Does CBD Help With Joint Pain?
With the emergence of medical and recreational cannabis, an increasing number of people have started using cannabinol , or CBD, for arthritis and pain in the joints. CBD is a nonpsychoactive compound derived from the cannabis plant; while it can cause drowsiness, it doesn’t cause a “high” like its cousin, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol).
For arthritis and chronic pain, people often apply topical creams or oils directly to the joints, take oral formulations, or inhale CBD to ease pain and inflammation.
Though more clinical research is needed on dosage and efficacy, CBD has been shown to have direct anti-inflammatory and pain-management properties in animals. Well-tolerated and with few side effects, CBD reportedly helps relieve pain in affected joints, among other benefits.
This article provides an overview of CBD for joint pain, including what we know about safety and efficacy, the available products and formulations, as well as how to use it.
What’s CBD Used For?
CBD isn’t just used to treat joint pain and inflammation; it may also help with other conditions. Other common reasons people use it are insomnia (trouble sleeping), anxiety, and chronic pain conditions. In addition, a form of CBD approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) called Epidiolex can be prescribed for epilepsy.
CBD for Joint Pain
Does CBD actually work for pain and inflammation? Research on anti-inflammatory properties has found positive effects in animal models, though the clinical evidence is less clear for efficacy in humans. Notably, some researchers have found some varieties of CBD effective for chronic pain patients, which can arise with arthritis and joint-related conditions.
In the absence of sufficient evidence, the FDA labels CBD as a “cosmetic” product, rather than a nutritional supplement or therapy.
Regardless, for chronic pain in the joints, especially when due to arthritis, CBD has grown in popularity. A 2019 Gallup poll reported that 14% of American adults used CBD products, with 40% using them for pain, and 8% specifically for arthritis. Another survey of rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis patients found almost 80% had tried, actively used, or planned on using these products for pain.
With regular direct application to the affected joints of topical solutions or oral or inhaled CBD oils or other products, users report reductions in discomfort and improved mobility over the long term. Some also find it to help with sleep and ease anxiety, something that can prove necessary to cope with chronic pain.
THC and CBD
Notably, the psychoactive component of cannabis, THC, may also have a pain-relieving effect, especially when combined with CBD. Certain cannabis strains and products are available that aim to balance these levels.
Studies of this combination have shown efficacy in managing chronic pain and improving mobility. That said, THC will have a psychoactive effect, and the side effects are more prevalent when the two are used together.
Is CBD Safe?
Overall, CBD is well-tolerated. Unlike other components of the cannabis plant, it isn’t intoxicating, and there are no significant medical concerns about moderate use. Daily oral doses of 200 milligrams (mg) of CBD or less were found to be safe for up to 13 weeks. Research is ongoing, but most indications are that CBD doesn’t pose many risks.
However, CBD may cause some side effects, which can range in severity from person to person. These have been reported to include:
- Dry mouth
- Drowsiness or sleepiness
- Nausea and vomiting
- Decreased appetite
- Changes in mood
In addition, CBD may interact with certain medications. Before starting this therapy, let your healthcare provider know if you’re taking:
- Corticosteroids like prednisone and others
- Xeljanz (tofacitinib)
- Aleve (naproxen)
- Celebrex (celecoxib)
- Ultram (tramadol)
- Antidepressants like amitriptyline, Prozac (fluoxetine), Zoloft (sertraline), and others
- Neurontin (gabapentin)
- Lyrica (pregabalin)
Risks for Certain Patients
The safety of CBD has not been established for certain patients, including:
- Children and infants (though some prescribed forms are safe to take)
- Pregnant or breastfeeding people
- People with liver disease or liver problems
- People with Parkinson’s disease
Tips for Safe Use
Since CBD isn’t approved for use by the FDA—and since research is ongoing—clinical guidelines are lacking. If you’re considering this treatment, the Arthritis Foundation has laid out these recommendations for safe use:
- Talk to your healthcare provider if you’re thinking about using CBD; seek follow-up care with them after three months of use.
- Start with a low dose; after a week, gradually increase the amount if you aren’t satisfied with the results.
- CBD is not meant to replace medications or therapies that treat joint damage; it’s best used as part of a broader therapy regimen.
- CBD may interact with medications you’re taking; be ready to call your provider or stop use if you experience side effects.
- Use products from trusted companies that have undergone independent laboratory testing of purity and potency.
Is CBD Legal?
