain cannabis and oil derivatives for nearly a decade. This treatment option has helped considerably with the pain, as well as my ability to cope with life alterations associated with nearly losing my foot. The pain will never fully go away, but CBD has helped reduce the associated inflammation. There have been no notable perverse side effects and I am in no way addicted to it. I am now in control of my pain — not the other way around.”

What the Experts Say 

Dr. Bonni Goldstein is a medical adviser to Weedmaps.com, author of Cannabis Revealed, and Medical Director of Canna-Centers in California. She said CBD can help reduce inflammatory discomfort. “CBD is a potent anti-inflammatory and can decrease joint pain in patients with arthritis and other conditions that cause joint inflammation,” she said. “Patients often report better mobility and an ability to decrease the use of NSAIDs with CBD use.”

An elderly woman was brought to my office by her adult daughter. The elderly lady was experiencing pain from osteoarthritis in her knees that began to affect her mobility. The patient began taking a 25:1 CBD:THC ratio edible, resulting in almost complete resolution of pain and improved mobility,” Goldstein said. 

Williams, the Canadian cannabis clinic physician, recommends using CBD and THC in tandem for joint pain relief.

“The medical cannabis that we like to prescribe contains mostly cannabidiol, or CBD; and somewhat less tetrahydrocannabinol, known as THC. Both of these compounds can relieve pain and inflammation,” she said. “They seem to work best in combination, in plant form, as opposed to a purified chemical. The balance of CBD and THC that works best for each individual person with pain may have to be found by trial-and-error.”

The Bottom Line 

Many patients report using cannabidiol to relieve symptoms of joint pain. Animal models have shown positive effects, especially in relation to arthritis. However, at this time, more scientific research is required in humans to determine dosing and overall safety guidelines. 

Rae added, “An important consideration for patients choosing to explore topical CBD for joint pain is the formula or makeup of the product. Some CBD oils are diluted in carrier oils that are not very compatible with the skin, whereas other plant-derived oils can enhance skin penetration (jojoba oil, for example). Also, eucalyptus, rosemary, and citrus oils have been shown to increase the skin penetration of other medications, so topical CBD products that also contain these ingredients could yield better results.”