CBD for osteoarthritis and arthritis

Can CBD help with osteoarthritis or arthritis?

Last updated: 07.07.2021

In the UK, more than 10 million people have arthritis or other similar conditions that affect the joints.

Although arthritis is perhaps associated with older people, arthritis can actually affect people of all ages, including children.

There are more than 100 types of arthritis and related conditions. The most common joint disease is osteoarthritis, the term for joint wear.

Arthritis, an inflammation of the joint, is also widespread. Rheumatoid arthritis (rheumatism) is a subset of arthritis.

So far, these diseases are not curable. Millions of people suffer from pain, stiffness and restricted movement associated with arthritis.

Can CBD be useful as a treatment for osteoarthritis or arthritis?

CBD for osteoarthritis and arthritis

CBD and arthritis... in a nutshell

  • People are increasingly using CBD as treatment for various medical conditions, as well as for general wellness. Pain management is one of the most common reasons people use CBD.
  • People are turning to CBD as an alternative to prescription opioids and painkillers. This is due to their comparitively minor side effects and lack of addiction risk.
  • Scientific studies show that CBD can help relieve chronic pain, neuropathic pain and inflammation, although there are no confirmed results relating to arthritis in humans just yet.
  • However, animal testing of CBD in osteoarthritis and arthritis has already been successful.
  • A 2019 survey found that 54% of arthritis patients in the US have had experience with CBD or medical THC, with promising results.

A reminder... what is CBD?

CBD is the shorthand term for cannabidiol, which is one of the active ingredients in cannabis. More specifically, the cannabis sativa plant.

Many people still associate CBD with cannabis. But in contrast to THC (the more commonly known marijuana), it is not psychoactive, does not get you 'high' and is not addictive. The effects of cannabis are quite commonly known, and include impaired cognitive and motor functions, as well as an increased appetite. CBD does not have the same effect.

CBD - like THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) - comes from the cannabis plant. It is known as a powerful natural pain reliever, as well as having numerous other benefits. For example, it's anti-inflammatory, and also it's antidepressant-like effects.

CBD interacts with the human body's endocannabinoid system, which affect many different processes in the body.

Both CBD and THC work with cannabinoid receptors that release neurotransmitters in your brain. These transmitters can affect processes such as mood, sleep, memory and pain.

But CBD and THC are not the only cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. In fact, the hemp plant contains over 100 cannabinoids! CBD products often contain some of these other cannabinoids, as well as flavonoids and terpenes.

This is because the cannabinoids work together and enhance the effect of the product.

This is known as the entourage effect.

In general, there appears to be some resistence to CBD. From people who still associate it with the illegal drug marijuana to big pharmacuticals who may not may not benefit financially from CBD. Consequently there are limited clinical studies for CBD. But we do feel we are moving in the right direction.

There is one FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approved medical cannabis treatment at present - Epidiolex - which is used for Epilepsy. So we know that CBD has been accepted in the conventional world of medicine as a substance that offers significant health benefits.

What is arthritis and osteoarthritis?

Often these terms are used interchangeably but they do have distinct meanings. We'll start with the term less often used in every day life: Osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis is the medical term for degenerative joint wear. The cartilage, which acts as a kind of shock absorber in the joint, is damaged and it (as one of our writers can attest from playing too much football!) can be very painful.

8 main causes of osteoarthritis:
1. Age-related wear
2. Overwork in work or sports
3. Overweight
4. Wrong footwear
5. Injuries
6. Malpositions
7. Osteoporosis (bone deformity)
8. Other diseases

Osteoarthritis can occur on any of the approximately 100 joints in the body. However, joints that are most frequently affected include:

  • Knee
  • Hip
  • Shoulders
  • Wrists and fingers

Several joints can also be affected at once, which is called polyarthrosis.

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, affecting around a third of people aged 45 and over in the UK (around 8.75 million people). You're more likely to develop osteoarthritis the older you get. Osteoarthritis is thought to develop as a result of damage to your joints and is a common disease.

