Joint pain is a serious health issue for hundreds of millions of people around the globe. These can be temporary pain issues such as a sprain or a permanent and debilitating disease such as arthritis.
Most of the time, there’s no cure. Usually rest and a topical analgesic such as Icy hot of Ben Gay can be used to reduce the pain in minor cases. In some cases, prescription pain medication or surgery may be needed.
The past few decades have seen a number of advances in the field of joint pain management. Among the tools that are promising is the use of the cannabinoid cannabidiol, or CBD.
Joint pain is a general term. There are scores of conditions that can be put under the umbrella of joint pain. These include over 100 different types of arthritis. Joint pain can include issues such as:
- Still’s disease
- Back Pain
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- Complex Regional Pain Syndrome
- Degenerative Disc Disease
- Hip Dysplasia
- Mediterranean Fever
- Fifth Disease
- Infectious Arthritis
- Inflammatory Arthritis
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease
- Juvenile Arthritis
- Kawasaki Disease
- Lyme Disease
- Mixed Connective Tissue Disease
- Paget’s Disease
- Pediatric Rheumatic Diseases
- Psoriatic Arthritis
- Raynaud’s Phenomenon
- Reactive Arthritis
- Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy
- Rheumatic Fever
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Spinal Stenosis
- Systemic Sclerosis
- Temporal Arteritis
All of these issues can affect different and/or multiple joints at the same time. In most cases, there’s no cure for them. But CBD can be an effective treatment tool to give some relief to these issues.
How CBD Can Help Joint Pain
In the last decade, The National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) has released at least 4 studies on the effects of CBD on joint pain and specifically arthritis. These studies were all performed on animals, but since the ECS of animals and humans are virtually the same, the studies provide great hope for those suffering from arthritis.
A study in 2011 tested CBD on joint inflammation. In most cases, studies revolve around the CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors in the endocannabinoid system. It is well documented that these receptors can act to control a process called nociception, which is the sensory nervous system’s response to certain harmful or potentially harmful stimuli. This particular study, called The abnormal cannabidiol analogue O-1602 reduces nociception in a rat model of acute arthritis via the putative cannabinoid receptor GPR55, was designed to see if other cannabinoid receptors in the ECS can help with joint pain. The results showed that “atypical cannabinoid receptors are involved in joint nociception and these novel targets may be advantageous for the treatment of inflammatory pain.” In other words, other receptors besides the common CB1 and CB2 were in play in the reduction of joint inflammation when cannabinoids such as CBD were used to treat the inflammation. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21683763)
A clinical review in 2014 called the Involvement of the endocannabinoid system in osteoarthritis pain looked at preclinical studies that supported the interest of the endocannabinoid system as an emerging therapeutic target for osteoarthritis pain. The findings of this review stated: “Indeed, pharmacological studies have shown the anti-nociceptive effects of cannabinoids in different rodent models of osteoarthritis, and compelling evidence suggests active participation of the endocannabinoid system in the pathophysiology of this disease. The ubiquitous distribution of cannabinoid receptors, together with the physiological role of the endocannabinoid system in the regulation of pain, inflammation, and even joint function further support the therapeutic interest of cannabinoids for osteoarthritis.” As such, cannabinoids such as CBD have been effective in studies that utilized laboratory mice with joint issues. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24494687)
A 2016 study looked at CBD as a treatment for arthritis. Specifically, it looked at the transdermal administration of CBD. In other words, it looked at CBD topical products such as creams applied directly to the affected area as a treatment. This study also involved mice.
The study, Transdermal cannabidiol reduces inflammation and pain-related behaviours in a rat model of arthritis, used a method of CBD gels (0.6, 3.1, 6.2 or 62.3 mg/day) applied for 4 consecutive days after arthritis induction.
The results in the mice were prom icing. The study results stated: “Transdermal CBD gel significantly reduced joint swelling, limb posture scores as a rating of spontaneous pain, immune cell infiltration and thickening of the synovial membrane in a dose-dependent manner. PWL (paw withdrawal latency) recovered to the near baseline level.”
Furthermore, the study stated that: “Immunohistochemical analysis of spinal cord (CGRP, OX42) and dorsal root ganglia revealed dose-dependent reductions of pro-inflammatory biomarkers. Results showed 6.2 and 62 mg/day were effective doses. Exploratory behaviour was not altered by CBD indicating a limited effect on higher brain function.” This means that the CBD not only improved the joint pain of the mice but didn’t affect the brain function, so the mice could function normally with CBD without and intoxicating effects. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26517407)
A 2017 study looked at the effects of CBD in osteoarthritis (OA), the goal was to see if CBD was an effective anti-nociceptive in OA. The study, titled Attenuation of early phase inflammation by cannabidiol prevents pain and nerve damage in rat osteoarthritis found that local administration of CBD (a topical) blocked OA pain. The CBD treatment not only prevented the later development of pain but nerve damage as well in these OA joints. The report concluded: “these findings suggest that CBD may be a safe, useful therapeutic for treating OA joint neuropathic pain”. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28885454)
CBD and the Endocannabinoid System
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a series of neurotransmitters that connect to special protein receptors throughout the body. These receptors are located in the brain, the central nervous system, and the peripheral nervous system. These neurotransmitters regulate many of the physiological and cognitive processes in the body. Among the processes the ECS can affect is pain and inflammation.
