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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CBD for Chronic Knee Pain: What to Expect
Chronic knee pain is a debilitating condition that not only causes you discomfort, but also affects your daily life. Many treatments are available, but not all are effective in managing your pain.
Sometimes, less conventional treatments may be just what you need. CBD is one of these treatments.
At Integrated Body and Medicine , we offer many different treatments to help you deal with chronic pain in your knees. We offer a personalized treatment plan and give you the information you need to understand each treatment.
If you’re considering using CBD for pain relief, we can offer you information on what to expect.
Causes of chronic knee pain
Knee pain is a debilitating condition that can be the result of a variety of conditions. Sometimes a prior injury may lead to arthritis later on, or you could suffer from normal wear-and-tear that breaks down your joint.
Arthritis is the main cause of chronic knee pain, but there are other conditions that can also lead to knee troubles, including:
- Traumatic injury
- Degenerative conditions
- Rheumatoid arthritis
If you’re overweight, the excess pounds put more strain on your knee joints, which can also lead to chronic pain.
What are the symptoms of a chronic problem with your knee? Symptoms can vary, but may include:
- Decreased mobility
Your knee may also feel like it’s unstable.
All of these symptoms warrant an evaluation and treatment, but how do you know what treatment is right for you? Have you been considering alternative therapies such as CBD for your pain? If so, there are some things you need to know before going down that road for relief.
How can CBD help?
CBD, also known as cannabidiol, is a compound that’s derived from a cannabis plant. Unlike THC, CBD doesn’t give you the commonly sought-after high that THC does. But in some cases, CBD can cause drowsiness, so take care when choosing a treatment option.
CBD that’s on the market today can have many uses, ranging from reducing anxiety to easing chronic pain. So how does it work for knee pain? Cannabinoids have been shown to inhibit certain neurotransmitters in the brain that play a role in your body’s inflammatory response.
By decreasing this inflammation, CBD could help relieve chronic pain. It can also help you cut down on the use of harmful opioids, which are habit-forming and have a vast array of side effects.
CBD comes in a variety of applications , including oral gummies, topical creams, or inhaled vapors. Which one you choose to use is completely up to you, but before deciding on CBD, contact us first to make sure it’s safe for you to use.
What you can expect from treatment
Each person responds differently to CBD products. CBD is not a cure-all for any condition, so you shouldn’t expect your chronic knee pain to go away overnight. At most, you’ll experience moderate pain relief and less inflammation. But CBD shouldn’t be your only avenue of treatment.
If you decide to go this route, include us in your decision, so we can help pair your CBD therapy with other treatments that may help, including physical therapy or chiropractic care.
There are some things to be mindful of when considering CBD therapy for knee pain. You should:
- Make sure the product is tested
- Involve our care team in your decision
- Give yourself a realistic time frame for relief
- Start with a low dose at nighttime
Never stop taking other medications for other conditions without consulting us. Although CBD can help your chronic knee pain, it doesn’t take the place of your prescribed medications.
If you’ve had enough of chronic knee pain and are considering CBD therapy, schedule an appointment. Call our Highland, Indiana, office at 219-803-6630 or schedule an appointment through our online system .
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