It is typical that the pain increases when the joint is loaded. Especially in the morning, the affected joint feels immobile and painful (so-called start-up) Later in the illness, the pain can develop to occur permanently. Also, swelling and thickening may occur.

Osteoarthritis patients tend to restrict movements of the joint. Unfortunately, this decreased movement then leads to poor blood circulation in the cartilage and the joint becomes even stiffer. A vicious circle.

Osteoarthritis is not yet curable. The most common treatment methods are medication, physiotherapy or heat and cold therapy. However, these methods usually only relieve the pain. In advanced, severe cases, the last resort is often just a prosthesis.

The joint affected by osteoarthritis tends to become inflamed.

woman-holds-hand-in-pain
Osteoarthritis can occur on any of the approximately 100 joints in the body

Arthritis

Arthritis is to be distinguished from arthrosis. Arthritis is an inflammation of the joints and not due to chronic wear and tear. Nearly 9 million people in the UK suffer from one of many forms of arthritis. Women are affected more often.

A distinction should be made with another common term arthrosis, which describes a non-inflammatory degenerative condition associated with aging. It affects mainly cartilage, which becomes rugged, irregular and worn out. This breakdown of cartilage can cause pain and loss of mobility of the joint.

As with arthrosis, every joint can be affected in arthritis. A distinction is made between infectious arthritis (bacteria or viruses) and non-infectious arthritis.

The most common forms are:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis (rheumatism)
  • Infectious arthritis
  • Gout
  • Ankylosing spondylitis
  • Psoriasis
  • Reactive arthritis
Arthritis-sufferers-often-struggle-with-sleep-CBD-can-help
Painsomnia - difficulty sleeping due to pain - is a common problem for arthritis sufferers. Up to 80% of people with osteoarthritis or inflammatory types of arthritis struggle with sleep.

Arthritis can occur suddenly and in batches. Complaints increasingly manifest themselves at night and during rest. This often gives patients trouble falling asleep.

Accompanying symptoms such as fatigue, night sweats or mild fever are also typical. In addition to the joints, internal organs and skin can also be affected.

The best known form is rheumatoid arthritis (rheumatism), which mostly affects older people. The common onset of rheumatoid arthritis is between the ages of 50 and 70.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the joints and causes inflammation there.

Rheumatoid arthritis is particularly common in fingers and feet which leads to painful, swollen and stiff joints.

Arthritis cannot be cured either. Medications are usually prescribed as treatment methods for the pain, and heat or cold therapies are prescribed.

The general feeling is that rheumatologists believe there is not enough evidence for CBD and arthritis and will likely require more proof before they can recommend the use of cannabis to treat rheumatic diseases.

There is a high probability that you already know the clinical picture of osteoarthritis or arthritis well, because you've been struggling with it for a very long time. As such, you're probably already very familiar with what arthritis is and how it is usually treated by doctors. Which means you're likey here to learn more about CBD!

If so, apologies - we'll get to the CBD bit now!

How could CBD help with arthritis and osteoarthritis?

There are already promising animal studies that suggest that CBD could help with osteoarthritis and arthritis.

To understand why CBD could work for osteoarthritis or arthritis, a look inside the body and how CBD works helps.

Put simply, CBD influences the exchange of neurotransmitters in the brain and body. CBD, therefore, has the ability to inhibit receptors or increase the exchanges of these neurotransmitters.

Specifically, CBD interacts with two specific receptors in the body's endocannabinoid system - CB1 and CB2. Regulating the neurotransmitters to these receptors can actually relieve pain and the effects of inflammation.

CB1 and CB2 receptors are primarily involved in emotional performance, movement, coordination and the immune system.

The fact that CBD has an effect on chronic pain and inflammation, has already been scientifically investigated. The American non-profit organization CreakyJoints explains how these properties can be transferred to osteoarthritis and arthritis.

scientific-picture-showing-most-common-areas-for-arthritis
We already know CBD has an effect on chronic pain and inflammation - now people are reporting improvements with arthritis.

