Chronic knee pain affects 1 in 4 people aged 55 or older. (1) And although some medications help, they can cause severe side effects in the long term. So, it makes sense to look for natural solutions like cannabidiol, but how effective is CBD for chronic knee pain?
Well, research shows that it can help relieve pain in joint diseases like knee osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis. And without as many side effects as prescribed medications.
Even though most studies have been done on animals, the few human trials show promising results. We’ll discuss them and other things to consider before taking CBD. Here’s what’s covered, tap on any of these bullets to go straight to its section:
- How it helps chronic knee pain
- CBD vs painkillers
- What to expect from CBD
- Tips to shop for CBD products
- Other benefits of CBD
How does CBD help chronic pain in the knee joints?
Cannabidiol is one of many healing compounds found in the cannabis plant, but it doesn’t cause the “high.” That’s why it’s legal to use.
Now, the limited evidence available shows that it can actually help chronic knee pain in several ways (2):
1) It may inhibit the chemicals that trigger pain and inflammation.
Mainly, two substances – prostaglandins and leukotrienes. Our body produces them in the presence of injury and/or infection to kickstart the healing process. If they’re not kept in check, they can accumulate and promote chronic pain. (2, 3, 4)
But, some studies show that CBD may inhibit their creation. This can ultimately reduce pain and inflammation from the root. (2, 3, 4)
This initself is reason enough to try CBD to alleviate pain in chronic conditions.
2) It interacts with the endocannabinoid system, enhancing the pain relief
The ECS is a complex network of nerves and chemicals involved in different body processes. And, it may be involved in the development of osteoarthritis. (5, 6, 7)
Researchers aren’t sure why this is the case. But CBD products can interact with the ECS, ultimately reducing pain and inflammation while improving joint function in some of these patients. (6, 7)
Yet, these effects aren’t only for knee osteoarthritis. Rat studies have shown CBD may also help in other joint conditions, like inflammatory arthritis. (5, 8, 9)
3) It can improve sleep and anxiety – common problems that aggravate chronic knee pain.
Not resting enough can make your knee pain worse the next day, which in turn makes it harder for you to fall asleep at night. This vicious cycle often leads to anxiety – another contributor to chronic arthritis pain.
But according to the Arthritis Foundation, taking CBD may help some patients fall asleep and reduce their anxiety. Thus, helping with chronic pain as well.
Further reading: Knee pain at night – causes and treatments.
CBD vs traditional pain killers
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are the traditional pain killers, often used in chronic knee pain. These drugs, like CBD, provide relief by inhibiting the same two chemicals (prostaglandins and leukotrienes) that we talked about earlier. (10)
Yet, it’s concerning how many side effects they have, mostly when taken for long periods – as is the case for chronic pain patients. Some of them include (10):
- Bleeding from the digestive tract.
- Serious cardiovascular events.
- Kidney failure.
- Worsening of previous heart issues.
Another drawback is that these drugs can also reduce collagen production, which is needed for repairing muscle injuries. (11)
Related: Common medications for knee pain.
But CBD brings a solution – pain relief with way fewer side effects.
CBD is safe to use for most people, according to a 2011 review. The researchers examined the side effects in 132 studies, finding that cannabidiol (12):
- Doesn’t alter heart rate and/or blood pressure.
- May not affect psychomotor functions, like driving a car or playing sports.
- Doesn’t change the digestive function.
- It’s well-tolerated for most people, even in high doses of 1500mg.
This means it’s a very safe compound for most people. And for those who experience side effects, these are mild – like drowsiness, dry mouth, or stomach upset. (12)
However, like any other drug or supplement, CBD can interact with other medications.
Common examples include (2):
- Leflunomide, a medication for rheumatoid arthritis.
- Mipomersen and lomitapide, drugs for lowering cholesterol.
- Valproate, an anti-epileptic.
That’s why it’s always best to consult your doctor before taking CBD (or any supplement for that matter), more so if you’re taking prescribed medications.
Know more: Side effects of taking CBD for knee pain and how to avoid them.
Treating chronic knee pain with CBD: What to expect?
Every person responds differently to CBD products. And although research shows it can help arthritis sufferers, don’t expect it to cure all your knee pain problems.
You can expect some degree of relief from pain and inflammation after taking it for a few weeks. But it should not be your only treatment modality.
