The prevalence of arthritis increases as we age. Among adults aged 18 to 44, only 7.1% have a diagnosed arthritis condition. That percentage increases to 29.3% and 49.6% for 45 to 64-year-olds and 65 year-olds, respectively.
There are more than 100 different arthritic conditions out there. Yet, they all have one thing in common: pain.
There is good news, though. Researchers have been looking into the connection between cannabidiol or CBD and arthritis pain. And studies show that CBD may be a natural and effective way to combat arthritis pain.
You may have heard of CBD already. This cannabinoid comes from the cannabis plant but is unique for providing multiple benefits without the high associated with THC.
Are you wondering about the connection between arthritis, CBD, and pain? Then you better keep reading because this guide is for you!
CBD and the Endocannabinoid System
Like all cannabinoids, CBD interacts with the human endocannabinoid system (ECS).
The ECS is a system of receptors located on cells in the central and peripheral nervous systems. Scientists have named the ECS’s receptors CB1 (mostly found in the brain) and CB2 (mostly found in the body).
CB1 and CB2 are responsible for modulating a wide range of activities, including:
- Immune system response
- Chronic pain
There’s also emerging research suggesting the ECS has a role to play in arthritis. Arthritis is the overarching name for a group of inflammatory conditions with chronic pain as a symptom.
Considering that the ECS regulates both of these things, it’s no wonder.
CBD exerts its many effects via the ECS. Researchers are still learning exactly how CBD interacts with CB1 and CB2, but here’s what we know so far.
How CBD Affects CB1 Receptors
CB1 receptors are almost entirely found in the brain and central nervous system (CNS).
CBD acts as an antagonist of CB1 receptors. That means it doesn’t directly affect or bind to these receptors. Instead, CBD changes the way other compounds bind to CB1 receptors.
Here’s an example: THC is an agonist of CB1 receptors, meaning it does directly bind to them. Yet, when CBD is present, too, something strange happens. CBD actually decreases THC’s effects on the receptor.
This is why some research suggests that CBD can counteract the effects of CB1 agonists like THC.
How CBD Affects CB2 Receptors
While CB2 receptors are predominately found in the peripheral nervous system, they’re also present in the CNS. Still, the majority are located on immune system cells.
At CB2 receptors, CBD is what’s known as an inverse agonist. This means that, unlike at CB1 receptors, CBD does directly bind to CB2 receptors.
But it’s a bit more complicated than that. Because CBD doesn’t actually activate CB2 receptors as a normal agonist would. Instead, it counteracts the effects of normal agonists, i.e., it suppresses the activity of CB2 receptors.
What the Research Says About CBD and Arthritis Pain
Over the past decade, scientists have conducted multiple studies to answer this very question: does CBD work for pain relief? More specifically, is CBD beneficial for arthritis pain?
Here’s what they’ve found.
CBD Has Pain-Relieving and Anti-Inflammatory Effects in Animal Models
A study published in the European Journal of Pain looked at the effects of topical CBD on animal models of arthritis. The study showed that topical CBD could effectively and safely reduce inflammation and, even better, pain.
Keep in mind that animal studies, while relevant, aren’t proof of CBD’s benefits in humans. We need more research to determine whether these things also hold for humans with arthritis.
Topical CBD May Be Effective for Arthritis Knee Pain
A 2018 study conducted a randomized trial of 320 adult patients with arthritis knee pain. They found that, after 12 weeks of treatment, 250 mg and 500 mg of CBD per day offered significant pain relief as compared to a placebo.
This study also showed that the CBD was well-tolerated by the study participants. That means side effects were mild or non-existent.
Inhaled Medical Cannabis May Be Effective for Fibromyalgia Pain
Fibromyalgia is a type of arthritis. Aside from osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia is among the most common arthritic conditions. As with most other types of arthritis, pain is one of the top symptoms of fibromyalgia.
A 2019 randomized trial of 20 people looked at the benefits of inhaling medical-grade cannabis for chronic pain due to fibromyalgia. Bediol — a medical cannabis strain containing 13.4 mg THC and 17.8 mg CBD — showed the most promising effects.
When inhaled, this product showed up to a 30% reduction in pain. This reduction was a significant analgesic effect as compared to the placebo. Surprisingly, this cannabis effect was present after only one inhalation.
Pending Research Into CBD and Arthritis Pain
So far, the above research is all we have to rely on when it comes to CBD and arthritis pain. However, one upcoming publication is receiving a lot of attention for its potential to change this.
In a forthcoming study, researchers looked into the effects of CBD versus placebo for rheumatoid arthritis (RA). This study intends to investigate not only the efficacy of CBD for RA but also its safety for human use.
The Bottom Line on CBD for Arthritis Pain
So, what’s the final word on CBD and arthritis pain? Because of the way it acts on human ECS receptors CB1 and CB2, CBD may, in fact, be an excellent solution for chronic arthritis pain.
However, more research is needed to fully understand the short and long-term effects of CBD on arthritis pain.
Did you enjoy learning about CBD, the ECS, and arthritic pain? Then you better keep scrolling for more articles just like this one!