Arthritis is a painful disease that 54 million Americans are living with, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Inflammation causes discomfort, decreases range of motion, and stiffens the joints of arthritis sufferers. The most common type of arthritis is osteoarthritis, which mainly affects adults 65 and older.
Whole-plant CBD oil may offer relief to arthritis sufferers, including senior citizens who are most commonly diagnosed with osteoarthritis.
Several recent studies have shown that CBD oil and other topicals could be beneficial in treating the joint pain and inflammation associated with arthritis.
A 2015 study published in the European Journal of Pain found that CBD decreased inflammation and pain in rodents. Notably, the administration route of CBD was topical, which could lend hope to arthritis patients seeking a balm to massage into painful joints.
While results from tests performed on animals may not always reflect the human experience, a 2018 study published in the Journal of Headache Pain reported positive findings from a cohort of cannabis-consuming patients. Researchers found that cannabis varieties high in the terpenes caryophyllene and myrcene (the most dominant chemovars on the market at the time of the study) had the best success at treating headaches, migraines, and other pain disorders including arthritis.
Though these studies do show some promise for CBD in treating arthritis, there is a glaring lack of placebo-controlled clinical trials that are critical for establishing treatment protocol.
An aging generation of baby boomers may be leading the pack in using CBD oil to treat arthritis. Senior patients shared their stories in a 2018 AARP article, “Boomers Fuel Boom in Popularity of CBD.” Nancy Giacobbe, a 61-year-old aesthetician from California, applies CBD topicals to her skin day and night. Giacobbe shared in the article: “Within an hour, I'm a happy person and can do a full 35-hour workweek.”
Giacobbe's late husband, Chris, also used CBD oil to manage pain stemming from cancer treatments. “When he would sleep, his face would just be at peace,” Giacobbe said of her husband's experience with CBD oil.
Actor Sir Patrick Stewart of “Star Trek: The Next Generation”fame has also reaped rewards from using topicals for his arthritis. Suffering from osteoarthritis in both hands, Stewart found relief with a three-pronged approach of CBD ointment, spray, and edibles. In a statement published in 2017 in Huffington Post, the actor cited a lack of adverse side effects from his cannabis treatments and shared, “I believe that the ointment and spray have significantly reduced the stiffness and pain in my hands. I can make fists, which was not the case before I began this treatment.”
What the experts say
CBD oil has been gaining national attention as the Arthritis Foundation and Rheumatoid Arthritis Support Network are among the major organizations that have discussed its potential healing powers.
The Arthritis Foundation states that current research may indicate that CBD oil could help reduce arthritic pain and inflammation while calling for more rigorous studies on humans to reach a determination on CBD's effectiveness.
Meanwhile, the Rheumatoid Arthritis Support Network references the rich global history that cannabis possesses, “Although CBD oil is just now becoming fairly mainstream, largely because of the debates surrounding medical marijuana, cannabis actually has a long history of providing relief in many different countries around the world.”
Neither organization explicitly encourages or discourages arthritis patients from trying CBD oil. Rather, both organizations suggest that, with further research, CBD oil could prove to be a soothing remedy for arthritis patients, minus the uncomfortable side effects that numerous prescription medications cause.
Some physicians are in agreement with the organizations, including Dr. Jason McDougall, professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Anesthesia at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. McDougall has been studying how medical cannabis could work to manage arthritis pain.
In an interview with Canadian Broadcasting Corp. (CBC) Radio, McDougall talked about his analysis of the nerve endings of arthritis sufferers, saying, “They're all bare, they're all raw and responsible for feeling a lot of pain. What we hypothesize is that by locally administering these cannabis-like molecules to those nerves, we'd actually be able to repair them and reduce the pain of arthritis."
McDougall's supposition is hopeful, not only because of the pain relief he alludes to, but also the idea that the nerves of an arthritis patient could actually be repaired. If McDougall is correct, then CBD oil and other cannabis-based treatments could provide more than just temporary relief; they could offer genuine healing.
Holistic healthcare practitioner Dr. Debra Rose Wilson shares this advice with arthritis patients interested in CBD oil. “Work with your doctor to sort out the right balance of CBD oil, other medications, and self-care. This may work better than the medications you have been taking,” she wrote in a 2018 article for Medical News Today.
Though rigorous clinical human trials are lacking, numerous reports of anecdotal evidence show that topical CBD oil could be a pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory treatment option for individuals living with arthritis.
Major contributions from Dr. Adie Rae.