Chronic knee pain is a complex problem. Parallel to taking CBD for knee pain, you should do at least some type of exercise and follow a physical therapy regime.
Some cases may need psychological treatment to learn how to cope with the symptoms.
Also, start with the lowest dose possible, preferably at night.
This will minimize your risk of side effects while giving your body some time to adapt to the substance.
Starting this way will also help you see how your body responds to it. So, if that dose is not enough, increase it slowly and on a weekly basis until you get the desired effect.
Learn more: How long does it take for CBD to work for joint problems?
Tips to shop for CBD products
There’s a wide and confusing variety of CBD products in the market. So, the first thing is to make sure you’re buying a product that’s tested by a third-party laboratory.
You should be able to download the lab results. They will show that the amount of CBD and other compounds match the product you’re buying.
Also, you should be aware of some terms while you are looking to purchase your CBD product:
CBD isolate means the product contains only cannabidiol – no THC or other cannabinoids. It can help you gauge if the compound is effective for you without the interference of other substances.
Broad-spectrum CBD products contain other compounds, such as CBN, CBC, myrcene, terpenes, pinene, or limonene. It can either contain no THC or trace amounts of it.
Full-spectrum CBD contains the same compounds as the broad spectrum, as well as low quantities of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – generally less than 0.3% in the US.
THC is the compound responsible for the “high,” but this amount won’t cause it.
Choosing this type of product cause the so-called “entourage effect.”
Forms of CBD products
CBD products come in many different forms such as:
- CBD oils.
- CBD creams and other topicals.
- Edibles like teas, chocolates, and gummies.
Other health benefits of CBD
Products containing CBD may have benefits in other conditions like (12):
- Chronic neuropathic pain.
- Multiple sclerosis.
- Nause and vomiting induced by chemotherapy.
- Seizures in children.
Does CBD help with chronic knee pain?
Yes, CBD may help chronic knee pain according to research. (8)
How much CBD oil can you take for chronic knee pain?
There aren’t specific dosages yet due to a lack of research. We recommend starting with a low dose and increasing a bit on a weekly basis until you reach the desired effect.
Conclusion: CBD and knee joint pain management
Evidence does suggest that CBD may help manage chronic knee pain. It can block the same chemicals that NSAIDs do, thus providing relief from knee pain and inflammation in a similar way.
But while it may be safer than most analgesics, it is not a replacement for prescription medication. Always keep your healthcare provider informed when you are starting any products containing CBD.
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- Meissner H, Cascella M. Cannabidiol (CBD) [Updated 2022 May 3]. In:StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-.
- Ricciotti, Emanuela, and Garret A FitzGerald. “Prostaglandins and inflammation.” Arteriosclerosis, thrombosis, and vascular biology vol. 31,5 (2011): 986-1000.
- Berger, A. “What are leukotrienes and how do they work in asthma?.” BMJ (Clinical research ed.) vol. 319,7202 (1999): 90.
- Schuelert, Niklas, and Jason J McDougall. “The abnormal cannabidiol analogue O-1602 reduces nociception in a rat model of acute arthritis via the putative cannabinoid receptor GPR55.” Neuroscience letters vol. 500,1 (2011): 72-6.
- La Porta, Carmen et al. “Involvement of the endocannabinoid system in osteoarthritis pain.” The European journal of neuroscience vol. 39,3 (2014): 485-500.
- Chye, Yann et al. “The Endocannabinoid System and Cannabidiol’s Promise for the Treatment of Substance Use Disorder.” Frontiers in psychiatry vol. 10 63. 19 Feb. 2019.
- Hammell, D C et al. “Transdermal cannabidiol reduces inflammation and pain-related behaviours in a rat model of arthritis.” European journal of pain (London, England) vol. 20,6 (2016): 936-48.
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- Ghlichloo I, Gerriets V. Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) [Updated 2022 May 8]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-.
- Su, Bailey, and J Patrick O’Connor. “NSAID therapy effects on healing of bone, tendon, and the enthesis.” Journal of applied physiology (Bethesda, Md. : 1985) vol. 115,6 (2013): 892-9.
- Bergamaschi, Mateus Machado et al. “Safety and side effects of cannabidiol, a Cannabis sativa constituent.” Current drug safety vol. 6,4 (2011): 237-49.