In the United States, up to 116 million people suffer from some form of chronic pain condition, and over 50 million of these cases include arthritis.
Arthritis takes two different forms: rheumatoid arthritis, which is an autoimmune disease that leads to painful joint swelling and tends to affect the hands & feet, and then there’s osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease that tends to target large joints, like hips and knees.
And as painful and utterly debilitating as arthritis can be, one of the biggest issues that comes with this disease is something characteristic of most chronic and inflammatory conditions: it can be incredibly difficult to treat.
It’s not fully understood why, but it may have a lot to do with the fact that inflammation is an immune response. When inflammation is triggered, it’s because the immune system detects a present danger, and inflammation helps fight off pathogens. But in some cases, our bodies incorrectly identify a threat, or they respond to an underlying issue we don’t acknowledge enough, like stress.
And on top of that, the immune system is a fast learner. So sometimes, those initial painkillers may work the first few times, but after a while, the immune system sees its suppressive abilities and may fight back, resulting in an increased tolerance to the drug.
Not to mention the fact that when dealing with arthritis pain, NSAIDs are pretty commonly prescribed.
NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) are over-the-counter drugs meant to bring down painful symptoms, and include products such as aspirin, acetaminophen (Tylenol), naproxen (Aleve), and ibuprofen (Advil).
While the occasional Tylenol is okay, long-term uses of NSAIDs pose several risks, including kidney problems and stomach bleeding.
However, there may be a potential treatment for chronic pain that works differently, and it’s not a pharmaceutical drug per se, but a naturally-derived substance.
CBD oil has gained a lot of popularity as a way to help treat inflammation, not only through scientific findings, but through anecdotal evidence, as well.
But can CBD oil really help with arthritis pain? Or is it just more placebo data?
First, let’s go over what CBD oil is.
What is CBD?
CBD, also known as cannabidiol may sound like a new phenomenon, and some might even call it a fad, but there’s actually evidence that mankind has known of the benefits of cannabinoids for centuries.
There have been records indicating that the Ancient Egyptians used cannabis for labor pains and inflammation, and it was a known medicinal plant in Ancient Greece and Rome. It’s even been theorized that at the dawn of agriculture (12,000 BCE), cannabis might’ve been one of the first crops grown.
Furthermore, CBD oil has gained popularity as its own single component, but it’s actually just one of the dozens of unique compounds found in hemp plants. These special compounds are called cannabinoids, and growing research has identified a unique relationship that cannabinoids have with our bodies.
CBD oil for Inflammation: What We Know
The unique relationship between our bodies and CBD oil starts with a series of receptors found throughout the nervous system. These receptors make up what’s known as the endocannabinoid system, and it has two main receptors: CB1 and CB2.
To put it simply, the endocannabinoid system, also known as the ECS, plays a big role in maintaining balance throughout the body. But let’s take a closer, more in-depth look.
First looking at CB1 receptors, these are found in the brain and work in league with brain functions and cognitive actions, such as mood, memory, and coordination.
However, most research around cannabinoids and CB1 receptors don’t apply so much to CBD oil as it does with another cannabinoid: THC. And this can explain how marijuana affects our minds.
Meanwhile, CB2 receptors are found in the immune system and help manage the body’s response to inflammatory pain. It’s been widely theorized that when we take CBD, it helps regulate the way our bodies process pain and inflammation.
And while this function is still not yet fully understood, researchers believe that when CBD oil enters the human body, it attaches to the CB2 receptors and mimic the body’s naturally occurring cannabinoids, which may help reduce pain and inflammation.
Anecdotal Evidence for CBD oil for Arthritis
While research is still growing, it’s no surprise that there’s an abundance of anecdotal evidence.
Of course, individuals with chronic pain conditions like arthritis and fibromyalgia hold their own weight when they swear by the effectiveness of CBD oil for their flare-ups, but the word of others should always be taken with a grain of salt when it’s not fully backed up with science.
This is because while there is some compelling evidence, there are also studies suggesting that CBD oil might have more of a placebo effect, at least with some individuals.
Moreover, no treatment is going to work universally, and just because one group says that something worked for them, doesn’t mean it’s going to have the same effect on you. And this is especially true for pain, which is affected by a whole range of factors.
On top of that, individuals must be especially with testimonials endorsed by CBD oil companies, as this is very often used as a marketing tactic in an increasingly competitive market.
Of course, there is anecdotal evidence and testimonials galore, including reports of dramatic improvement by people who tried CBD oil 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 oil may be to people with chronic arthritis pain.
Are There Risks to Using CBD?
When considering a treatment for arthritis pain, one of the most important questions to ask would this:
Are there risks to taking it?
When it comes to CBD oil as a chronic pain treatment, this has been a little murky. Multiple sites have stated that the risks associated are extremely low, including the National Institute of Drug Abuse.
Meanwhile, the FDA’s acknowledged that CBD oil regulation is still in its early stages, they’ve noted that there are indeed risks associated, such as the potential for liver and reproductive damage, though the risk potential of this is still unclear.
On top of that, they warn that CBD oil may interfere with other medicines the individual is taking, such as immunosuppressants and blood thinners, and it’s still unclear how it affects certain groups like children, senior citizens, and pregnant or breastfeeding women.
While increased public interest helps develop awareness, the FDA’s made it abundantly clear that CBD oil companies cannot make any claims about therapeutic benefits, and that it’s illegal to market as a dietary supplement.
Can CBD Oil Really Help With Arthritis Pain?
Overall, CBD oil offers a lot of potential as a means for treating arthritis pain by soothing inflammation in the joints, and the growing scientific evidence of its anti-inflammatory properties is quite promising.
However, we’ll still need a lot more conclusive evidence concluding CBD’s efficacy, and it may not be suitable for some individuals.
As a result, it’s best to talk to your doctor about CBD oil for arthritis pain, and it isn’t recommended to replace any current medication with it, and you shouldn’t take it alongside other medications until you know for certain that it’s safe and won’t cause a reaction.