Does CBD Help With Arthritis? | 5 Ways It Helps, Common Side Effects And How To Avoid Them

Written By on September 14, 2022 — Medically Reviewed By Kris Ceniza (PT)

Written by on — Medically Reviewed By: Kris Ceniza (PT)

someone opening a bottle of CBD oil

If you’re wondering “does CBD help with arthritis?”, the answer is that yes – it looks like it does. Even though most of the research has been done on animals, the few human studies available show promising results.

CBD may help some types of arthritis (there are over 100!), like osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. (1) But its effectiveness depends on whether you’re taking medications or not and your overall health.

We’ll discuss all that below. Here are the topics covered, tap on any of them to navigate through the content:

5 ways CBD can help arthritis symptoms

CBD – short for cannabidiol -, is one of the hundreds of compounds present in the cannabis plant. So far, studies show it may help with pain, inflammation, sleep, and anxiety, among other things. (2)

Now, the research on its effects on arthritis symptoms is still in its infancy. But the animal studies done so far show promising results, supported by the few human studies available.



From what’s known, these are 5 ways CBD can help arthritis:

1) Can help treat chronic pain

Pain is considered chronic if it lasts for more than 3 months. Sadly, this can easily happen in joint pain conditions, like osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. It’s extremely challenging to treat. (3)

This also means some patients depend on medications for pain, which increases the risk of side effects from these drugs.

But, CBD products can help with this by reducing pain signals.

And they can also reduce the need for opioids. You can enhance the pain-relieving effects of CBD by combining it with THC, another compound present in cannabis. (4)

THC is short for tetrahydrocannabinol. It’s the chemical responsible for the “high” feeling. Taking it in small quantities – like those present in CBD products – won’t provide psychoactive effects, though.

Learn more: CBD for chronic pain – how it helps and what to expect.

2) Can reduce chronic inflammation

Chronic inflammation happens when your body constantly sends inflammatory cells into the bloodstream. This can be due to obesity, smoking, and having a diet high in refined sugars, among other things. (5)

It can eventually cause rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, heart disease, diabetes, and other conditions. Or aggravate them if they’re already present. (5)

But, CBD may counteract chronic inflammation with its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

In other words, CBD can potentially eliminate chemicals that encourage chronic inflammation, keeping it at bay. This makes it particularly effective for conditions like rheumatoid arthritis (RA). (6)

See, RA is an autoimmune condition where the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells in the joint. This reaction can be triggered or aggravated by chronic inflammation. (6)

But, CBD can eliminate these harmful cells, theoretically treating RA at its root. (6)

3) Can help with anxiety and sleep

The truth is that most chronic pain conditions also have some degree of sleep and anxiety-related problems. For example (7, 8):

  • Patients with RA tend to have sleep problems, which is linked to more pain.
  • Even if the disease is controlled, patients with RA tend to have some degree of anxiety and/or depression, which can worsen symptoms too.

But, CBD can help with both things – better sleep and management of emotional distress.

In fact, some research suggests it can improve insomnia and anxiety symptoms for some people, in 1 month of constant use. (2)

However, scientists are still trying to understand why some people reap these benefits while others don’t.

4) Can help autoimmune diseases

Severe autoimmune diseases are treated with immunosuppressants. These drugs calm down the immune system to ultimately relieve symptoms.

And, it looks like CBD can work as an immunosuppressant too.

Preliminary research on animals suggests this property can be extremely helpful for autoimmune diseases, like rheumatoid arthritis or multiple sclerosis. (9, 10)

This is promising for future human studies, as it could potentially mean treating these diseases with fewer drugs, meaning less risk of side effects.

5) Can slow down cartilage degeneration

It’s really hard for cartilage tissue to regenerate on its own. So, any treatment that can slow down the degenerative process is welcome.

CBD may be one of those treatments. Remember the chronic inflammation we discussed earlier? Well, apart from causing swelling and pain, it can also damage cartilage.

But by reducing chronic inflammation, CBD can also prevent cartilage destruction.

Yet, this means cannabidiol would help in conditions where chronic inflammation is present. It may not provide the same results in other diseases. (10)

Learn more: How to rebuild knee cartilage?

How to choose a CBD product for arthritis in the knees?

an array of different CBD products

There are two things to consider when it comes to buying CBD products – the type and the form:

Type of CBD products

The cannabis plant has more than 100 cannabinoids. These are compounds that have a variety of health benefits. (2)

Depending on what cannabinoids the product has, it will be labelled as:

  • Full spectrum – it has CBD, 0.3% of THC or less, and other cannabinoids.
  • Broad spectrum – CBD and other cannabinoids, but little to no THC.
  • Isolate – CBD only.

Full-spectrum products provide what’s called the entourage effect.

This effect is actually a theory. It states that combining all the natural compounds in cannabis (including a bit of THC) can provide more potent effects, than taking them separately. (4)

But it looks like this is true, at least for pain management. Some studies show that using full-spectrum products can provide more pain relief than taking CBD alone. (4)

Forms of CBD products

This is the way you use the CBD product:

  • Through mouth – capsules, edibles, oils, and tinctures.
  • Absorbed through the skin – creams and oils.
  • Inhaled – through vapes.

Most people take it orally. This provides benefits to the entire body, making it an ideal choice for anxiety and sleep problems.

The topical application of CBD will be best for managing localized pain, like in the joints or muscles.

However, we don’t recommend inhaling CBD products. They tend to have other chemicals that can affect your pulmonary health.

What CBD product to choose for rheumatoid arthritis?

First of all, you should discuss this with your doctor before buying. Your physician will help you determine if it’s safe for you to try CBD.

