Arthritis is a chronic condition that can be very difficult to live with. In America alone, over 50 million adults suffer from some sort of arthritis. In fact, arthritis is one of the leading causes of disability nationwide.
Researchers are now investigating CBD as a potential treatment for arthritis. Due to the compound’s anti-inflammatory and analgesic (pain-relieving) effects, there is reason to believe it could have positive benefits.
In this article, we look at the effects of CBD on arthritis. We also discuss the effectiveness of topical creams, and why they might be the best way of using the compound.
What is arthritis?
There are many different types of arthritis. From a literal medical perspective, the word arthritis means “an inflammatory disease of the joints.”
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. It usually develops in people over the age of 40, and is more prevalent in women than men.
Of course, anyone can develop arthritis, and some are more at risk than others. Additionally, conditions such as gout can trigger the condition.
Initially, osteoarthritis affects cartilage in the joint, making it difficult to move. Many victims experience chronic stiffness and pain in the hands, knees, and hips.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a different type of joint inflammation. It results from the immune system attacking its own cartilage and producing painful acute inflammation.
There are other forms of arthritis, but RA and osteoarthritis are the two most common. Both forms are very prevalent in the United States, particularly among the elderly.
How is arthritis usually treated?
Although there is no cure for arthritis, various treatments may inhibit progression and help with symptoms. For instance, doctors may recommend lifestyle measures such as exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy weight. (Obesity directly correlates with osteoarthritis.)
In terms of medication for arthritis, there are several options:
- Analgesics: General analgesics can help deal with the pain brought on by some forms of arthritis. Many analgesics are available over-the-counter. Depending on the severity of the pain, however, not all are effective.
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): NSAIDs control pain by reducing inflammation. This category of drugs includes the likes of ibuprofen. NSAIDs are risky, however, and may produce long term adverse effects. For instance, they can break down the stomach lining causing gastritis and ulcers.
- Opioids: Prescription opioid painkillers are common for severe, chronic arthritis pain. However, side effects are dangerous and can include drowsiness, nausea, and constipation (among many other things). Furthermore, opioids run a high risk of addiction, and can be fatal in the event of an overdose.
- Arthroplasty: Arthroplasty refers to joint replacement surgery; a common procedure for hip and knee joints. It is a very effective treatment, and the artificial joint can last up to 20 years. However, it can be expensive and involve considerable down-time and physical therapy.
Now that we’re familiar with these common treatments, let’s take a look at CBD and discuss its potential for arthritis relief.
CBD for arthritis
Some research suggests that CBD might have potential in helping manage the symptoms of arthritis. Maybe you’ve heard about studies on the use of CBD for chronic pain, for instance.
But could it really help with arthritis?
In 2011, a study out of the University of Calgary investigated the effects of CBD on joint pain in rats. They found that CBD “clearly reduces inflammatory joint pain”:
This study clearly shows [cannabinoid receptors] may be advantageous for the treatment of inflammatory pain.
Neuroscience Letters, 2011
CBD: A “valid avenue for exploration” in arthritis treatment?
A separate study in 2014 examined the role of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) in osteoarthritis. The conclusion of the study highlights the “anti-nociceptive effects of cannabinoids in different rodent models of osteoarthritis,” and states that the “ubiquitous distribution of cannabinoid receptors, together with the physiological role of the ECS in the regulation of pain, inflammation and even joint function, [support] the therapeutic interest of cannabinoids for osteoarthritis.”
A third study from 2017 highlights how CBD “prevents pain and nerve damage in rat osteoarthritis.” Researchers conclude the study by suggesting cannabidiol could be a “safe, useful therapeutic” in the treatment of arthritis.
All in all, CBD appears to be very promising in terms of its potential to act as a treatment for arthritis. And with so many ways to ingest CBD, it is widely available for all types of users. With this in mind, let’s take a specific look at the use of topical CBD creams for arthritis.
Are topical CBD creams preferred for arthritis?
The most common method of consuming CBD is through oral tinctures. Thousands of different types of products are available online and in stores. These products are available in all 5o states, and range greatly in terms of price and potency. This involves dropping some CBD oil beneath the tongue and holding it for a moment there before swallowing it. Tinctures ensure you know exactly how much CBD you’re getting, and allow you to avoid THC if you so choose to. They can be expensive, but they are seen as a fairly effective method.
Smoking cannabis or hemp with high concentrations of CBD can also be effective. The effects of smoking cannabis are faster acting than oils, and it is possible to find strains with low THC content. In fact, an increasing number of high-CBD strains are being bred for medicinal usage. Of course, inhalation can be harmful to your lungs and respiratory system.
Vaping is a popular alternative to smoking, and is something that is growing immensely in popularity. The lack of combustion makes it easier on the lungs, and it allows you to get the same fast-acting hit. The downside is that vaporizers are costly, as are refills for cartridges.
These are just two reasons people are now opting for topical CBD creams and lotions in their search for arthritis relief. Let’s take a look at some of the advantages these products may provide.
Topical CBD creams offer direct application to the affected area
With topical creams, you can administer CBD to a very precise area. Simply rub the cream over problematic areas, and wait for the CBD to take effect. Some say that the anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties of the compound are more effective via topicals than they are through oral tinctures.
Topical creams diffuse CBD across the skin
While CBD oil is still a very popular form of use, CBD topicals may help reduce inflammation and pain at the source. This is because the CBD directly stimulates receptors in the acute joint area.
Topical CBD creams and bioavailability
The European Journal of Pain claims that oral administration of CBD has poor bioavailability due to its hydrophobic nature. Topical application, on the other hand, “avoids gastrointestinal administration, first-pass metabolism, [and provides] more constant plasma levels.” In this study, researchers observed that 0.6-6.2 mg per day of topical CBD significantly reduced joint swelling in rats, and did not produce any side effects.
Final thoughts on topical CBD creams for arthritis
CBD is still being investigated for its health properties, including its potential to help with the symptoms of arthritis. That said, the pain and inflammation-reducing properties of CBD make it a clear candidate for joint pain. If you suffer from arthritis and are thinking about trying CBD, think about maximizing its efficacy by investing in a potent, high-quality topical CBD cream.