Areas of action: the affected area and in the nervous system

CBD is believed to work in two parts of the body for pain caused by osteoarthritis and arthritis.

Firstly, at the point where the pain occurs (e.g. the knee joint).

And secondly, in the central nervous system, which sends pain signals to the brain. Such pain signals are sent out when the nervous system detects certain stimulations or damage to nerves or cells.

And it is precisely this ability of CBD to calm this reaction which is one of the reasons why CBD could be an effective pain reliever for people with osteoarthritis and arthritis.

Another reason is the anti-inflammatory properties of CBD. Inflammation occurs when the body fights an infection (or something that is perceived as an infection).

With autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, the immune system attacks healthy parts of the body such as your joints.

The brain receptor CB2 also plays an important role in the immune system. In rheumatoid arthritis, the immune system mistakenly attacks the tissue in the joints. This relationship with the immune system could explain why CBD might work for rheumatism symptoms.

In addition, the anti-inflammatory effects of CBD can also help slow or stop the progression of rheumatism, causing permanent damage to joints over time. These effects could also relieve other inflammation-related rheumatism symptoms such as fatigue and fever.

Has CBD been scientifically tested for osteoarthritis or arthritis?

No, not in humans. There is still a lack of scientific studies that show that CBD could be effective for osteoarthritis or arthritis.

There is an urgent need for examinations (on humans and not only on animals).

But what gives great hope are successful animal studies with CBD in arthrosis and current survey results from the USA.

Experimental animal studies on CBD in arthritis

Some rodent studies in recent years have suggested that CBD may be effective in osteoarthritis and arthritis. This is mainly due to the anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects of CBD.

In particular:

  • A study from 2011 showed that CBD eased inflammatory arthritis pain in rats, because CBD influences the way pain receptors respond to stimuli.
  • A review in 2014 showed that CBD can be an effective treatment for osteoarthritis.
  • A 2016 study by the European Journal of Pain found that CBD gel can relieve pain and inflammation associated with arthritis in rats. In this case, the CBD gel was applied topically (i.e. externally).
  • In a further study in 2017 it was found that with osteoarthritis pain in rats, CBD blocked and prevented the later development of nerve damage in the affected joints.

Of course, we must bear in mind that these are animal studies. The results do not automatically transfer to humans. However, in other areas (but not osteoarthritis or arthritis), successful studies with CBD have also been carried out on humans.

In chronic pain, for example, CBD can be effective. The research results published in Therapeutics and Clinical Risk Management in 2008 show that cannabinoids can be successfully used for pain relief in multiple sclerosis and cancer patients.

Also, fibromyalgia patients have already taken part in other studies where an analgesic effect by CBD has been proven.

CBD could also be used for sleep disorders, because problems falling asleep are often associated with osteoarthritis or arthritis pain.

We're at risk of writing a long list of things CBD has been reported to help alleviate the symptoms of so instead shall direct you to our section on what CBD can be used for!

scientist-researches-CBD-and-arthritis
Rodent studies in recent years have suggested that CBD may be effective in
osteoarthritis and arthritis. This is mainly due to the anti-inflammatory and
analgesic effects of CBD.

People's experiences of CBD with osteoarthritis and arthritis

The process for legalising of cannabis and CBD products is more advanced in the United States than in Europe. It is therefore hardly surprising that many people in the US have already tried CBD and this is where a lot of reporting and studies come from.

For example, a recent survey based on the US Arthritis Power Research Register shows:

  • More than half of US patients have already tested medical CBD or medical marijuana as a medical treatment for arthritis.
  • The vast majority of patients said that using medical marijuana or CBD improved their symptoms.
  • This is despite the fact that there is as yet no reliable scientific evidence for the effectiveness of CBD in osteoarthritis or arthritis.

The results were published in June 2019 at the annual European Congress for Rheumatology (EULAR 2019). Datasets of adults aged 19 years and over diagnosed with arthritis or arthrosis were evaluated.

