APR 17, 2020 1:32 PM PDT

Does CBD Really Ease Arthritis Pain?

WRITTEN BY: Annie Lennon

Cannabis products are increasingly used to treat chronic pain from arthritis. As its non psychoactive ingredient, cannabidiol (CBD), is widely available without its psychoactive ingredient tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), many can enjoy its benefits without getting high. But does CBD really help ease pain from arthritis?

There are over 100 types of arthritis. Although pain is a common feature among all of them, as each condition is different, ideal treatments may differ between conditions too. This means that, while treatments that reduce pain and stiffness, such as CBD, are often recommended, for certain conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, more conventional prescriptions are highly recommended as they also help prevent permanent damage to joints.

Despite its reputation as a pain-reliever however, there is currently no compelling evidence that CBD is safe and effective for chronic arthritis pain in humans. In fact, most research on its efficacy has either been conducted on animals in lab conditions, or with small sample sizes under limited timeframes. This means that current results may not be representative of CBD’s real effects in human patients. 

Some studies looking at CBD’s potential to treat arthritis pain are nevertheless beginning to emerge, although results are mixed. For example, a preliminary report on a randomized trial of topical CBD applied to the knees of those with osteoarthritis has so far found mixed results. Meanwhile, although a large review on the health effects of cannabis and CBD found that there is substantial evidence that the plant may be effective against chronic pain in adults, no specific conclusion was drawn for CBD, likely as no definitive studies were available. 

Although there are many anecdotal reports on the efficacy of CBD to treat chronic pain from arthritis, until clinical data emerges, it will be impossible to confirm the link. Towards this end, some studies are currently underway. One for example, is specifically looking at the safety and efficacy of CBD and THC on patients with rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis, an inflammatory disease that can cause vertebrae to fuse over time. Results will not be available for some time however. 


Sources: Harvard Health, PMC

About the Author
  • Science writer with a keen interest in behavioral biology, consciousness medicine and technology. Her current focus is how the interplay of these fields can create meaningful interactions, products and environments.
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