Does CBD help with arthritis pain?
If you have chronic arthritis pain, you may be wondering about cannabidiol (CBD) as a treatment. CBD, along with delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and other chemicals, is found in marijuana. But unlike THC, CBD is not “psychoactive” — that is, it does not cause the intoxication or high associated with marijuana use.
There’s a good chance you’ve tried it already: according to a Gallup poll in August of 2019, about 14% of Americans report using CBD products, and the number one reason is pain. The Arthritis Foundation conducted its own poll and found that 29% reported current use of CBD (mostly in liquid or topical form), and nearly 80% of respondents were either using it, had used it in the past, or were considering it. Of those using it, most reported improvement in physical function, sleep, and well-being; of note, a minority reported improvement in pain or stiffness.
Perhaps you’ve been tempted to try it. After all, most types of arthritis are not cured by other treatments, and CBD is considered a less addictive option than opiates. Or maybe it’s the marketing that recommends CBD products for everything from arthritis to anxiety to seizures. The ads are pretty hard to miss. (Now here’s a coincidence: as I was writing this, my email preview pane displayed a message that seemed to jump off the screen: CBD Has Helped Millions!! Try It Free Today!)
What’s the evidence it works? And what do experts recommend? Until recently, there’s been little research and even less guidance for people (or their doctors) interested in CBD products that are now increasingly legal and widely promoted.
But now, there is.
A word about arthritis pain
It’s worth emphasizing that there are more than 100 types of arthritis, and while pain is a cardinal feature of all of them, these conditions do not all act alike. And what works for one may not work for another. Treatment is aimed at reducing pain and stiffness and maintaining function for all types of arthritis. But for certain conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, conventional prescription medications are highly recommended, because these drugs help prevent permanent joint damage and worsening disability.
In addition, individuals experience pain and respond to treatment in different ways. As a result, it’s highly unlikely that there is a single CBD-containing product that works for all people with all types of arthritis.
What’s the evidence that CBD is effective for chronic arthritis pain?
While there are laboratory studies suggesting CBD might be a promising approach, and animal studies showing anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects, well-designed studies demonstrating compelling evidence that CBD is safe and effective for chronic arthritis pain in humans do not exist. A randomized trial of topical CBD for osteoarthritis of the knee has been published, but in abstract form only (meaning it’s a preliminary report that summarizes the trial and has not been thoroughly vetted yet); the trial lasted only 12 weeks, and results were mixed at best. One of the largest reviews examined the health effects of cannabis and CBD, and concluded that there is “substantial evidence that cannabis is an effective treatment for chronic pain in adults.” But there was no specific conclusion regarding CBD, presumably because definitive studies were not available.
Of course, there is anecdotal evidence and testimonials galore, including reports of dramatic improvement by people who tried CBD in its various forms (including capsule, liquid, topical, and spray) for their pain. But we are still waiting for well-designed, scientifically valid, and rigorous clinical trials (such as this one in progress) that are so badly needed to answer the question of just how helpful CBD may be to people with chronic arthritis pain.
Are there downsides to CBD treatment?
As with any treatment, there can be downsides. CBD is generally considered safe; however, it can still cause lightheadedness, sleepiness, dry mouth, and rarely, liver problems. There may be uncertainty about the potency or purity of CBD products (since they are not regulated as prescription medications are), and CBD can interact with other medications. For pregnant women, concern has been raised about a possible link between inhaled cannabis and lower-birthweight babies; it’s not clear if this applies to CBD. Some pain specialists have concerns that CBD may upset the body’s natural system of pain regulation, leading to tolerance (so that higher doses are needed for the same effect), though the potential for addiction is generally considered to be low.
There is one definite downside: cost. Prices range widely but CBD products aren’t inexpensive, and depending on dose, frequency, and formulation, the cost can be considerable — I found one brand that was $120/month, and health insurance does not usually cover it.
Are there guidelines about the use of CBD for chronic arthritis pain?
Until recently, little guidance has been available for people with arthritis pain who were interested in CBD treatment. Depending on availability and interest, patients and their doctors had to decide on their own whether CBD was a reasonable option in each specific case. To a large degree that’s still true, but some guidelines have been published. Here’s one set of guidelines for people pursuing treatment with CBD that I find quite reasonable (based on recommendations from the Arthritis Foundation and a recent commentary published in the medical journal Arthritis Care & Research):
- If considering a CBD product, choose one that has been independently tested for purity, potency, and safety — for example, look for one that has received a “Good Manufacturing Practices” (GMP) certification.
- CBD should be one part of an overall pain management plan that includes nonmedication options (such as exercise) and psychological support.
- Choose an oral treatment (rather than inhaled products) and start with a low dose taken in the evening.
