CBD Or THC For Knee Pain: Which One Is Better?

Written By on June 28, 2022 — Medically Reviewed By Kris Ceniza (PT)

As more and more people are preferring natural therapies, one question comes to mind: CBD or THC for knee pain, which one works better? 

Well, both these chemicals are effective for pain management and can reduce arthritis symptoms. But how they do so is what makes them different. 

We will be exploring these differences below. Tap on any bullet below to easily navigate through the content:

Let’s jump right to it!

Is CBD or THC better for knee pain? 

Unfortunately, there is no definite answer on whether CBD or THC is better for relieving knee pain.

See, the federal government of the United States still considers cannabis a Schedule 1 drug. This limits how much research on these substances can be done.

Meaning that, at this point, it all comes down to personal preference. 

THC causes the high that people get from marijuana. To some, these psychoactive effects help them change the way they perceive pain and discomfort. So, it could be better for chronic pain.

CBD doesn’t share nearly the same amount of euphoric side effects and, to others, that makes it better for knee pain overall. 

That being said, here’s what the current research and clinical trials have to say about the effects of these cannabinoids on joint health (1, 2, 3, 4): 

  • A 2016 study shows CBD can reduce joint pain, swelling, and inflammation in rats. This shows its potential to provide relief from arthritis pain without many side effects.
  • A 2000 study done on rats shows CBD can block the progression of arthritis and protect joints from severe damage.
  • A 2020 study showed that CBD may have anti-inflammatory effects in conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis. 
  • Another 2020 study on dogs with osteoarthritis shows that CBD improved chronic pain and mobility.

While these studies are not based on humans, they suggest that cannabinoids can be beneficial for providing pain relief. Additional research is required on people with arthritis, though.

Further reading: All about CBD for knee pain.

So, how do CBD and THC relieve pain?

The way CBD and THC relieve pain comes down to the Endocannabinoid System (ECS). This system regulates and controls many bodily functions, including pain and inflammation. 

It does so through neurotransmitters (NT). These are chemical messengers that relay signals across your entire body. 

CBD and THC interact with them, changing the way these NTs deliver their signals. This ultimately determines how each one relieves pain. For instance (5): 

  • If the neurotransmitter binds to spinal neurons, it may help numb the pain. 
  • But, if it binds to your immune cells, it may help fight off inflammation (which ultimately eases your agony). 

The effects of CBD and THC go beyond knee pain and inflammation, too. 

They also affect sleep, memory, mood, and several others. Thus, the historical and currently rising interest in medical marijuana. (6)

As a matter of fact, the use of cannabis extracts dates back to ancient China, some 5000 years ago! (7, 8)

What is the difference between CBD and THC?

As previously mentioned, CBD is non-intoxicating while THC causes feelings of euphoria. But, apart from this, these two compounds have other differences including chemical structure, their medical benefits, side effects, and of course, legal concerns. 

Chemical structure

Both compounds have the same molecular structure but differ in how the atoms are arranged. This accounts for their unique effects on the mind and body.

Legal concerns

In the US, using the cannabis plant is illegal under federal law. Some states allow its recreational use, while others for treating certain health conditions.

Still, several states limit THC to allow CBD products. Always check with your state law before purchasing.

Medical benefits

Epidiolex, the first prescription medication to contain CBD, is used to treat rare, difficult-to-control forms of epilepsies. It’s not approved for other conditions, though.

Apart from that, CBD and THC can help physical health in several ways. Based on anecdotal evidence, here are some of their uses (9, 10):

CBD

  • Seizures.
  • Anxiety.
  • Inflammation.
  • Pain.
  • Depression.
  • Inflammatory bowel disease.
  • Nausea.
  • Psychosis or mental disorders.
  • Migraine.

Related: Is CBD good for bad knees?

THC

  • Pain.
  • Anxiety.
  • Muscle spasticity.
  • Nausea.
  • Insomnia.
  • Glaucoma.
  • Low appetite.