Now, the CBD industry isn’t as regulated as it should be, so there are tons of mislabelled products. If you’re not careful, you could buy a product that’s labelled as isolate but it’s in fact full-spectrum.

For your peace of mind, look for brands that:

  • Test each batch in a 3rd party laboratory.
  • Offer an easy-to-find Certificate Of Analysis (COA).

The latter is a downloadable file that shows exactly how much CBD, THC, and other compounds you’re getting.

With that said, choosing a CBD product for RA largely depends on whether you’re taking medications or not.

If you’re not, oral CBD may be your best bet. Moreso if you’re having sleep or anxiety-related problems.



Just make sure to start with a low dose – 3 or 4 drops under the tongue – before sleep. This will help your body adapt to the CBD while reducing side effects you don’t want during the day, like nausea or sleepiness. (11)

But, topicals are best for those taking prescribed medications.

See, oral CBD can interact with several medications, such as (12):

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
  • Immunosuppressors like leflunomide.
  • Migraine medications like valproate.

This means that CBD can increase the side effects of the drug and/or reduce its effects. It can also reduce the effects of cannabidiol itself, so you may end up taking more than you should. (13)

But you can prevent all these problems with topical CBD. This form can reduce joint and muscle-related pain, with little to no side effects. (14)

Now, we recommend going for the Green Roads muscle joint relief cream.

Apart from CBD, it has several other natural compounds that are extremely effective for pain management. Plus – it smells really good and it takes care of the skin.

We tried it, here’s our review: Green Roads Muscle Joint Relief Cream (full review).

FAQs

Does CBD oil help arthritis?

Yes, CBD oil can help arthritis by reducing pain and inflammation.

Is CBD good for arthritis?

Yes, CBD can be good for arthritis. But please discuss it with your doctor first, because it can interact with other medications you may be taking.

Is CBD oil good for OA knee pain?

Yes, CBD oil can be good for OA knee pain as it can help with symptoms. It can also help you sleep better and manage anxiety.

Conclusion: CBD for rheumatoid arthritis

CBD can help rheumatoid arthritis in different ways:

  • It can help with pain and inflammation.
  • It can make it easier to sleep and manage anxiety.
  • It could stall the degeneration of cartilage.

It’s true that most research has been done on animals, and more research is still needed to fully understand these effects on humans.

But, as long as you’re cleared by your physician, trying CBD can be a pain and inflammation treatment worth trying. It’s natural and doesn’t have as many side effects as other drugs for knee pain.

Resources

  1. Senthelal S, Li J, Ardeshirzadeh S, et al. Arthritis. [Updated 2022 Jun 19]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK518992/
  2. Boehnke, Kevin F et al. “Cannabidiol (CBD) in Rheumatic Diseases (Musculoskeletal Pain).” Current rheumatology reports vol. 24,7 (2022): 238-246. doi:10.1007/s11926-022-01077-3
  3. Dydyk AM, Conermann T. Chronic Pain. [Updated 2022 May 20]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK553030/
  4. Johnson, Jeremy R et al. “Multicenter, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, parallel-group study of the efficacy, safety, and tolerability of THC:CBD extract and THC extract in patients with intractable cancer-related pain.” Journal of pain and symptom management vol. 39,2 (2010): 167-79. doi:10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2009.06.008
  5. Pahwa R, Goyal A, Jialal I. Chronic Inflammation. [Updated 2022 Jun 19]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK493173/
  6. Lowin, Torsten et al. “Cannabidiol (CBD): a killer for inflammatory rheumatoid arthritis synovial fibroblasts.” Cell death & disease vol. 11,8 714. 1 Sep. 2020, doi:10.1038/s41419-020-02892-1
  7. Grabovac, Igor et al. “Sleep Quality in Patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis and Associations with Pain, Disability, Disease Duration, and Activity.” Journal of clinical medicine vol. 7,10 336. 9 Oct. 2018, doi:10.3390/jcm7100336
  8. DiRenzo, Dana D et al. “Anxiety impacts rheumatoid arthritis symptoms and health-related quality of life even at low levels.” Clinical and experimental rheumatology vol. 38,6 (2020): 1176-1181.
  9. Nichols, James M, and Barbara L F Kaplan. “Immune Responses Regulated by Cannabidiol.” Cannabis and cannabinoid research vol. 5,1 12-31. 27 Feb. 2020, doi:10.1089/can.2018.0073
  10. Rodríguez Mesa, Xandy Melissa et al. “Therapeutic Prospects of Cannabinoids in the Immunomodulation of Prevalent Autoimmune Diseases.” Cannabis and cannabinoid research vol. 6,3 (2021): 196-210. doi:10.1089/can.2020.0183
  11. Fitzcharles, Mary-Ann et al. “A cautious hope for cannabidiol (CBD) in rheumatology care.” Arthritis care & research, 10.1002/acr.24176. 7 Mar. 2020, doi:10.1002/acr.24176
  12. Meissner H, Cascella M. Cannabidiol (CBD) [Updated 2022 Jul 4]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK556048/
  13. Brown, Joshua D, and Almut G Winterstein. “Potential Adverse Drug Events and Drug-Drug Interactions with Medical and Consumer Cannabidiol (CBD) Use.” Journal of clinical medicine vol. 8,7 989. 8 Jul. 2019, doi:10.3390/jcm8070989
  14. 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. doi:10.1002/ejp.818

Author
Mich Torres (PT)
Mitch is a physical therapist, personal trainer, and nutrition coach. Fascinated with the knee joint, Mitch poured that passion into writing about knee pain and how to overcome it with movement. His goal is to teach you how to apply this knowledge into your daily life, so you can keep knee pain away for good.

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