The ECS seeks out naturally occurring cannabinoids in the body to help regulate these processes. Over time, these natural cannabinoids may not be present. By introducing cannabinoids that occur naturally in cannabis into the body, the ECS readily accepts them and sends the cannabinoids, in this case CBD, to the brain and nervous system where they can act to help heal issues that the body encounters.
A study in 2008 looked at the use of cannabinoids in the treatment of difficult to treat pain. This looked at not just joint pain, but pain in general. The study noted: “The endocannabinoid system is tonically active in control of pain, as demonstrated by the ability of SR141716A (rimonabant), a CB1 antagonist, to produce hyperalgesia upon administration to mice.”
CB1 is the primary cannabinoid receptor (along with CB2). These receptors (along with many others) take in the CBD to the ECS. These receptors help the ECS use cannabinoids to act as neuromodulators. Neuromodulators are neurotransmitters that spread out through neural tissue to affect slow-acting receptors of many neurons. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2503660/)
CBD in Hemp and Marijuana
Many people assume that CBD is marijuana. While both CBD and marijuana are derived from the same species of plant, they’re not the same. Both are derived from cannabis plants, but marijuana comes from a species of cannabis that has a high THC or tetrahydrocannabinol content.
Both THC and CBD are among the 113 known cannabinoids present in a cannabis plant. The 2 cannabinoids had the same type and number of atoms present in their chemical makeup, but the structure of each is different. This causes different reactions when they come in contact with the chemistry of the human body. The major difference in the 2 is that THC has an intoxicating psychoactive effect on the user and CBD doesn’t.
CBD is present in marijuana. But, in the United States, the majority of CBD actually comes from marijuana’s versatile and non-intoxicating cousin, hemp.
To better understand this, cannabis plants have 3 species. These species are:
- Cannabis Indica (also known as C. Indica or indica)
- Cannabis Sativa (also known as C. Sativa or Sativa)
- Cannabis Ruderalis (also known as C. Ruderalis or Ruderalis)
The Indica species has a high THC content and is commonly used for marijuana and hashish. The Sativa and Ruderalis species are commonly referred to as hemp and are low in THC content but high in CBD content. The CBD content in Indica can vary.
CBD is present in marijuana. But the CBD manufactured and sold in the US is made of hemp. As a matter of law, hemp products in the US must have less than 0.3% THC, so CBD derived from marijuana can’t be sold or manufactured in the US unless it is done for prescription medication (and that’s extremely limited).
CBD Products for Joint Pain Relief
The versatility of CBD allows it to come in many forms. The most common way to take CBD is orally, which can be in the form of a tincture, vape, pill, or even added to food or drink.
In the case of joint pain, many CBD users prefer to attack the issue locally. CBD has a wide variety of topical treatments including creams, ointments, transdermal patches, and oils. These products can be effective for those who have sprains, localized arthritis such as in the hands or knees, gout, or even carpel tunnel syndrome.
Some find topicals more effective than taking CBD orally. Some like it better because it seems to act quicker than an oral dose, as the nerve endings and blood vessels in the skin can absorb the CBD into the ECS faster allowing the user to have almost immediate relief of their pain.
In addition, many CBD topicals for pain relief have ingredients common in pain relief rubs such as menthol or capsaicin. These are naturally occurring substances that can enhance and speed up pain relief.
Along with CBD topicals, many joint pain suffers who use CBD also use CBD bath and skin care products. These include soaps, shampoos, and body lotions. These products, in addition to the other methods of taking CBD allow even more relief to the patient.
Researching a supplier of CBD products is important. Not all suppliers manufacture CBD in the same manner. Many use different ingredients in their products (as with topicals that use capsaicin or menthol). The FDA recommends that consumers request a company’s latest 3rd party test results on their products to ensure that they are selling a pure product. All CBD companies that are reputable will be able to provide this information upon request and some even post the results on their websites.
As CBD is relatively new to the market, the Food and Drug Administration and the American Medical Association haven’t created a recommendation for potency or dosages. So before starting a regimen of CBD for your joint pain, a doctor should be consulted.
Whether the issue is temporary, such as a sprain, or a permanent one, like arthritis, users can benefit from CBD in their health regimen.
The versatility of the products available makes CBD ideal for both localized and system issues that cause joint pain.
In most cases, CBD is a treatment and not a cure. For instance, while it can alleviate the pain associated with arthritis, it doesn’t cure it. Treatments for some ailments may require several applications of CBD each day to maintain a pain-free lifestyle. Some may not achieve a pain-free lifestyle, but experience diminished pain. Either way, they tend to see improvement in their quality of life.