Particularly noteworthy is the reported experience of the respondents. 93.7% of patients said they experienced relief from osteoarthritis or arthritis pain when taking CBD (which is actually lower than the 97.1% for medical marijuana).

On the Facebook page of CreakyJoints you can find testimonials showing positive experiences with CBD in osteoarthritis and arthritis.

Are there any CBD creams or gels for osteoarthritis?

When evaluating hundreds of experience reports and current CBD products, one thing is striking: CBD creams, lotions, ointments or gels are often suggested for patients with joint pain from osteoarthritis or arthritis.

These are simply applied to the skin of the affected joints. The amount of CBD in the products can vary greatly so check the labels.

Of course there are other forms of CBD in addition to topical CBD creams and gels, such as CBD oil and capsules. CBD edibles are also popular, including CBD gummy bears, hemp tea and CBD chocolate.

CBD dosing for osteoarthritis and arthritis

We strongly recommend seeking medical advice from a healthcare provider before taking CBD.

This is especially true when other drugs are used that can lead to interactions. In particular, if you are taking medication that advises against eating grapefruit, you should definitely avoid CBD.

It is worth noting that the side effects from taking CBD alone are generally rare and relatively mild.

It is difficult to give information about the dosage. CBD products contain a wide variety of different substances, and each person also reacts differently to CBD.

If you want to try a CBD cream or other CBD product, it is best to start with a very small dose, so you can feel for yourself how your body reacts to CBD. Other CBD products include CBD vape liquid, CBD edibles and capsules, to name a few.

If you don't notice any side effects, you can try increasing the dosage gradually. The side effects of CBD compared to prescribed medication are reported to be very mild, if present at all. It is generally accepted that the benefits of CBD far outweigh any side effects.

Can CBD help dogs and cats with osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis can also occur in (mostly older) dogs and cats.

Some may be surprised that pets often suffer from diseases similar to humans. Osteoarthritis is definitely one such example. Incidentally, other such diseases are cancer, chronic pain and arthritis.

And unfortunately, arthrosis and arthritis are not curable in dogs and cats. However, one can try to alleviate the suffering of our four-legged friends.

Unlike humans, dogs and cats cannot tell us when something hurts. Therefore we have to watch the animals and pay attention to subtle clues.

6 ways you can tell if your pet has arthrosis or arthritis:

1. Visible problems when walking

2. Dog is very reluctant to go for a walk (as this is often associated with severe pain)

3. Muscles feel stiff or swollen

4. Frequent wheezing or whimpering, especially during movements

5. Stairs are largely avoided

6. Sleeps more than usual

CBD-is-safe-for-animals

If you notice any of the symptoms above, we advise you to see a veterinarian immediately. Because even if arthrosis and arthritis are not curable, quick treatment is advisable to reduce suffering and the risk of progressive damage to the joints.

How could CBD work in dogs and cats?

Simply put, similar to the way it works in humans. Again, you should note that there is still no direct scientific evidence for the effectiveness of CBD in osteoarthritis or arthritis in pets (unless you keep rats as pets...). Since it has not yet been scientifically tested.

CBD triggers sensors in the natural endocannabinoid system found in dogs and cats as well as humans.

These sensors then send a message to the brain to relieve pain and activate the other internal systems needed to fight disease and inflammation. And this regulation of the sensors can be affected by CBD.

Therefore, it would be suspected that CBD could also have anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects.

sad-dog-wants-some-cbd
Researchers believe arthritis affects at least 20% of all dogs older than 1 year old, with higher risk for older dogs.

How should CBD be dosed in pets?

The dosage depends on some factors such as the size and weight of the pet . It also depends on how far the arthritis or osteoarthritis has progressed in the animal. As a rule of thumb, it is best to start with a lower dose of CBD and increase it if necessary.

If you want to use CBD as a complementary treatment to medication, it is always best to discuss this with a veterinarian beforehand.

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