Because it derives from the same kind of cannabis plant that produces THC, a schedule I substance that’s federally banned but available in certain states, the laws surrounding CBD and its availability vary. In 2018, the federal government allowed the sale of CBD and hemp products, but that doesn’t mean that the product you find is legally produced.
Specific rules around CBD products vary, especially as some states allow medical and recreational use of cannabis, while others do not. Before purchasing, make sure you understand what the regulations are in your area.
Types of CBD Products
There are many CBD products available as the market continues to grow. These can be broken down by how you take them. For arthritis or chronic pain, common types include:
- Topical formulations: There is a range of CBD creams and oils designed to be applied directly to affected joints. Combined with other ingredients, these may help ease inflammation and pain in the area with daily use.
- Oral formulations: CBD can be taken in pill form and is available in gummies, candies, or other edible forms. Oils can also be added to food or drink or put under the tongue. A prescribed spray is also available. Dosages can be difficult to manage with this route, and it’s important to keep CBD from children.
- Inhalation: There are strains of cannabis that are designed to have a very high CBD content and only trace THC, which can be smoked. Concentrations of CBD can also be inhaled by using a vaporizer pen or vaping. Notably, certain ingredients of the latter may pose health risks, and healthcare providers tend to recommend against this route.
Given the wide range of CBD products available, take care to ensure you’re taking a good, safe product. This is done by:
- Using products manufactured in the United States that are made from domestically grown plants
- Ensuring your products conform to voluntary manufacturing standards or those established in your state
- Buying products that have undergone an independent clinical evaluation of potency, safety, and efficacy using methods established by the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia (AHP), the U.S. Pharmacopeia (UP), or the Association of Agricultural Chemists (AAC)
- Avoiding products that advertise specific medical benefits
How Does CBD Work?
CBD and the other constituents of cannabis work by stimulating the endocannabinoid receptors located in the brain and nerves throughout the body. When these are stimulated, they release neurotransmitters, or chemical messengers called endocannabinoids. This helps regulate a wide range of functions, including sleep, memory, appetite, mood, reproduction and fertility, as well as immune and inflammatory responses.
There are two types of endocannabinoid receptors: CB1 receptors are found in the brain, whereas CB2 receptors are found on nerves in the rest of the body. CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties have been attributed to its activity on the latter. Notably, whereas THC stimulates the activity of these receptors, CBD primarily slows down the degradation of endocannabinoids. This accounts for their differing effects on the body.
Cannabinol , or CBD, is a nonpsychoactive compound of the cannabis plant. Though more research is needed, some evidence suggests CBD may help ease joint pain and inflammation. Designed to be applied topically, inhaled, or ingested, a wide range of products are now available, and federal bans on their sale have been lifted.
While CBD isn’t an FDA-approved therapy, it’s relatively safe and causes few side effects. Many report reductions in pain and swelling with prolonged, regular use.
A Word From Verywell
For an increasing number of people with persistent arthritic joint pain and swelling, topical and other forms of CBD have emerged as an option for managing symptoms. Working without the intoxicating effects of THC, this compound has shown promise as an anti-inflammatory and pain-managing agent.
However, as the science is new and evolving—and because this therapy isn’t FDA regulated—care should be taken. If you’re thinking about using CBD for joint pain, talk to your healthcare provider about whether this option is appropriate for your case.
Frequently Asked Questions
CBD isn’t expected to provide quick pain relief, and it doesn’t treat the underlying cause of the pain. CBD formulations are known to have a cumulative effect: one that sets on after a period of daily or regular use. When trying this approach, it can take up to two weeks to see sustained results. However, immediate effects set in quicker based on the route of administration; inhaled CBD takes a couple of minutes, topical forms about 10 minutes, sublingual forms between 15 and 45 minutes, with edibles taking between 30 minutes and two hours.
Hemp is a male form of the cannabis plant that has a very high CBD content and negligible THC levels. Hemp seed oil is derived from parts of the hemp plant, whereas CBD oils and other products are derived from the whole hemp plant, or from some strains of the female form. While CBD extractions may help with pain and inflammation, hemp seed oil provides mostly nutritional value.
Since there are no exact medical guidelines for CBD use, the best option is to start with smaller amounts and concentrations, scaling up only if you aren’t feeling the effects after several weeks. Most products will have CBD content information measured in milligrams (mg). If taken orally, start with between 25 and 35 mg a day, split over two doses; topically, up to 250 mg can be applied daily.
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Mark Gurarie
Mark Gurarie is a freelance writer, editor, and adjunct lecturer of writing composition at George Washington University.