Can CBD help with chronic joint pain?

Cannabis plant for CBD chronic pain products against a green and yellow background

There is a lot of buzz around CBD and chronic pain. With so many available options, it can be very confusing.

CBD (cannabidiol) is an active substance found in the cannabis plant. 

The human body has an endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is involved in regulating sleep, pain and the immune system. It is believed that CBD interacts with the receptors in the ECS to reduce pain and inflammation.

CBD products are legal in many places.  Medical CBD products usually have little or zero THC, which is the chemical compound that has a euphoric effect.

Many manufacturers are now deliberately cultivating strains of plants that are high in CBD and low in THC, specifically to make pain relief products. It's wise to double-check the label for THC content when you buy CBD products. It should be 0.3% or under.

The Good Earth provides a helpful global map and people in the USA can use this handy chart to understand local laws by state. Regulations are constantly changing, so make sure that you understand the legal situation for your location.

We hear many positive stories about CBD from chronic pain patients, but at the time of writing (2019), there is not enough conclusive medical research to know for sure if CBD relieves chronic pain and inflammation.

More research needs to be done on larger groups of people to fully understand the positive effects the compound may have on chronic pain. 

The good news is that this is starting to change.

In Canada, Dr. Jason McDougall, a Professor in the department of pharmacology and anesthesia at the Halifax University, is using a three-year research grant from the Arthritis Society to study how cannabis compounds can manage arthritis pain.

Meanwhile, the Arthritis Foundation in the USA has released guidelines on joint pain & CBD.

Key takeaways:

  • CBD may help with arthritis-related symptoms, such as pain, insomnia and anxiety, but there have been no rigorous clinical studies in people with arthritis to confirm this.
  • While no major safety issues have been found with CBD when taken in moderate doses, potential drug interactions have been identified.
  • CBD should never be used to replace disease-modifying drugs that help prevent permanent joint damage in inflammatory types of arthritis
  • CBD use should be discussed with your doctor in advance, with follow-up evaluations every three months or so, as would be done for any new treatment.
  • There are no established clinical guidelines to inform usage. Experts recommend starting with a low dose, and if relief is inadequate, increase in small increments weekly.
  • Buy from a reputable company that has each batch tested for purity, potency and safety by an independent laboratory and provides a certificate of analysis.

There are a lot of brands of CBD products, and it can be intimidating looking for a safe and reputable source, as the industry is new and not yet regulated by the FDA in the USA. Nobody wants to buy a product that contains contaminants, is incorrectly labeled or is simply poor value for money.

Pharmacist formulated products tested by a third-party lab are likely to be the highest quality. Look for companies that use organic, pharmaceutical-grade ethanol or supercritical CO2 extraction to process CBD, as these are the safest methods of extracting the chemical from the plant.

The situation with CBD is evolving rapidly, so always check your local regulations before you buy, speak to other patients and ask for brand recommendations and check with your doctor before you take it.