Side effects of CBD and THC

While CBD and THC are generally considered safe, they are not without some side effects. Here are some of them (9, 10, 11):

CBD

  • Nausea.
  • Drowsiness.
  • Crankiness.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Upset stomach or changes in appetite.
  • Tiredness.
  • Low blood pressure.
  • Lightheadedness.
  • Weight changes.
  • Potentially interact with blood thinners.

THC

  • Dizziness.
  • Problems with concentration.
  • Vomiting.
  • Memory loss.
  • Drowsiness.
  • Balance.
  • Memory impairment.
  • Paranoia and increased risk for psychotic illness.
  • Increased dependency on cannabis products.

FAQs

Is CBD or THC better for knee joint pain?

Both CBD and THC have shown the potential to reduce inflammation and provide relief from chronic pain. While THC may change the mind’s perception of achiness, CBD helps without the high. The choice is yours!

Does THC cream help with arthritis?

Topical creams containing THC may have pain-relieving effects in arthritis. It cannot however cure or slow the progression of the disease. (5)

Does CBD help with arthritis pain?

Based on the results of animal studies, CBD may be a useful and safe treatment for arthritis. (1, 2, 4)

Conclusion: CBD or THC for chronic pain

People with joint pain and inflammation are turning to cannabis for relieving their symptoms. This plant contains CBD and THC, and both have shown benefits in joint problems. 

Even though human studies are currently limited, the future holds promise.

Yet, it is important to remember that these substances are not an alternative to prescribed medications. Always consult your health care providers before trying medical cannabis.

Resources

  1. 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.
  2. Malfait, A M et al. “The nonpsychoactive cannabis constituent cannabidiol is an oral anti-arthritic therapeutic in murine collagen-induced arthritis.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America vol. 97,17 (2000): 9561-6.
  3. Lowin, Torsten et al. “Cannabidiol (CBD): a killer for inflammatory rheumatoid arthritis synovial fibroblasts.” Cell death & disease vol. 11,8 714. 1 Sep. 2020
  4. Verrico, Chris D et al. “A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of daily cannabidiol for the treatment of canine osteoarthritis pain.” Pain vol. 161,9 (2020): 2191-2202.
  5. Nagarkatti, Prakash et al. “Cannabinoids as novel anti-inflammatory drugs.” Future medicinal chemistry vol. 1,7 (2009): 1333-49.
  6. Zou, Shenglong, and Ujendra Kumar. “Cannabinoid Receptors and the Endocannabinoid System: Signaling and Function in the Central Nervous System.” International journal of molecular sciences vol. 19,3 833. 13 Mar. 2018.
  7. Wu, J. Cannabis, cannabinoid receptors, and endocannabinoid system: yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Acta Pharmacol Sin 40, 297–299 (2019).
  8. Mechoulam R. The Pharmacohistory of Cannabis sativa, in Cannabis as Therapeutic Agent. CRC Press; Boca Raton, FL, USA: 1986.
  9. Pauli, Christopher S et al. “Cannabidiol Drugs Clinical Trial Outcomes and Adverse Effects.” Frontiers in pharmacology vol. 11 63. 25 Feb. 2020.
  10. Iffland, Kerstin, and Franjo Grotenhermen. “An Update on Safety and Side Effects of Cannabidiol: A Review of Clinical Data and Relevant Animal Studies.” Cannabis and cannabinoid research vol. 2,1 139-154. 1 Jun. 2017.
  11. Pennypacker, Sarah D, and E Alfonso Romero-Sandoval. “CBD and THC: Do They Complement Each Other Like Yin and Yang?.”Pharmacotherapy vol. 40,11 (2020): 1152-1165.

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Author
Sony Sherpa (MD)
Sony Sherpa is a board-certified clinical doctor and currently, she is working as a medical officer in the emergency department of a renowned hospital. With a medical degree completed at a young age, she writes medical articles with accuracy owing to her medical knowledge and thorough background research.

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