- Establish initial goals of treatment within a realistic period of time — for example, a reduction in knee pain that allows you to walk around the block within two weeks of starting treatment; later, if improved, the goals can be adjusted.
- Tell your doctor(s) about your planned and current CBD treatment; monitor your pain and adjust medications with your medical providers, rather than with nonmedical practitioners (such as those selling CBD products).
- Don’t make CBD your first choice for pain relief; it is more appropriate to consider it if other treatments have not been effective enough.
- Don’t have nonmedical practitioners (such as those selling CBD products) managing your chronic pain; pain management should be between you and your healthcare team, even if it includes CBD.
- For people with rheumatoid arthritis or related conditions, do not stop prescribed medications that may be protecting your joints from future damage; discuss any changes to your medication regimen with your doctor.
The bottom line
If you’re interested in CBD treatment for chronic arthritis pain or if you’re already taking it, review the pros, cons, and latest news with your healthcare providers, and together you can decide on a reasonable treatment plan. Depending on the type of arthritis you have, it may be quite important to continue your conventional, prescribed medications even if you pursue additional relief with CBD products.
We may not have all the evidence we’d like, but if CBD can safely improve your symptoms, it may be worth considering.
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Best CBD Products for Arthritis UK (2022)
CBD oil has been found to hold benefits for both pain and inflammation, and is growing in popularity as a supplement used to help manage numerous conditions. Since arthritis is a form of inflammation that can cause chronic pain, CBD is used more and more commonly by arthritis sufferers.
But not all CBD oils are created equal. If you’re going to ingest a product daily to manage something as debilitating as arthritis, you need to be taking a high quality product that is offering all of the benefits of CBD oil for arthritis with as few downsides as possible.
With that said, what is the best CBD oil for arthritis in the UK?
Evopure Relief CBD Balm
Evopure’s organic CBD balm provides a soothing topical CBD blend that calms muscular soreness, reduces pain in joints and leaves a cooling sensation. While this makes it a perfect topical treatment for arthritis, it can be beneficial for most forms of muscular or joint pain.
What places Evopure’s balm offering above other CBD balms is two main things:
One is the significant amount of care taken to ensure you experience the full benefits of the hemp plant.
This CBD balm doesn’t just contain any old CBD – it is made up of organic hemp from EU farms, offering the best quality hemp available which impacts the effectiveness of the product. This attention to detail also stretches to sustainable harvesting and extraction – making Evopure’s impact on the environment significantly less than most CBD companies.
The second thing that makes this the best CBD balm in the UK is the range of additional ingredients. While CBD alone has already been suggested to provide anti-inflammatory effects , this balm also includes peppermint, eucalyptus oil, juniper oil, wintergreen oil and more – all of which provide additional pain and inflammation-busting benefits.
The end result is a soothing balm that leverages all of the benefits of CBD for arthritis in the best way – while providing additional benefits at the same, all with minimal impact on the environment.
Eden’s Gate CBD Balm for Muscle & Joint Relief
Eden’s Gate provides a CBD balm focused on joint pain relief. While this may sound similar to Evopure’s offering, this one uses completely different active ingredients – (ginger & arnica).
Despite not being quite as packed full of beneficial ingredients as our #1 pick, and not being as clear about it’s sustainability credentials – this remains a high quality CBD balm that is likely to give quick pain and anti-inflammatory relief in most relevant cases.
It may be focused on more general pain and inflammation as opposed to arthritis specifically – but all of the ingredients here have been found to hold benefits for arthritis regardless.
The balm is also full spectrum, which means it does have a slight chance on a drugs test – but this is minor and only a factor for those who are tested regularly as part of their jobs.
Vibes CBD Oil
A fairly new entry to the UK CBD market, Vibes has already developed a glowing reputation. While they are a relatively small company with a very limited range, the products are of the highest quality. The CBD oil comes in a choice of 2 strengths and is combined with hemp seed oil and a fruity flavour to make it a little easier to take for those with a sensitive palate.
Vibes’ CBD comes from Colorado farms, and includes lab analysis reports to offer peace of mind. 100% vegan and THC free, it’s also suitable for most people regardless of career or dietary requirements.
Provacan CBD Balm with Cocoa Butter
This is by far the most expensive product on our list – with one jar of CBD balm being 2.5x the price of Evopure’s balm and 3x the price of Eden’s Gates. As a result, this probably isn’t the ideal choice for a first time user who’s just looking to see whether CBD works for them.
With that said, it also contains a huge 900mg of CBD, and includes expensive ingredients like cocoa butter – so if you already know CBD works for you and are looking to push the boat out with a more “luxury” product, you’ll struggle to do better than this.
