Does CBD Work for Osteoarthritis?

  • Studies showed that CBD has anti-inflammatory properties for arthritis-related symptoms[1].
  • CBD binds with CB2 receptors in the body to help reduce pain and inflammation[2]
  • More clinical studies are needed to support the current evidence for CBD’s potential for osteoarthritis. 

Why People Are Turning to CBD for Osteoarthritis

Approximately 23% of all adults or more than 54 million people in the United States are affected by arthritis[3]. According to the Arthritis Foundation, it is the primary cause of work disability. 

One of the most common forms of arthritis is osteoarthritis. It occurs when the protective cartilage that supports the ends of the bones wears down over time.

Osteoarthritis can affect any joint, but it tends to affect the most active joints in the body, bearing the most stress. These are the hands, knees, hips, and spine.

However, preliminary research showed that CBD might help treat arthritis-related conditions. A 2006 clinical study of a drug combined with CBD and THC reported an improvement of pain caused by rheumatoid arthritis[4]

A published study in 2017 analyzed whether CBD could prevent osteoarthritis pain and joint neuropathy[5]. Based on the researchers’ findings, CBD served as a protectant to the nerves and decreased joint inflammation. 

The Arthritis Foundation’s survey also reported promising results, with 75% of arthritis-sufferers saying CBD products improved their symptoms. 

Moreover, studies on animals have backed these claims on CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties. For example, multiple studies in rats and mice have found that CBD helps reduce pain, inflammation, and nerve damage associated with arthritis[6]

However, most of the research for CBD’s safety and effectiveness for arthritis and joint pains are animal-based studies. There is still a lack of scientific evidence to determine its safety and efficacy for humans. 

How CBD Oil Works to Help with Osteoarthritis

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is responsible for maintaining the state of balance or homeostasis in the body. It allows for proper enzyme action and cell function. 

The ECS has two central cannabinoid receptors, the CB1 and CB2. These receptors connect with endocannabinoids or chemical messengers in the body and signal the ECS to perform its role. 

Each receptor is located in specific parts of the body and plays a particular function. A majority of CB1 receptors are found in the brain and are associated with cognitive actions related to coordination, thinking, memory, mood, and appetite. 

On the other hand, the CB2 receptors are located in the immune system. It is responsible for managing the body’s response to pain and inflammation.

Scientists believe that CBD may attach to CB2 receptors when it enters a person’s body. Alternatively, it may cause the body to produce natural cannabinoids[7]

By affecting how these receptors respond to the signals they receive, CBD creates a positive effect in reducing the body’s pain and inflammation.

A 2008 study of CBD’s possible mechanism of action suggested that CBD could play a role in chronic pain management[8]. In a 2016 clinical trial, individuals diagnosed with osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and fibromyalgia showed reduced pain and improved sleep with CBD[9].

The researchers of the trial concluded that CBD was effective and safe in overall pain management, and no adverse side effects were reported.

The Pros and Cons of CBD for Osteoarthritis

ProsCons
CBD shows potential as an anti-inflammatory agent[10]There is not enough scientific evidence to prove CBD’s safety and effectiveness in humans. 
Researchers’ findings affirmed that CBD served as a protectant to the nerves and prevented osteoarthritis pain and joint neuropathy[11].The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has yet to approve CBD oil as a treatment for osteoarthritis.
According to the Arthritis Foundation’s survey, CBD improved the symptoms of 75% of arthritis-sufferers.Side effects may include fatigue, diarrhea, nausea, drowsiness, and changes in appetite[13].
Multiple animal-based studies have found that CBD helps reduce pain, inflammation, and nerve damage caused by arthritis[12].CBD may interact with certain medications or supplements[14]

Conclusion

Because of its potential for easing pain, many people turn to CBD to relieve joint discomfort and osteoarthritis. Multiple studies have also provided evidence regarding the anti-inflammatory benefits of CBD.

CBD’s association with CB2 receptors suggests that CBD might affect how the body reacts to pain and inflammation. 

However, despite the promising findings, most of the research demonstrating CBD’s anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects is based on animals. More clinical trials for humans are still needed to prove that CBD is safe and effective for treating arthritis-related conditions. 


  1. Hammell, D. C., Zhang, L. P., Ma, F., Abshire, S. M., McIlwrath, S. L., Stinchcomb, A. L., & Westlund, K. N. (2016). Transdermal cannabidiol reduces inflammation and pain‐related behaviours in a rat model of arthritis. European Journal of Pain, 20(6), 936-948. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4851925/
  2. Gamage, T. F., & Lichtman, A. H. (2012). The endocannabinoid system: role in energy regulation. Pediatric blood & cancer, 58(1), 144-148. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3696506/ 
  3. CDC.gov (2019). How CDC Improves Quality of Life for People With Arthritis. National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (NCCDPHP). https://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/resources/publications/factsheets/arthritis.htm
  4. Blake, D. R., Robson, P., Ho, M., Jubb, R. W., & McCabe, C. S. (2006). Preliminary assessment of the efficacy, tolerability, and safety of a cannabis-based medicine (Sativex) in the treatment of pain caused by rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatology, 45(1), 50-52. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16282192/
  5. Philpott, H. T., O’Brien, M., & McDougall, J. J. (2017). Attenuation of early phase inflammation by cannabidiol prevents pain and nerve damage in rat osteoarthritis. Pain, 158(12), 2442. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28885454/
  6. Ibid.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Russo, E. B. (2008). Cannabinoids in the management of difficult to treat pain. Therapeutics and clinical risk management, 4(1), 245. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2503660/
  9. Vučković, S., Srebro, D., Vujović, K. S., Vučetić, Č., & Prostran, M. (2018). Cannabinoids and pain: new insights from old molecules. Frontiers in pharmacology, 9, 1259. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6277878/  
  10. Misawa, K., Takeda S., Watanabe, K., & Yamamoto, I. (2008). Cannabidiolic acid as a selective cyclooxygenase-2 inhibitory component in cannabis. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18556441/
  11. Ibid.
  12. Ibid.
  13. Machado Bergamaschi, M., Helena Costa Queiroz, R., Waldo Zuardi, A., & Crippa, A. S. (2011). Safety and side effects of cannabidiol, a Cannabis sativa constituent. Current drug safety, 6(4), 237-249.
  14. Schmerling, R. (2020). Does CBD help with arthritis pain? Harvard Health Publishing. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/does-cbd-help-with-arthritis-pain-2020041019418
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