Bud & Tender 10% CBD Oil
Bud & Tender offer a premium CBD oil that has been comprehensively filtered to provide a smooth taste and contains a massive 1000mg of CBD per bottle.
While it doesn’t have additional pain-reducing ingredients like most other entries on our list, and isn’t suitable for topical use, the luxury packaging, high standard of filtration, and very high dosage make it an excellent choice for CBD connoisseurs.
It has won numerous industry awards for it’s flavour and quality and is broad spectrum, meaning you get the full benefit of the entourage effect with none of the potential legal or health risks associated with THC.
Raised Spirit Organic CBD Body Balm
Handmade in Oxfordshire, Raised Spirit’s CBD body balm gets a lot of points for being 100% organic from natural ingredients, vegan, and full spectrum.
While the only active ingredient in terms of pain and inflammation is CBD itself, the balm also includes numerous skin protecting ingredients such as coconut oil, shea butter, lavender essential oil and sunflower lecithin. This makes it a useful pain reliever for arthritis sufferers and effective soothing balm for moisturising skin and providing antioxidants at the same time.
It does fall to a lower position on our list due to a surprisingly high price point – £49.99 per jar, but with free shipping only coming into play on orders over £70, most will be paying a little more.
With that said, it is still a high quality product made with love, and is made with ingredients so natural that the consistency can change with mild changes of temperature.
If you’re looking for a high quality CBD balm for arthritis that’s handmade in the UK and offers additional skin soothing and protecting benefits, this is a top notch choice.
What is CBD?
CBD , short for cannabidiol , is an active ingredient found in hemp and cannabis plants.
These plants contain over 100 naturally occurring organic compounds known as cannabinoids.
The two most well-known cannabinoids are THC (the psychoactive compound that gets cannabis users “high”) and CBD (which has no psychoactive effects), with most other cannabinoids being relatively unknown (and less common in plant material).
For decades, clinical trials into CBD and its benefits were few, far between, and vague, largely due to the legal issues surrounding cannabis in many countries. In recent years however, growing legalisation for medical and recreational purposes around the globe has read to huge growth in such studies.
This has led to evidence being found that CBD can provide numerous health benefits, including both for pain and inflammation – spurring the thought that CBD balms and other products could potentially be an effective pain reliever for arthritis sufferers.
Now that CBD is legal for use in the UK, many arthritis sufferers have found positive results from such products.
Does CBD Work for Arthritis Pain?
With CBD only becoming commonly available commercially in recent years, evidence is still in its early stages.
While some people may wish to be cautious and wait for further evidence to develop, what has been discovered so far does seem to be mostly positive.
A 2008 study found that CBD offers both analgesic and anti-inflammatory benefits that are able to reduce joint pain.
There are also numerous animal studies that have found positive results when treating arthritis with CBD, including a 2016 trial using transdermal CBD on rats which found that “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.”.
Is CBD Legal? Can it Get Me High?
CBD is legal as long as it contains less than 0.2% THC content. THC of a higher concentration is still considered an illegal recreational drug in the UK.
However, all CBD products in our list, like all legal CBD products in the UK, contain either zero THC (broad spectrum CBD) or less than the above figure (full spectrum CBD).
As a result, the answer is no . CBD products provide zero psychoactive effects and cannot get you high, outside of illegal CBD products or those from other countries which may potentially contain higher volumes of THC.
Does CBD Have Side Effects?
CBD is generally well tolerated and doesn’t have any significant risk of serious side effects.
However, in some cases it can cause mild side effects such as dry mouth, loss of appetite or fatigue. In such cases, cease use immediately and consult your GP.
CBD does also have an interaction with grapefruit which can potentially inhibit the metabolic process and so CBD products should not be taken alongside ingesting the fruit.
How Does CBD Work for Arthritis?
The answer lies in the endocannabinoid system (ECS) .
Still relatively unknown and a recent discovery compared to most of the other bodily systems (think the immune system, respiratory system, endocrine system, circulatory system etc), the ECS interacts with all of these systems to help maintain homeostasis .
Homeostasis is the term used to describe the ideal delicate balance between all of these systems – essentially a state of overall wellbeing. This means the ECS directly interacts with essential processes to help manage pain, inflammation, immune response, and more.
The human body creates endocannabinoids internally, which can activate cannabinoid receptors and make these changes. However, an enzyme in the body can inhibit endocannabinoids over time and prevent this process from happening effectively. CBD use has been found to block the effects of this enzyme, supporting the beneficial effects of the ECS.
There is also some evidence that CBD can impact other systems that affect pain and inflammation, potentially providing numerous benefits for arthritis sufferers in different ways.